We here at Austin City Limits were saddened to learn of the death of Texan singer/songwriter Eric Taylor on Monday, March 9, after months of ill health. He was 70.
Though born in Georgia, Taylor was a key figure in the Texas singer/songwriter scene of the early 1970s. Having stranded himself in Houston in 1970 on the way to California by running out of money, he integrated himself into the folk clubs, honing his craft in thrall to Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. In turn, he inspired the next generation, bridging the gap between the Clark/Van Zandt era and that of Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett, on whom he had a particularly deep influence.
After making his recording debut in 1976 on the Houston songwriters compilation Through the Dark Nightly, Taylor released his first album Shameless Love in 1981. It would be another fourteen years before his second, eponymous LP, released in 1995 on Austin label Watermelon Records. Seven more records followed, including 2001’s Scuffletown, which occasioned his first headlining appearance on Austin City Limits. His songs were covered by Lovett and Nanci Griffith, who called him “the William Faulkner of songwriting in our time.”
“Taylor’s great gift was characters who he’d enliven with enough mythology to where the real and the fictional could be indistinguishable,” wrote Andrew Dansby in the Houston Chronicle. “The reality of a given name didn’t matter: the themes of searching and endurance mattered.”
Taylor first appeared on Austin City Limits as a guest on Lyle Lovett’s twenty-fifth season episode in 2000, in which the latter paid tribute to the Texas songwriters who inspired him. Here are Taylor and Lovett doing “Hemingway’s Shotgun.”