The Unlikely Duo of Chip “Wild Thing” Taylor and Carrie

by Brett Leigh Dicks

17.jpgChip Taylor certainly knows a thing or
two about chance. Early on in his songwriting career, two of his
songs, “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning,” fell into the
respective hands of The Troggs and Merrilee Rush and dominated the
contemporary airways. After an enviable string of hits, Taylor’s
other great passion took hold — he became a professional gambler.
But a few years ago, fate intervened, and Taylor encountered Carrie
Rodriguez in Austin, Texas. Their random meeting quickly led to one
of the most intriguing musical collaborations of recent times.

The songwriting gambler got his first taste of success when Chet
Atkins handed Bobby Bare “Just A Little Bit Later On Down the
Line,” a Taylor-penned song. Everyone from Frank Sinatra to Jimi
Hendrix to Janis Joplin started singing Taylor’s tunes. But as his
music dominated the charts, the native New Yorker became
increasingly addicted to gambling. By the early ’80s, his
songwriting fell by the wayside. “I was an addicted gambler all my
life, even when I was writing my hit songs,” admitted Taylor. “I
even disappeared for a while doing it. Then my mom took ill in the
mid ’90s and that inspired me to spend some time with her. I
started playing some songs for her — something I hadn’t done since
high school — and that changed my life. … For the first time, I
could have a musical life that was unencumbered by the gambling
thing. I was free to do want I wanted.”

What he ultimately wanted was to write and play music again. So
Taylor headed to Europe and released a handful of successful
recordings. It was enough to lead him to the infamous SxSW Music
Festival in Austin, where he saw an emerging fiddle player named
Carrie Rodriguez play a record store with the country band Hayseed.
One thing quickly led to another, and before Rodriguez knew it, she
was on tour with Taylor.

“It all moved so fast that I didn’t really have time to think
about it,” explained Rodriguez. “Because if I had, I might have
really freaked out! I was just so thrilled that I was playing
fiddle with him. But then he asked me to sing. That terrified me
because I didn’t think I had a voice for singing, so I just had to
push through it. I was pretty scared during those first few months
of gigs. But experience soon gets you over your reservations, and I
managed to start really enjoying myself. Now I couldn’t imagine
what life would be like if I hadn’t met Chip.”

Before crossing paths, Rodriguez was still finding her musical
feet. The young Texan had only just completed her musical studies
in Boston and ventured home to Austin. Her goal at that point was
nothing more than finding a regular fiddling position. But with
Taylor, the young fiddle player got more than she bargained for.
While Rodriguez never harbored any thoughts of a vocal career,
Taylor persuaded her to accompany him with backing vocals. Her
musical evolution continued to the point where she started dueting
with Taylor.

“We were in Holland and I pulled out an old song from the early
days,” recalled Taylor. “It was the first interracial hit by Billy
Vera and Judy Clay and I started to sing ‘Storybook Children.’ The
first line goes, ‘You got your world and I got mine and it’s a
shame.’ And then Carrie wandered over to the microphone and sang,
‘two grown-up worlds that could never be the same,’ and the people
just went nuts. We had to start the song again. From then on, I was
writing one song after another for us to do, and the following year
we recorded our first duet album together.”

Five years and three albums later, their unique union still
holds a valued place in each of their respective hearts. But one
senses new frontiers are about to open up for this unlikely duo.
Taylor just released Unglorious Hallelujah, his first album in five
years, while Rodriguez has her debut solo album, Seven Angels on a
Bicycle, ready to release soon. So what’s next?

“I wouldn’t ever look at things happening as the result of
luck,” said Taylor. “The reason I profited at gambling was because
I worked very hard at it. Music is a little different because what
we are trying to find is something that was not there before. But
we still work hard. … The optimum thing to happen is for Carrie’s
record to break wide so she gets the chance to do whatever she
wants. And, if that happens, it won’t be because of luck.”


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