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Who Joe Taylor
What Country Music great Joe Taylor dies
When March 24, 2011
Where Avilla, IN

Joe Taylor, one of the longtime greats in local music, died Thursday at his patio home at the Provena Sacred Heart complex in Avilla.

Taylor, 89, was the front man for more than 50 years for Joe Taylor and the Red Birds.

A celebration of life will take place at 12:30 p.m. next Thursday at Hockemeyer & Miller Funeral home, 6131 St. Joe Road. A burial Mass will follow at 3 p.m. at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Arcola, with the Rev. Dan Leeuw officiating. Burial will be in the church cemetery.

Visitation will be 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, and 1-3 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home, and one hour before Mass at the church.

Taylor, who lived in Fort Wayne most of his life, had been diagnosed with heart valve trouble in late 2006, but had done well until declining quickly in the past three weeks, said Patty Corbat, his sister-in-law and longtime Red Birds band member. Taylor's wife, Pauline, died in 2007.

Taylor was working a factory job at General Electric and calling auctions in 1948 while trying to start a country-music career at night, he said in an interview for a 1998 The News-Sentinel story. After a call from a local music publisher who needed a band to record four songs, he pulled together several musician friends to record the songs. They chose the band name Indiana Red Birds to put on the records.

By the next year, the Red Birds had their own live music show on local radio.

Taylor's song, “He's a Cowboy Auctioneer” drew national radio play in 1949 and later was recorded by country music and movie movie star Tex Ritter.

Taylor, who retired from GE in 1981 after 40 years, didn't want to tour nationally and “live out of a suitcase,” so the band concentrated on developing a strong regional following.

His son, Dan, and daughter, Paula Jo, wrote a song about that decision, “Big Fish in a Little Pond,” which will be played along with Joe's recording of “My Way” at the celebration of life.

The Red Birds performed regularly around Fort Wayne and at Buck Lake Ranch near Angola. At Buck Lake Ranch, they opened concerts for stars such as Homer & Jethro, Ernest Tubb, Tex Ritter, Everly Brothers, Lennon Sisters and Johnny Cash.

More than anything else about performing, Joe Taylor loved talking with people, Corbat said. He often said their audiences were not fans, but friends.

He kept that attitude until the end. While hospitalized earlier this month, he went by wheelchair across the hall to meet a bedridden woman who said she wanted to meet him and get his autograph.

“They rolled him over to her room, and he sang to her," Corbat said.

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Contact Kevin Kilbane
Fort Wayne News-Sentinel


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