Otis Clay, Cicero Blake, Willie Clayton
Tribute to Robert Taylor
Wednesday, July 15, 1998
Willie Clayton and friends
(Photos by Steve Sharp)
Members of the soul/blues community rallied around Milwaukee legend, "Mr. Milwaukee," Robert Taylor Wednesday night at ARJ's during a tribute and benefit performance for the ailing singer. The show starred Otis Clay, Cicero Blake and Willie Clayton.
Taylor's hospital bills are mounting as he continues treatment for cancer. Taylor himself was in attendance at his tribute Wednesday, appearing very thin. However, he seemed pleased with the proceedings, which were hosted by WNOV DJ Homer Blow. Taylor took the stage several times Wednesday night but never sang. He seemed content for most of the night to roam through the well-dressed crowd of approximately 250 people with several of his young grandchildren in tow.
Blow told Blues Music Now! that he views Robert Taylor as "...one of the foundation points of blues in Milwaukee."
"He is a part of the foundation in Milwaukee, and what makes him that is his style, charisma, performance skills and the fact that he's able not only to sing, but to write the blues. And he is an all-around exciting performer," Blow said. Taylor wrote "Catch You On Your Way Down," which was recorded by Little Milton, as well as many other hits.
"He really is the grass roots in Milwaukee," Blow added.
The crowd was abuzz throughout much of the evening about the possible appearance of Tyrone Davis, but three quarters of the way through the show, it was announced that Davis and another invited performer, Garland Green, would not be attending.
Clayton, for his part, flew to Milwaukee from Mississippi at his own expense to perform at the benefit, and it seemed that the long miles he logged getting there inspired him to provide one of the evening's most moving and lengthy sets. Clayton, with his remarkable vocal range, leaned heavily on gospel throughout most of his performance, encouraging Taylor and his audience to put themselves in the hands of the Lord for their salvation.
Otis Clay, (pictured at right) who along with Milwaukee promotor Carmen Mills, coordinated the tribute show, followed the performances by Clayton and Blake. During his brief set, Clay delivered songs off of his new Bullseye Blues CD "This Time Around" and also performed a stirring rendition of "Don't Burn the Bridge" from his 1992 Bullseye album "I'll Treat You Right."
The evening ended with all musicians in the house taking the stage for a gospel/R&B medley.