Mel Taylor

Mel Taylor, born on September 24, 1933 in Brooklyn, New York, was an American drummer, best known for his drumming with the surf-band, The Ventures. Although there were many incarnations of The Ventures, Mel played drums for the band for over 27 years (1963–1972 and 1979-1996); longer than any other drummer.

Mel began playing the drums at an early age — first banging on pots and pans with knitting needles, then progressing to drumsticks. In his early teens, Mel's family moved to Tennessee where he attended high school and participated in the school's marching band. His early drumming inspirations came from big band drummers, such as Gene Krupa, whom he heard on the radio and whose style he began to copy.

At the age of 17, Mel joined the Navy — basic training in the Great Lakes region and posted to the Navy base in Pensacola where he was assigned to a crash crew for the pilot training facility. After leaving the Navy, Mel returned to Tennessee and began playing music on local radio and TV shows — playing rhythm guitar and singing back-up. He later played drums with Joe Franklin's group, and even appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show — or rather his arm did, as that was all the camera captured when the show aired. He also played guitar and sang on his own (very) early morning radio show, as "Mel Taylor and the Twilight Ramblers."

Mel Taylor

In 1958, with a wife and four small children in tow, Mel moved his family out to California. During the day, Mel worked as a meat cutter in LA Grand Central Market. In the evening hours, Mel played drums in clubs around the Los Angles area — soon becoming a highly sought after drummer. It didn't take too long before he was able to quit his day job and graduate to session work in the LA recording studios. Some of Mel's early credits include "The Monster Mash" with Bobby "Boris" Pickett, "The Lonely Bull" with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (for which he was paid $10!), and various cuts with Buck Owens. Mel was also the house drummer at the famous Palomino Club in North Hollywood.

Throughout the the late 50's and early 60's, everyone in the music business frequented the Palomino — often times sitting in with the house band — giving Mel a lot of exposure as well as an opportunity to meet and play with numerous top artists. One night in 1962, The Ventures came to the Palomino after appearing on a TV show in Hollywood. Since they were without their drummer, Mel played "Walk Don"t Run" with the group. Later, since their original drummer was unable to travel, The Ventures asked Mel if he would be interested in joining their group. Soon after the invitation, the group called Mel to do some recording, then a few months later, to go on the road with them. From 1963 on, Mel became known as The Ventures' drummer, recording and performing with them for more than 32 years — traveling all over the USA, Europe and Japan.

In July 1996, while on tour in Japan with The Ventures, Mel was diagnosed with pneumonia, but subsequently a malignant tumor was found in his lungs. He continued to play until August 1, so that a replacement drummer could be found to finish out the tour. On August 2, Mel returned to Los Angeles for further testing but the cancer was spreading so rapidly that, after less than 10 days at home, Mel died very suddenly on August 11, 1996.

Mel leaves a legacy of hundreds of recordings that continue to be enjoyed by millions of music fans.

Mel Taylor