Veteran Booking Exec Joe Taylor Dies

Longtime country music executive Joe Taylor died on Monday, May 14, at age 85.

As the head of the Joe Taylor Artist Agency, he was one of the industry’s top talent executives for decades. Taylor represented such artists as Sammi Smith (“Help Me Make It Through the Night”), Dave Dudley (“Six Days on the Road”), John Anderson (“Swingin’”), David Frizzell (“I’m Gonna Hire a Wino to Decorate Our Home”), Johnny Paycheck (“Take This Job and Shove It”) and Sylvia (“Nobody”).

At one time or another, his roster also included such Hall of Fame members as Connie Smith, George Jones, Kitty Wells, Alabama and Grandpa Jones. Grand Ole Opry stars Johnny Russell, Jim & Jesse, Stringbean and Ray Pillow were booked by the Joe Taylor Artist Agency, as were Hee Haw TV stars Junior Samples, Archie Campbell, and Gordie Tapp.

Joe D. Taylor was born in McMinnville in 1933 and graduated from the University of Tennessee. After working for the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times and serving in the U.S. Army, he entered the music business.

In 1960, he was hired as the first director of talent for the Wil-Helm Agency, booking shows for Loretta Lynn, The Wilburn Brothers, Joe Dowell and others. In 1962-64 he was the advertising manager for Martha White Flour, a major sponsor of the Grand Ole Opry. This brought him into close contact with the company’s celebrity spokesmen Flatt & Scruggs and Jim & Jesse.

He formed the Joe Taylor Artist Agency in 1964. In addition to the many artists listed above, the company represented Mickey Gilley, Dave & Sugar, Stella Parton, Billie Jo Spears, Ronnie Prophet, Bobby G. Rice, Lawanda Lindsey, Bobby Lord, Johnny Wright and Brian Collins.

Taylor persevered through decades of music-industry changes. His agency was a mainstay throughout the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. It helped to establish country music’s popularity in Europe. In later years, Joe Taylor served as the president of R.O.P.E. (Reunion of Professional Entertainers).

He is survived by children Lisa Easterling and Brent Taylor, by grandchildren Selena Foutch and Joseph Ellis, and three great-grandchildren.

A Life Celebration will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22, in The Pavilion at Harpeth Hills Funeral Home. Visitation will be 1:30-2:30 p.m. prior to the memorial. Harpeth Hills Funeral Home is at 9090 Hwy 100, Nashville, TN 37221 (615-646-9292).

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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