West Side blues musician portrayed on the big screen

March 30, 2015
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When Larry Taylor, the stepson of blues musician great Eddie “Playboy” Taylor, learned a feature film would be made about his Mississippi-born family of performers, he wasn’t surprised.

“It was no shock to me,” said Taylor, who was born and raised on Chicago’s Westside.

Coming up in a family of musicians – his mother Vera Taylor was a blues singer, and stepfather Eddie a guitarist – he was no stranger to the entertainment industry, he said.

And through the film “The Rhythm and the Blues,” he hopes not only to show his life as a blues musician, but also reflect what it was like for him coming up in an era when blacks struggled socially and economically.

“I come up in the hard struggles here in Chicago, on the West Side,” Taylor said. “I went through many things. Experiencing gangs, drugs (and) the Civil Rights movement.”

It takes courage to display your whole life on screen, Taylor said, but he wants audiences to be inspired by his story.

The movie, which will be shot this spring, is co-produced and directed by Chicago-based filmmaker Darryl Pitts. It will tell the story of Chicago blues during the 1960’s and 70’s through the lives of a musically inclined family, with the relationship between Larry Taylor and his stepfather Eddie at the heart of the film.

Blues music spread from down South to the North in the 1950’s, said Bonni McKeown, co-producer of the film and co-writer of Larry Taylor’s autobiography, “Stepson of the Blues.”

When this particular genre of music reached Chicago, it could be heard down Maxwell Street on the Near West Side, McKeown said. That area became known as the birthplace of Chicago blues.

With casting underway for the film, which will be shot entirely in Chicago, director Darryl Pitts sees this as an opportunity to give Chicago’s unknown talent a chance to shine on the big screen, he said.

Pitts, a 20-year veteran of the television and production industry, said over 100 people auditioned in last month for roles in the film. And although there was phenomenal talent, he isn’t ready just yet to make his final casting decisions.

However, producers have decided to cast Leon, an actor who played the role of David Ruffin in the movie “The Temptations” as Eddie Taylor Sr. And although Leon is a known actor, Pitts says the film will cast new talent as well.

“I think too many times in projects, people look for the same names over and over and over,” Pitts said. “There are very talented people who, if they had the chance to get on screen would shine. So I’m really looking for those types of people to audition.”

Additional open auditions will take place before the film is shot in May, Pitts said.

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