Ted “Kingsize” Taylor

Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes on stage at the Star-Club, Hamburg

We have just received word about the death of Ted “Kingsize” Taylor. A contemporary and rival of the Beatles in their Liverpool days, Taylor and his band played the Cavern Club and found themselves an appreciative audience in Germany, where they also released records. Prior to their Hamburg debut, Cilla Black often guested on vocals with Taylor and his band.

Nicknamed because of his size, the 6.5 ft (2.0 m) Kingsize was born Edward William Taylor, on the 12th of November 1939, in Crosby, Liverpool. The Dominoes were originally formed in North Liverpool, in 1957, from a skiffle group called the Sinners. The original members were Arthur Baker (vocals), George Watson (guitar), Charlie Flynn (guitar), Sam Hardie (piano) and Cliff Roberts (drums). The following year, Ted Taylor joined, as lead vocalist and guitarist. Over the next few years Baker, Watson and Flynn all left the group, to be replaced by Bobby Thompson (bass and vocals) – with whom Taylor had played in another skiffle group, the James Boys – and John Kennedy (rhythm guitar), with Geoff Bethell standing in for Hardie on piano.

Kingsize Taylor and his jacket

The band played local clubs and Taylor developed a reputation as one of the best rock and roll singers in the Liverpool area, as well as becoming known for his vivid chequered jackets. By summer 1960, the group were being billed as Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes. They first performed at The Cavern Club in January 1961, when they featured 17-year-old singer Cilla White, who was mistakenly renamed Cilla Black later that year by Bill Harry in an article in his magazine Mersey Beat.

Soon after that appearance, Kennedy and Roberts left the band to join another group, Ian and the Zodiacs, and were replaced by John Frankland (rhythm guitar) and Dave Lovelady (drums). At the beginning of 1962, the band were placed sixth in a Mersey Beat readers’ poll, topped by The Beatles. Cilla Black sang regularly with the group until 1962.

In early 1962, Ken Shalliker replaced Thompson on bass for several months when Thompson temporarily joined Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. That summer, the band (without Cilla Black) went to Hamburg, where they began making regular appearances at the Star-Club. Lovelady left later in the year, and was replaced briefly by Brian Redman and then by Gibson Kemp, after Ringo Starr turned down the opportunity to join having been offered more money to join The Beatles.

Kingsize had purchased a Philips RK 14 four-track mono reel-to-reel tape recorder and had it installed at the Star-Club with the help of Adrian Barber. A Sennheiser microphone hanging down from the ceiling captured the concerts. In December 1962, the tape recorder captured several performances by The Beatles, and these recordings were eventually released in 1977 as “Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962”. Kingsize Taylor and the Beatles’ former manager Allen Williams were behind the release. Ted Taylor said he got permission to record from John Lennon after he bought the Beatles several rounds of beer.

There is no definitive evidence as to how many of the Beatles’ performances were recorded by Adrian Barber, when, or how many songs. First because Taylor had transferred The Beatles’ material from the original tape onto a twin-track tape, with the use of his father’s Grundig TK 120 recorder right after having returned home with the tapes. Then because the tapes were doctored a lot before being assembled into the song order of the release. The investigations that have been conducted state that three to four performances (probably on 21st, 25th, 28th and 30th December 1962) by the Beatles were taped, with between 40 and 44 songs being recorded. The exact order of the songs played also remains speculative.

Sony CD release (1992)

“Live! at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962” was actually an illegal release as The Beatles were contractually bound to EMI’s subsidiary Parlophone Records when the recordings were made. However, this situation was not resolved until 1998, and in the meantime the recordings had been released on many small record companies worldwide. It was only when the larger company Sony released the recordings that the Beatles and Apple took action, and George Harrison testified in the trial which eventually ended with the recordings being awarded to Apple/The Beatles. Since then, some sound from the recordings was used in “The Beatles Anthology” TV series when it was released on DVD. Fans have recently advocated that the original tapes should be able to be cleaned up and mixed to stereo using the method Peter Jackson’s team developed, as used on the recent “Revolver” release. For the full history of the Hamburg Beatles tapes, see this article from Record Collector magazine.

Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes were signed by Decca Records in Germany, and also recorded there for the Philips Records and Ariola labels. They added saxophonist Howie Casey in 1963; later that year, Hardie left to join Tony Sheridan’s band, and was replaced by a second sax player, Dave Woods. In 1963, they recorded an album, “Live At The Star Club” for Ariola, with whom they had a recording contract, but were also persuaded to make a separate album for Polydor Records. The album, “Let’s Do the Slop, Twist, Madison, Hully Gully, Monkey” was released under the pseudonym of The Shakers. Three singles from the album – “Money”, “Whole Lotta Lovin'”, and “Hippy Hippy Shake” – were released by Polydor in the UK. All the recordings by Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes were covers of rock and roll and rhythm and blues songs by other artists; they wrote no songs themselves. Their biggest success in Germany was a version of Solomon Burke’s “Stupidity”, also released on the Decca label in the UK. While in Germany, they also performed regularly in Kiel and Berlin, and acted as backing group for Alex Harvey, before returning to the UK to back Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins on tour in 1964. They also appeared on the British TV show “Ready Steady Go!”.

Howie Casey: Terrible news that Kingsize Taylor has passed away, I played with his band The Dominos at The Star Club Hamburg back in the early sixties and backed Chuck Berry with them. He had a great and unusual voice an original indeed! RIP Ted.

Back in action – Kingsize Taylor

The original Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes split up at the end of 1964, with the Dominoes – Frankland, Casey, Thompson and Kemp, with singer Paddy Chambers – remaining in the UK to work. Taylor returned with his German wife to Hamburg, where he played lead guitar for the Griff Parry Five before forming a new version of Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes with Baz Davies, Mamoud Hari, Kenny Rees and Cliff Roberts. After recording a solo single for Decca in London in 1964, “Somebody’s Always Tryin'”, with Jimmy Page on guitar, he gave up the music business and returned to Crosby on Merseyside. There, and later at Birkdale, he ran a family butcher’s business for over thirty years until his retirement. He and his wife then moved back to Germany in 2006, and continued to perform with a band called The Brotherhood of Rock ‘n’ Soul. He also participated in sixties revival events. After the death of his wife a couple of years ago, Kingsize settled down in St Edmunds in Suffolk.

In 1999, Bear Family Records issued the complete Ariola recordings by Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes.

Source: Wikipedia and elsewhere.

Today, January 2, 2023, Kingsize Taylor’s final message was posted on his Facebook page, together with a photo:

Good night folks ,I’m undertaking my last journey and may not be back for a while.
I,ll remember each and every one of you that made my life so special,so many wonderful memories to take with me..Love to my son Mark and Alex for helping me and loving me.
God bless you all and see you soon .😘xxx

2 Responses

  1. Gary says:

    RIP Ted, great rock ‘n’ roller, remember reading a story he told about being backstage at one of Ringo’s modern time shows in Hamburg. Ted saw Ringo and his entourage approaching him and saw Ringo flick his head at him, Ted thought he it meant that Ringo wanted to chat to him, next thing, members of the Ringo entourage promptly threw Ted out of the venue!! Not one to hold grudges our Ringo!

  2. Rickenbacker325 says:

    More than one person that I asked in Liverpool….all genuine scousers….to a man…and woman….all replied that besides the Beatles…their second favorite was always King Size Taylor

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