The dark side of Hound Dog Taylor”

Hound Dog Taylor – By Diane Allmen

Hound Dog is always remembered as a smiling, happy-go-lucky, laughing guy. As I said in Bitten by the Blues, he loved being the center of attention and to make others smile. But by himself, he was often in a dark mood. He had a lot of trouble sleeping. He could only fall asleep with the TV and lights on. He told me he had dreams of being chased by packs of wild dogs. I doubt he ever slept through the night. When we were on the road, he’d normally let Brewer Phillips or me do the driving. Hound Dog would sit in the back seat of his Ford station wagon with a Pall Mall cigarette between his fingers and drift off to sleep for a few minutes, until the cigarette burned down to his fingers and woke him up.

As time passed, I’m sure his health problems exacerbated his dark moods. I remember once in 1975 when he brought a young woman back to his hotel room after the show. I needed to speak to him about something later that night and knocked on his door. When he answered it, she was in the shower and he was in his underwear, and clearly in a foul state of mind. It seemed pretty obvious that he had been unable to perform in bed. His cancer hadn’t yet been diagnosed, but I suspect that was the cause, along with a general body breakdown from his constant drinking and smoking. Maybe this is why Brewer Phillips’ humorously-intended remarks about having sex with Hound Dog’s wife led to Hound Dog’s shooting him. If Hound Dog’s manhood was failing, the jokes weren’t funny anymore.

Sadly, Hound Dog didn’t have a high opinion of himself, partly because of his lack of education and musical sophistication. He considered himself to be a barroom entertainer. I don’t believe he appreciated the depth of his own soulfulness or the transcendent joy that his music created. He felt that I, as a college graduate, was sort of lowering myself to be involved with the band (though he welcomed my help). I remember one day when he said to me, “Don’t spend the rest of your life hanging around with people like us.” I found that incredibly sad. He’d be amazed that people still loved and are moved by his music 50 years later. I’m sure Hound Dog Taylor will be remembered much longer than I will, and rightfully so.

Bruce Iglauer