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Celebrating the Life of Mississippi...

Celebrating the Life of Mississippi Musical Legend Greg “Fingers” Taylor

By: Susan Marquez - December 3, 2023

Taylor and Jimmy Buffett played together for over 25 years as part of the Coral Reefer Band. He passed away on November 23, 2023, at 71 years old.

As one of the original members of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band, harmonica player Greg “Fingers” Taylor made a name for himself in the music world.

While he was a student at the University of Southern Mississippi, Greg found local musicians for weekend gigs and school concerts. He and his college friend Fred Knobloch were gigging regularly at Gino’s in Hattiesburg. During his time at USM Greg made his way on stage with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Delaney and Bonnie, and Black Oak Arkansas.

A historical marker next to the Student Union building on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi marks the spot “Where Buffett met Fingers,” telling the story of the two musician’s meeting andtheir musical journey. It happened late one evening in the early 1970s when Greg was in the Student Union, known as the Hub, and a guy with long blonde hair and a mustache was playing an acoustic set for a small audience. Greg was impressed with the performer’s whimsical songs and stage persona.

During a break, Greg introduced himself and asked if he could accompany him. The performer, who was, of course, Jimmy Buffett, said, “maybe on the last song of the night.” That last song turned into ten more songs, and Buffett asked Greg if he could come back the next night. Greg and Jimmy played together for over 25 years as part of the Coral Reefer Band.

Seth Gregory (Greg) Taylor passed away on November 23, 2023, at the Mississippi State Hospital. He was 71 years old. A loving dad to three sons (Steven Taylor, Hunter Taylor, and Richard Rierson) and brother to Melanie Johnston and Brent Taylor, Greg was loved and admired by many.

Greg was born the first of three children in Wichita, Kansas on June 3, 1952. His father, Seth, was a pharmacist, and his mother, Doris, was an accomplished photographer who was devoted to raising her children. Both parents supported Greg’s whims, which included horror movies and characters, building models of cars and scary monsters, and collecting baseball cards and comic books. And most of all, they supported his love of music.

Brent Taylor, Greg’s younger brother, says Greg was first introduced to music through their mother.

“Mom grew up playing piano and marimba. Her record collection included Eddie Arnold, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Marty Robbins, Ray Charles. Greg’s early favorite song was Johnny Horton’s Battle of New Orleans.”

In the 1960’s Greg, along with his best friends from elementary through high school, Dave Shaw, and Dan Matthews, watched the Ed Sullivan Show one night. The new British band, The Beatles, played. They decided right then they would follow the Beatles’ path and formed their first band. They called themselves the Immortals and later changed the name to Heavy. Greg decided to be the keyboard player since he had taken lessons at an early age. At first, it wasn’t cool to be the keyboard player, until the Dave Clark Five made the scene. Greg had a portable organ and was the singer in the band. The Taylor home became the band house, all the rehearsals and gatherings were there. The Taylor parents took Greg’s passion in stride. Melanie and Brent listened to music from their bedrooms upstairs.

The band played in high school at local dances, then eventually in club, and fraternity parties.

“The thrill of performing resonated with Greg,” says Brent. “His mind was made up; he was going to be a professional musician.”

In the late 1960’s the family moved to Jackson, Mississippi. Although it was difficult for Greg to leave his friends and bandmates, he quickly fell in love with Mississippi. He was discovering the roots of Rock and Roll and loved Blues music. In high school, he met other musicians, and they formed the Buttermilk Blues Band. Greg enjoyed listening to Mississippi Delta and Chicago Blues and he particularly loved the harmonica sound. He took up playing the harmonica and assumed the nickname “Fingers” Taylor.

A year or so after meeting Buffett, Greg was visiting a close friend in Memphis, Mike Adcock. They were out one evening and went to the High Cotton Club, where there was a lean and well-dressed lead singer and guitarist, with a tight five-piece R&B band.

“Greg was energized,” says Brent. “He boldly jumped the stage and started to play along on the harmonica. Instead of being thrown off the stage, the band leader embraced the moment and the band rocked the house.”

Greg became part of Larry Raspberry and the Highsteppers band, often referred to as Fingers Taylor-The Harpoon Man. Larry and his Highsteppers toured the country for the next few years and recorded in Memphis on a few memorable records, including their first LP High Steppin’ and Fancy Dancing. Greg continued to do live shows with Jimmy Buffett on occasion while he continued his run with Larry Raspberry.

In 1975 Buffett contacted Greg to let him know he was putting a band together, the Coral Reefer Band. Greg’s music partnership with Jimmy included over 20 LPs and 26 tours. Greg’s fan base grew exponentially over his 25+-year run with Jimmy and his band.

Greg had a special talent for interpreting a song and making it better. His signature solos on tunes like A Pirate Looks at 40, Coast of Marseilles, and Dixie Diner stand out and will forever be remembered. Greg always interpreted the needs of the song and delivered his indelible mark. Whether it was a ballad or a rocking tune, he always played and performed with finesse.

Greg was associated with many other artists, either playing with or recording with: James Taylor, Mac McAnally, Jimmy Hall and Wet Willie, Johnny Sansone, Little Milton, Mark Hummel, John Mayall, Fred Knobloch, Bonnie Raitt, the Meters, Jerry Jeff Walker, Keith Sykes, Tim Krekel, Delbert McClinton, Bo Diddley, Dr. John, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Jerry McCain, Tinsley Ellis, Jessie Robinson, King Edward, The House Rockers, Sam Lay Blues Band, Omar and the Howlers, Don Nix, Al Cooper, Sam Myers, Tim Krekel, Michael Nesmith, Casey Son Phillips and the Hounds, Harrell Broome, Anson Funderburg and the Rockets, Chris Gill, Lloyd Munn, Mark Whittington, Raphael Semmes, Little Feat, Mason Ruffner, Doug Demming and the Jewel Tones, KD Lang, and many others, including many Jimmy Buffett Tribute bands.

Greg released five studio albums of his own. He was inducted into the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame in 2012.

Many of his peers considered him a musicologist. He collected thousands of LP’s and CD’s and studied all facets of the artists he admired.

Greg’s son, Steven, is a blues guitarist and has released his own albums. Hunter has taken up a career as an audio and video technician.

On a Facebook post over the weekend, Steven said, “My dad was a special and talented human being. His quick wit and musical ability helped him stand out. He is one of my biggest influences. He introduced my brother and me to the Beatles at a young age and I remember listening to those CD’s with him in his van. My dad loved the blues more than just about anyone and he was heavily influenced by the likes of Little Walter, Junior Wells, Little Richard, Wilson Pickett and many others. He loved music and thanks to him I, too, love music very much. Dad is also a big reason I’m into sci-fi as well as movies like Alien and Godzilla. He was a nerd. He was also one of the most talented harmonica players ever and I admire how melodic he played. He loved music with every fiber of his being.”

In his final years, Greg battled Alzheimer’s. Greg’s sister, Melanie, says the family wishes to express their gratitude to all the medical professionals and caregivers at St Catherine’s in Madison and the Mississippi State Hospital who provided the extraordinary care.

“We are also grateful for the love and support of his many fans, friends and Parrotheads,” she says.

Donations may be made in Greg’s honor to the Community Foundation for Mississippi/WellsFest CARES Fund, 119 S President Street, 1st Floor, Jackson MS 39201.

A memorial service was held Saturday, December 2nd at Wells United Methodist Church in Jackson. A separate celebration of life will be held with music, memories, love, and laughter with a date and venue to be announced.

About the Author(s)
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Susan Marquez

Susan Marquez serves as Magnolia Tribune's Culture Editor. Since 2001, Susan Marquez has been writing about people, places, spaces, events, music, businesses, food, and travel. The things that make life interesting. A prolific writer, Susan has written over 3,000 pieces for a wide variety of publications.