Johnnie Taylor doesn’t remember exactly how old he was when he picked up his uncle’s banjo as a child, but he does remember how it felt.
“I loved playing so much it was hard for me to lay it down. It got so bad that my Mom would run me out of the house and I would get me a chair and go to the woods. I would sit there for hours and play. I hope the animals liked it, because my mom didn’t.”
Taylor shared this memory in his new book, “The Bible and the Banjo.”
A traveling musician and evangelist from Wilkes County, Taylor will be speaking and signing books at the Mount Airy Public Library on Wednesday at 1 p.m.
As described by Ken Welborn in the forward: “This book chronicles the life of Johnnie Taylor from his hardscrabble childhood in McGrady, North Carolina, to his current status as one of Wilkes County and the region’s best known and respected songwriters, singers and ministers whose talent on the banjo and guitar are legendary.”
Welborn met Taylor when working at a Wilkesboro radio station where the musician did a one-man gospel show on Sundays.
“For the past 40 years or so, I have watched him lead a life of dedication to his family, his church, his country, and his fellow man – all wrapped around his love — and incredible talent — for music,” Welborn wrote.
The spiral bound book, published in April by Hayes Print-Stamp Co., is a variety show in print.
Along with stories from the life of a music man, it includes photos of banjo chord positions, sheet music of original compositions, notes about song meanings as well as newspaper clippings and testimonials.
A few photos are from Taylor’s stint with the Easter Brothers, a renowned country gospel group from Mount Airy.
“I met them Easter Brothers in the sixties,” Taylor recalled. “I started picking the banjo with them, and I traveled with them for five years.”
James Easter sings on one of Taylor’s CDs, which will be available at the library event along with the signed books and vinyl LP’s.
Taylor’s recollections are peppered with dry wit and advice.
In a section called “Bits and Pieces of My Childhood,” stories titles include: “The Day I Begged for Snuff,” “How My Grandpa Could Run,” and “The Night I Got Run Over.”
In “The Strong Woman,” Taylor wrote about witnessing a woman beat up three men who were harassing her. “She was more woman than they could handle.”
Advice for learning the banjo: “You can’t pick it up once a month and do any good with it.”
Taylor said he wrote about 80 percent of the songs he plays and shared their meanings.
For the song “None of the Devil’s Business,” he wrote, “Now you know, and I know, the Devil has always got his nose where it don’t belong, so it’s none of his business what you do or I do, so let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, what do you say.”
At 79, Taylor is still busy making music. A jingle he wrote and performs is currently running on the radio, and he is promoting his book at signings in other counties.
“Of course the years are slipping up on me now,” he said, but said he still travels and performs.
“Music is something I was born into. You can’t get out of it when it’s like that.”
Reach Terri at 415-4734.