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Guitarist Mick Taylor was neither an original member of the Rolling Stones nor still in the band when it began selling out sports stadiums in the late-'80s and '90s. But the sophisticated jazz- and blues-influenced guitar licks Taylor added to such classic albums as Sticky Fingers gave the Stones an added dimension they lacked before and after him.
Michael Kevin Taylor was born Jan. 17, 1949, in Welwyn Garden City, England. He grew up in Hatfield, a London suburb, and began playing guitar at age 9. Taylor became interested in joining a rock band after his parents took him to see Bill Haley & the Comets.
As a teen, Taylor played in bands called the Juniors and the Gods. In 1967, after ace guitarist Peter Green left John Mayall's Bluesbreakers to form Fleetwood Mac, Mayall chose Taylor as Green's replacement.
Taylor toured the United States with the Bluesbreakers and appeared on such albums as Bare Wires and Blues From Laurel Canyon (both 1968). In 1969, he accepted the Rolling Stones' offer to replace the departing Brian Jones, who died later that year. The Stones had already established their reputation as one of rock's greatest bands and had just issued one of their best LPs, Beggar's Banquet (1968). But Taylor quickly added his imprint on the Stones' style and was present for the legendary concert tours, during their 1969–1974 heyday. He played on some of Let It Bleed (1969) and all of the live disc Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out (1970).
Sticky Fingers (1971), was the first studio Stones' album for which he was present during the entire recording. He added his famous vibrato effect to the blues lead guitar line on "Sway" and handled most of the guitars on the quietly majestic "Moonlight Mile." Perhaps Taylor's best-remembered Stones work was the Santana-like lead guitar in the jam break of the jazzy "Can't You Hear Me Knocking." On the Stones' classic 1972 double LP, Exile on Main Street, Taylor co-wrote "Ventilator Blues" and contributed bluesy guitar to such chestnuts as "All Down the Line" and "Soul Survivor."
Taylor plays wah-wah guitar on the hit single "(Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo) Heartbreaker," from Goats Head Soup (1973), which also exhibited Taylor's melodic touches on ballads such as "Winter." Taylor's final LP as a Rolling Stone was It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (1974), which included his long, jazzy solo on "Time Waits for No One"
Shortly after the album's release, Taylor quit the Stones. Many theories have been offered for Taylor's departure, including conflict with guitarist Keith Richards and Taylor's fear that he'd get caught up in the band's allegedly drug-crazed lifestyle. Whatever the reason, Taylor's replacement, Ron Wood — formerly of the Faces — brought the band a grittier sound.
In 1975, Taylor toured Europe in the Jack Bruce Band, led by former Cream bassist Bruce. Four years later, he issued an eponymous jazz-fusion solo debut that sold poorly in the punk-rock era. Taylor toured with the Alvin Lee Band in the early '80s and did a reunion tour with the Bluesbreakers. He played on Bob Dylan's Infidels (1983) and toured with the songwriting legend. During the latter part of the '80s, Taylor formed a series of short-lived bands that played blues-rock in eastern U.S. clubs.
He issued the live Stranger in This Town and in 1989 was inducted, with the Stones, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In the early '90s, Taylor went to L.A. and worked with the Textones' Carla Olson, the Jimmy Woods Band and others. In the second half of the '90s, he returned to England to play blues festivals with a touring band. In 1998, Taylor issued A Stones Throw and toured in 1999.