Hound Dog Taylor

IntroAmerican Chicago blues guitarist and singer
Was Musician 
From United States of America 
Type Music 
Birth 12 April 1915 
, Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi, U.S.A.
Death 17 December 1975 
, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, U.S.A.
(aged 60 years)
Star signAries

Theodore Roosevelt “Hound Dog” Taylor (April 12, 1915 – December 17, 1975) was an American Chicago blues guitarist and singer.


Taylor was born in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1915, though some sources say 1917. He initially played the piano and began playing the guitar when he was 20. He moved to Chicago in 1942.

He became a full-time musician around 1957 but remained unknown outside the Chicago area, where he played small clubs in black neighborhoods and at the open-air Maxwell Street Market. He was known for his electrified slide guitar playing (roughly styled after that of Elmore James), his cheap Japanese Teisco guitars, and his raucous boogie beats. He was famous among guitar players for having six fingers on his left hand. In 1967, Taylor toured Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival, performing with Little Walter and Koko Taylor.

After hearing Taylor with his band, the HouseRockers (Brewer Phillips on second guitar and Ted Harvey on drums) in 1970 at Florence’s Lounge on Chicago’s South Side, Bruce Iglauer (then a shipping clerk for Delmark Records) tried to persuade his employer to sign Taylor to a recording contract. In 1971, having no success in getting Delmark to sign Taylor, Iglauer used a $2500 inheritance to form Alligator Records, which recorded Taylor’s debut album, Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers. The album was recorded in just two nights. It was the first release for Alligator, which eventually became a major blues label. Iglauer began managing and booking the band, which toured nationwide and performed with Muddy Waters, Freddie King, and Big Mama Thornton. The band became especially popular in the Boston area, where Taylor inspired the young George Thorogood. The album Live at Joe’s Place documents a performance in Boston in 1972.

The second release by Taylor and his band, Natural Boogie, recorded in late 1973, received greater acclaim and led to more touring. In 1975, they toured Australia and New Zealand with Freddie King and the duo of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Taylor’s third album for Alligator, Beware of the Dog, was recorded live in 1974 but was not released until after his death. Alligator also released, posthumously, Genuine Houserocking Music and Release the Hound. Some bootleg live recordings were also circulated after Taylor’s death.

Taylor died of lung cancer in 1975. He was buried in Restvale Cemetery, in Alsip, Illinois.

Awards and recognition

Taylor was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1984.

In 1997 Alligator Records released Hound Dog Taylor: A Tribute, a 14-track tribute album in which Taylor’s songs are covered by Luther Allison, Elvin Bishop, Cub Koda (with Taylor’s band, the HouseRockers), Gov’t Mule, Sonny Landreth, and others. A “Deluxe Edition” series compilation album followed in 1999.

George Thorogood dedicated “The Sky Is Crying” to “the memory of the late great Hound Dog Taylor” on his album Live (EMI America CDP 7 46329 2). Thorogood also recorded a cover version of “Give Me Back My Wig” on his album The Hard Stuff in 2006.

The 2011 film The Rum Diary includes a loose depiction of Taylor performing at a raucous concert in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the 1950s.

William H. Macy’s character, Frank Gallagher, on the Showtime TV series Shameless, is often seen wearing a Hound Dog Taylor T-shirt.


  • Hound Dog Taylor and the HouseRockers, 1971 (Alligator Records)
  • Natural Boogie, 1974 (Alligator Records)
  • Beware of the Dog!, 1976 (Alligator Records)
  • Genuine Houserocking Music, 1982 (Alligator Records)
  • Hound Dog Taylor, deluxe edition, 1999 (Alligator Records)
  • Release The Hound, 2004 (Alligator Records)