Vince Taylor, The Black Leather Rebel

Vince Taylor was born Brian Maurice Holden on July 14th 1939 in London. In 1946 the Holdens immigrated to the US. They set up home in New Jersey where Brian's dad started work in a coal mine. Around 1955, his sister married Joe Barbera, who became one of the greatest in the cartoon industry. Joe went into partenership with Bill Hanna and founded Hanna/Barbera. It was then decided that the whole family would move to California. Brian went to Hollywood High and studied radio and weather reports. He also took flying lessons and got his pilot license. Aged 18, much impressed by the music of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley, Brian began to sing wherever he could, at parties, school proms and amateur gigs. Backed by a local band, he started playing for the benefit of the American Legion as well as a few nightclubs along Zummah Beach.

Joe Barbera, his brother-in-law, became, in a way, his manager. Joe went to London for business reasons and asked Brian to join him and check out the London music scene. He met a lad called Paul Taylor who gave him an address of a coffee-bar in Old Campton Street where Tommy Steele was playing. Brian began to meet with several rock amateurs who were always in this bar called "The Coffee 2 I's". Brian had to show what he was worth, so he started up his own band. In doing this he met drummer Tony Meehan (future Shadows) and bass player Tex Makins and named the band The Play-Boys. 'Brian Holden' was not a very good stage name and whilst looking at a packet of Pall Mall cigarettes, upon which is written 'In hoc Vinces' Joe and Brian decided the new stage name would be 'Vince Taylor' (Brian very much liked the actor Robert Taylor). Vince Taylor and the Play-Boys were born. After some changes, the final line-up of The Play-Boys was: Bobbie Clarke (drums), John Vance (bass), Alain Le Claire (piano) and Tony Harvey (guitar), who changed on an off with Bob Steel.

His first recording session was for Parlophone-Odeon, where he recorded, 'I Like Love' and 'Right Behind You Baby'. This record was released in 1958, the name The Play-Boys was not mentioned, followed several months after by a second 45 with 'Pledgin My Love' b/w 'Brand New Cadillac'. Parlophone weren't very happy with the results of the records and decided to break the contract. Vince then moved to Palette Records and recorded 'I'll Be Your Hero' b/w 'Jet Black Machine', released on August 19th 1960.

Vince's unstable caracter caused several arguments with the band and they started looking for other people to play with. The Play-Boys, lead by Bobbie Woodman, changed their name to 'Bobbie Woodman Noise'. They were contacted to play at the prestigious Olympia in Paris in July, 1961. At the top of the bill was Wee Willie Harris. Despite of what had happened, Vince was still friends with the band and he asked if he could come to Paris too.

During a sound check Vince dressed up in his black leather gear and put a chain around his neck with a Joan of Arc medallion, which he had bought at Calais on their arrival in France. The sound check and the effect that Vince had given impressed the organisers and they decided to put Vince up as top of the bill for both shows. From then on things went quickly for Vince Taylor. Eddie Barclay had been contacted by Bruno Coquatrix about Vince's performance (and his band who became once again the Play-Boys) and he signed Vince to a 6 years contract. Between September 61 and January 62, Barclay issued 5 EP's and one LP.

After that, things went downhill for Vince, for a while he was hiding in Switzerland and he attempted many comebacks during the years. If you wanna know the complete ups and downs of this great performer (but a difficult kinda man), please visit Jacques Mercier's fantastic website titled "Vince Taylor 1939-1991", which is available in French and English, containing a complete biography, discography and many rare pictures...

Courtesey of Jean Mercier,

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