Theotis Taylor

Brother Theotis Taylor is a gospel singer and pianist from Fitzgerald, Georgia, where he has lived since 1943. Taylor's parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were all turpentine farmers, part of the now vanished industry that was the livelihood of many farmers in the southeast until the 1970s. Taylor followed in their footsteps, harvesting turpentine for 35 years. Among the stand of 3,000 pines behind his home, he could chip up to 2,000 trees each day. Work, music, and the church have traveled side by side in Taylor’s family for generations. His father was not only a farmer but a church deacon, and his grandfather could play guitar and piano. Taylor began singing professionally in 1946 with the Georgia Harmoniers, playing guitar with them for five years until one night when the rest of the band didn’t show up for their program at a holiness church. Brother Taylor decided to split with the band to play alone. Although there was never much money to made playing gospel programs, and turpentining remained his livelihood, Taylorwent on to record singles with Savannah’s Pitch records in the ‘70s and play on stages from the Georgia Grassroots Music Festival to the Apollo Theater. The highlight of his life came in 1990, when Taylor was invited to play the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall as part of a “Black Gospel Styles” show. Now in his 90s, Taylor preaches, but he will still sing if he can find a good person to handle the music. The right spirit can only come from the right person. “You’ve got to be anointed to do it right,” Taylor believes. “Anointed. It’s got to come from above.”