Almost everyone has said, "I wish I had stuck with my dream when I was young."
Joe said that too, but like so many of us, he went on and did other things with his life. However, he never let his dream, of being a professional singer, completely leave his mind.
Joe, the youngest of four children of Margaret and Ambrose Taylor, was born in Middletown, New York on March 20, 1935. Music entertainment at the Taylor house, during the late thirties and forties, came from either the radio, the piano that his mom played, or from the records which he played on the family RCA record player.
The only public singing Joe did in those early years was in his backyard standing on an old tile bench pretending that he was "on stage". Joe said, "I'm sure the folks who lived around us were always glad when I learned a new song." He sang the old ones just about every day. His voice, unlike the baritone it is today, was that of a boy soprano. "I was really excited the day my voice started to change. Sounding like a girl when I sang, was not very popular with the other guys on my block." Wayne Newton had the same problem, but he made it work for him. Wayne's voice never did change much.
Winning a few singing talent contests in his hometown in the late forties, helped spur Joe on and by the time he reached high school he joined every available music group. There were lots of plays and lots of music. He took voice lessons from a New York City teacher and went to work, at age fifteen, as a bellhop in his hometown at the Mitchell Inn, to help pay for the weekly voice lessons. The hotel is gone now, but the money Joe made to pay for his voice lessons, is still paying off.
Like most aspiring young singers Joe would sing every chance he got. One of his favorite spots to sing was at Stewart Air Force Base located in Newburgh, New York, about fifteen miles from his hometown. Singing with the base band was a real treat for a young and ambitious singer.
On the weekend, Pat and Sam, his sister and brother, took turns driving Joe to the Catskill Mountain resorts, where he would sing with the "house bands", for free of course. He hoped that an agent or one of the "Big Stars" from New York City, who also entertained there on the weekends, would hear him and take him, under their wing and help direct him to a break into the music business. Well, that just didn't happen. Joe was getting impatient.
Two weeks after graduation from Middletown High School, (Class of 1955), Joe joined the US Air Force hoping to sing for the Air Force. Instead he ended up in Special Services in Minnesota and North Dakota for four years. He spent most of these years running Service Clubs for the military (passing out sporting equipment and running movies at night). The dream started to fade.
In Rochester, Minnesota he met his wife of fifty nine (59) years, Janet, where he did some TV work in a quartet he helped put together and even got to solo once in awhile. The TV show ended after he got transferred to Finley, North Dakota. His singing days were just about over.
Joe and Jan were married on June 28, 1958, eleven months before being Honorably Discharged from the Air Force. The six children started coming "fast".
Joe and Jan had to work to make ends meet, and the singing days came to an end. Most of his jobs were in sales and Jan, a registered nurse, worked nights while Joe baby-sat. He did sing a lot of lullabies while raising six children.
After thirty-five years of not singing or even allowing himself to think much about it, his life and music took a one hundred and eighty degree turn.
Just twenty years ago, (1994) the only singing Joe did was in the aisles of his Council Bluffs, Iowa thrift store. A professional singing career was the last thing on his mind. Most of Joe's friends didn't even know that he used to sing.
In February of 1994, the "dream" of singing professionally was once again awakened in Joe's mind and heart. He has had his heart and mind on music ever since.
What made him decide to start singing again, after all those years? It's a question Joe has heard a lot. Well, here is the answer.
While owning and running the thrift store in Council Bluffs, IA, Joe made a lot of friends, as most business people do, but the most important one he ever made was a guy by the name of John Hanisch. John was a "regular" at the store and was also an Elvis impersonator. One afternoon he invited Joe and his wife Jan to come see one of his shows. John was great and the thing that interested Joe the most was a little machine that played the background tapes for John's singing.
Joe never did do the bar scene so he didn't know anything about karaoke tapes. John told him the next day where there was a used karaoke machine for sale in an Omaha pawn shop. Before the day was over, Joe had purchased the used machine and bought some background tapes. He couldn't wait to try singing a few tunes.
For the next few months he worked at getting his voice to work again. It took a lot of practice and after the thrift store closed each night he would start singing until his wife called and asked when he was coming home for dinner. This went on for about three months and eventually he had about eight songs he enjoyed singing. Then fate stepped into his life.
A special education teacher from Thomas Jefferson High School in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Mrs. Fran Nurton of Carter Lake, IA, came into Joe's store looking for some gifts to pass out at a craft show. She mentioned that all of her afternoon entertainment had backed out on her and she didn't know what she was going to do to keep three hundred special education students busy for two hours. Joe said, "Heck, I can come down and do a show that will fill in about thirty minutes for you." She said, "Great!" Joe is not sure what his response was at the moment, but he knew he had just two weeks to put a show together.
The first thing Joe did was call his friend, John Hanisch. His friend didn't know that Joe used to sing. Joe found a tux on the racks of his thrift store and after a quick dry cleaning he was ready! "If I didn't sing good, at least I was going to look good," Joe said. On April 28, 1994, he performed his very first "solo" show with the help of his friend John, who provided him with the sound equipment.
By the end of April, he had three shows booked. His third show was held at a senior retirement home, Dudley Court, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. At the end of the show they passed the hat and Joe was paid for singing for the first time in his life. $31.00! He still goes back to Dudley Court on occasion and does a "Thank You Show".
Since that first show in April 1994, he has performed over forty nine hundred shows in eighteen states. He has toured Florida & the Southwest (New Mexico & Arizonia) during the winter months. He calls it his "Snowbird Tour". He has performed at The White House in Washington, DC and in Branson, Missouri. In April 1999, he made his first Las Vegas appearance at the Riviera Hotel.
He has been a member of Merrymakers Association for the past 25 years and performs 10+ shows a month for them in Nebraska & Iowa. (www.Merrymakers.org). Joe received the Jim Johnson (Founder) Merrymaker of the Year Award, in November of 2013.
Joe has produced and recorded seven (7) very successful albums. He has written the words and music to several of the songs on his CD's and tapes.
In 2000 Joe produced his first live video at Harrah's Casino. It is a complete show (one hour & seventeen minutes). It was released on DVD in November of 2003.
He gave up the thrift store in 1996 and has been performing full time, an average of 20+ shows a month, ever since.
He also said, "You never work another day in your life if you love what you are doing."