Few people have more Island cred than Kate Taylor. She and her brothers Alex, Livingston, Hugh, and James spent summers here since they were kids in the ’50s and ’60s, and Hugh, who owns the Outermost Inn, and Kate continue to live here today.
Kate formed her first band at age 15, and got her first record deal with Atlantic Records four years later. In 1971 she released her first album, “Sister Kate,” produced by her manager at the time, Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon fame. Her second album, the eponymous 1978 release “Kate Taylor,” was produced by her brother James and Lew Hahn on Columbia Records, and featured the hit “It’s in His Kiss (The Shoop Shoop Song)” done as a duet with James, which peaked at 49 on the Billboard charts.
Starting in 1979, Ms. Taylor took a break from the music industry to raise her two young daughters, Elizabeth and Aretha Witham. In recent years, she has created beautiful wampum jewelry, but given her touring schedule of late, she hasn’t spent as much time on her art, producing some pieces on consignment.
“The Kate Taylor Show” has been presented on Martha’s Vineyard since 1971. This is the 47th year of the show, which takes place two nights, August 14 and 15, at 8 pm at the Aquinnah Town Hall.
So Kate, you’ve been performing since 1971 — you look fabulous and you sound great, how do you do it?
I love singing, I love communing with the crowd … you learn something new every time. I love playing with great players, and playing amazing songs — it keeps me alive.
Speaking of going back to the early ’70s, we came across a YouTube video of you performing at Central Park. That was some show.
I was about 20 at the time … it was a mix of terrifying and exhilarating; there were probably about 5,000 people there. I was all amped up, I was a very excitable girl. I had just come off of two years of touring, and when I got through with that show, I came back to the Vineyard and definitely needed some grounding. I ended up sewing together a teepee at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. We ended up living in it out at Tiah’s Cove.
You know, we did a piece for Arts & Ideas magazine about a comic book called “Martha’s Vineyard — the Comic Book,” and one of the stories was called “Summer of ’74,” by Daisy Kimberly, and it was all about living in a teepee at Tiah’s Cove.
Yeah, we were right there … that was an amazing time back then. What’s really amazing is that there are houses there now, but it’s still a magical place; the old Vineyard still shines through.
So what was it like out here back in the day?
Well, musically it was great. You had the Moon-Cusser coffee house in Oak Bluffs, so many great acts played here. Up in Chilmark, you had the Chilmark Community Center and you had the Chilmark Tavern. I remember going there when I was around 13 to see Tom Rush — Fritz Richmond was playing washboard bass — and we were all sitting on the floor. It was a hot summer night, and I was a big fan, and Tom introduced a song called “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate,” and I shrieked! It’s funny, Onnie Palmer had a tape of that show, and years later she played it for me and there it was, I could hear the shriek.
So let’s talk about your show this summer in Aquinnah. What do you have in store for us?
We’ve got some new tunes, a little country, some rockabilly as well as some old gems. We’ll be doing something called Sister Kate revisited. We’ll be doing remakes of songs from my first album. Plus my nephew Isaac Taylor will be there; he’s really amazing.
And what’s next?
From there we’ll be going up to Hillsdale, N.Y., to do a folk festival at Falcon Ridge, and in September, I’m heading to California. I’ll be on the bill with Albert Lee out there, just a great guitar player, and Peter Asher, my old producer. Then we’ll be heading back through Ohio, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Boston — we’ll be doing a show at Cutting Room in Manhattan.
How many days are you touring a year?
As many as they’ll have me.
Rumor has it that you just came back from London.
A friend asked if I would write a song for her friend, Charles Modica, who was having a big birthday. He had started a medical school in Grenada 40 years ago, and I traveled there to sing the song for his birthday celebration. I was also asked to go to London and sing it for him again — this time he was being honored at a dinner at the House of Lords, and I sang the song at the reception after the dinner.
So how does it feel to be coming back home again?
I’m looking forward to shows on the Vineyard, my hometown. I’ll be playing for friends and family — as Dorothy would say, there’s no place like home.
What’s the Aquinnah Town Hall like to play in?
It’s fabulous space … it’s a hallowed hall, it’s really special. Plus it will be full of friends and family.
And last but not least … what’s this I hear about you making cupcakes for everyone?
It’s my birthday celebration, both August 14 and 15. I’ll be making cupcakes for everyone at the concert. Am I crazy or what?
The Kate Taylor Show, “Sister Kate’s Two Dates,” Monday, August 14, and Tuesday, August 15. Aquinnah Town Hall, 65 State Rd., Aquinnah. Doors open at 7:30 pm; showtime 8 pm. Special guests include Isaac Taylor. Tickets, $25, are available now at Alley’s and at ticketsmv.com/kate.