Tucson Blues


Lil Mama Heather Hardy's Tribute to Sam Taylor

“Sam's Mission : Keep the Clubs Packed and the Music Alive”

By Marilyn Stringer

Heather Hardy, violinist and long time member of Sam Taylor's band, put together a tribute in Tucson to top all jam sessions. She had just set a date for the tribute with Cathy Warner, owner of Boondocks, two days before the news of his passing was announced. The gathering of blues fans, friends, and fellow musicians was huge and representative of the impact Sam Taylor had in Tucson , who lived there for ten years and was the “heart and soul” of Tucson blues.

I had the opportunity to interview many of the performers throughout the evening and the comments about Sam were the same. “He was my mentor; He was my teacher; He was my friend; He encouraged me to get up on stage and play; He had a smile for everyone; It was a privilege and an honor to play with Sam.” And on it went. He also had a blues show on KXCI, the local community radio station, and would come back on with Marty Kool whenever he came back to visit. He was a big promoter of the blues and an integral part of the Tucson blues scene – wherever Sam was, there was a crowd.

During the evening Heather, whom I believe is one the best and most energetic blues violin players I have ever seen, turned to Danny Krieger, another long time member of Sam's band, and thanked him for stepping out of the band for a bit at which point Sam asked Heather to step in, and the rest is history. Heather joined Taylor 's band in 1992 and continued to play with him until his health ended the tour. According to all: When Sam originally asked Heather up on stage to play, she stood quietly in the back and played her violin. Slowly Sam encouraged her to the front and eventually to sing. To see her now, you would never know that. She is one “hot blues” – singer and musician - to the core. Heather sent out a call to all musicians who had played with Sam to come to the tribute, and they did! She started out the all-night jam, along with herself on her violin and singing, Sabra Faulk-named “Thunder Bass” by Sam, Barry Stillwagon (harmonica), Mark Loeb (drums), and Danny Krieger (guitar). From that moment, the music never stopped, the artist's kept coming, and the dance floor was never empty. Heather never missed a beat and in the tradition of Sam Taylor: Heather gave everything she had on stage and she brought up every single musician that had come to play. She greeted and hugged all the people she had known over the years, she cried, she smiled, and she kept playing her heart out. She brought up Stefan George, Arizona Blues Hall of Fame President and long time friend of Sam & Heather's, who kept the tribute in high blues gear. Stefan shared some great stories with me about his years knowing Sam. He felt that Sam took everyone seriously about their music, encouraging all.

The jam session was one of the best I have ever been to, and being a blues cruiser where jams reign, this one was right up there. Sam's songs were played by Sam's band members, including keyboardist Lisa Otey, sax players, a drummer from NYC, basses, singers, and multiple guitar players. Heather, Sam is smiling at you! As we all are! Thanks!