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Canned Heat Bassist Larry Taylor Dies at 77

Billboard logo Billboard 8/20/2019 Gil Kaufman
a man holding a guitar: Larry Taylor © Marc Marnie/Redferns Larry Taylor

Larry Taylor, the founding bassist of 1960s L.A. boogie rock band Canned Heat has died at age 77. A spokesperson for the group confirmed on Tuesday (Aug. 20) that Taylor passed on at his home in Lake Balboa, California, on Monday (Aug. 19) after a 12-year battle with cancer. A tireless session player, Taylor appeared on more than half a dozen albums by The Monkees, blues icon John Mayall and Tom Waits, as well as releases from Albert King, Leo Kottke, The Blasters and Sunnyland Slim.

He was best known for his work with Canned Heat, whose 1967 self-titled debut, featuring covers of blues classics by Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson, was released just after the band's appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival, where they performed alongside The Who, Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Otis Redding and Jefferson Airplane. He was part of the classic Heat line-up that also included guitarists Alan Wilson and Henry Vestine, singer Bob Hite and drummer "Fito" De la parry, the latter the only remaining living member of that original group. 

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Taylor, known by his nickname, "The Mole," was born in New York on June 26, 1942 and performed with Canned Heat from 1967-1970, including during their star-making turn at the 1969 Woodstock Festival, reuniting with his bandmates a number of times over the years through 1999. Taylor began his career at 18 touring with rock icon Jerry Lee Lewis, before becoming the resident bassist for made-for-TV band The Monkees, playing on such hits as "Last Train to Clarksville" and "(Theme From) The Monkees."

Before joining the Heat, he also played on records by Albert King, Solomon Burke, Buddy Guy and Charlie Musselwhite, according to an official bio provided by a spokesperson. In addition to playing upright and electic bass on albums by John Hammond Jr., Kim Wilson and John Lee Hooker over the past three decades, Taylor formed the Hollywood Fats Band with blues guitarist Michael "Hollywood Fats" Mann. Canned Heat was slated to play the Woodstock 50 festival before that event fell apart earlier this month.

"Larry told great stories, funny jokes, was a foodie, wine, record and rock poster collector, computer whiz and a special human being who really 'lived for the music'... music was his religion," manager, friend and producer Skip Taylor tells Billboard in a statement. "He influenced many of us in different ways and he will be missed by many throughout the music industry." 

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