I think most people who are passionate about music often have certain artists or bands that hold a special spot in their musical heart that may not be household names. There are always those artists that fly under the radar but somehow manage to leave a big impact on their fans. In the late 80's and early 90's one such band for me was Lillian Axe.
Lillian Axe released their debut album in 1987 and it's follow-up a year later. The band didn't achieve much commercial success with their first two releases and were dropped by MCA Records. After a couple of personnel changes the band quickly signed another deal with I.R.S. records and released two more records before taking an extended break to pursue other projects.
While commercial success always eluded Lillian Axe during their major label years, they managed to build a loyal fan base from constant touring. I saw Lillian Axe numerous times when they made their way through Ohio and it was always a guarantee that wherever they were playing, it was going to be a packed house and you were going to see a great show.
I recently got the chance to catch up with Lillian Axe singer Ron Taylor and ask him a few questions about his time with Lillian Axe and what he's been up to since officially splitting from the band in 2004.
Carr: Ron, who were some of your earliest influences as a singer?
Taylor: I always loved Steven Tyler, Steve Perry, Steve Walsh, David Lee Roth but wow, there were some awesome singers back then!
Carr: Most people first heard of you from seeing Lillian Axe's video for "Dream of A Lifetime" on MTV's Headbanger's Ball but prior to joining Lillian Axe you were in a very popular regional touring band called Stiff. Can you tell me how Stiff formed?
Taylor: I first met the Stiff guys at one of the coolest bars ever, Cardi’s Houston, where they had two band stages side by side. They were in a band called Frenzy and we were in a band called Bittersweet. Both bands stayed at the same short-stay apartment complex and for the entire week, it was just craziness. Rob and Jon were in that band and Drew Smith, who would later play guitar in both Bittersweet and Stiff, was their guitar tech. At some point both bands split up so we all got together and kept rocking.
Carr: Stiff recorded an EP called Straight Up, can you share some memories about recording that record and how guitarist Craig Goldie became involved?
Taylor: That record was an experience in how not to record an album at that time. We went out to LA to do it with someone who was better at advertising than they were at actual recording. We were young and green too, so we played our part in that fiasco. We had met Craig when he was out on tour with Dio and he came out and jammed with us a few times when we played in various spots. He was in LA when we were recording so he stopped by and played a little guitar. Great guy!
Carr: You along with Stiff members Jon Ster and Rob Stratton would eventually join Lillian Axe. How did that come about, was Stiff breaking up at the time?
Taylor: No, Stiff was doing their thing criss-crossing the country playing rock n roll and working to get signed to a record deal with one close call after another. We heard that Lillian was getting signed and soon after that, I received a call from Steve saying that the label wanted a different singer and asked if I would come along. I told him I wouldn’t leave without Rob and Jon and he found a way to make it happen. We hated to walk away from our band Stiff after so much hard work but it was a major label deal that we figured we’d better jump at.
Carr: Robin Crosby from Ratt produced the first Lillian Axe record. How much input did Robin have on that record and what was it like working with him in the studio?
Taylor: We loved Robbin both as a person and as a talent. He was freaking awesome to work with both in pre-production and in the studio where he worked us hard and completely engaged with the project. We learned a lot from him.
Carr: During your time with Lillian Axe, you recorded four proper studio records along with a couple compilations and a live record. Love and War seems to be the fan favorite. My personal favorite is Psychoschizophrenia, which Lillian Axe record is your favorite?
Taylor: Love and War is my favorite although I’m proud of all of them.
Carr: I'm sure there were many highlights during your time in Lillian Axe but what is one of your fondest memories of being in the band?
Taylor: We were playing LA and were staying at the famed Hyatt on Sunset. Darrin and I had adjoining rooms and the next morning around 10am, I heard a loud voice coming from his room. I walked thru the adjoining door to find Darrin talking to none other than Little Richard! Little Richard was the last person in the world I expected to see in Darrin’s room at 10am in the morning! He had met him in the hallway and he was signing an autograph for him. Just Crazy!
Carr: Lillian Axe took a break during the 90's and you were in a project called The Bridge and released a CD called Demo. I love this CD and thought it really showcased your voice and songwriting abilities. It was a pretty big departure from anything you had done with Stiff or Lillian Axe, I always hoped there would be another release from The Bridge. Can you tell me a little bit about how that came together?
Taylor: Drew Smith played guitar in both BitterSweet and in Stiff and lived in AZ. so when I came off the road from Lillian, we got together and just started writing and recording songs. I was definitely ready to do something different and still love those songs. We had a blast!
Carr: You did a reunion with Lillian Axe in the early 2000's and record a live CD with them. Why did you not continue on with the band after that?
Taylor: Yeah, the reunion shows started around '99 or 2000 and we played quite a bit until 2004, playing the U.S., Europe and Japan. After living on the road constantly and chasing that ever-elusive rock n roll dream for over 20 years, I was just completely burnt out on the entire business of music and was ready to stay a little closer to home and do something different. It was never my intention stop singing, heck, that's what I am, a Rock n Roll singer! I was just ready for a new chapter.
Carr: In recent years you have been keeping yourself busy with a cover band called The Daze and an original band called Lowside. Both bands feature former Lillian Axe bandmate Darrin Delatte. How is that all going?
Taylor: Darrin and I have had a blast over the last 10 or so years, playing in our cover band and doing our acoustic duo thang. During that time, we were writing and recording songs which eventually became the Lowside CD. That was one of the best musical experiences I've ever been a part of.
Carr: Last year former Stiff/Lillain Axe guitarist Jon Ster sadly passed away. You and Jon go back a long way, can you tell me how you met Jon and was Stiff the first band you guys were in together?
Taylor: Yeah, Jon and Rob both came from Frenzy and they were my best buddies for many, many years. We've got a many a story and even more that we've surely forgotten.
Broke my heart to lose Jon.
Carr: I met Jon several times back when you guys used to play at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. He was always super nice to the fans and always seemed to have a big smile on his face. Jon brought a lot of energy and talent to Lillian Axe. I always thought Jon was the secret weapon in the band. Thoughts?
Taylor: Oh, I totally agree with you! Jon was an amazing person and musician! He did some wonderful guitar work, keys and vocals for us!
Carr: You played in Columbus many times with Stiff and Lillian Axe. Both bands had a loyal following in this area. Do you have any specific memories of playing in Columbus?
Taylor: We always looked forward to playing the Alrosa and always had a great time with our wonderful friends in Columbus!!
Carr: Thanks for taking out some time to answer these questions Ron. Is there anything else you would like add?
Taylor: Thanks for having me!! Man, I feel so very blessed to have had a life of making music and am still having a blast playing almost every weekend still.
Carr: Lastly, what are your top five favorite albums of all time and what's the first record/album you ever bought?
Taylor: Whew, that's tough to answer since we go thru so many musical phases during our lives.
I think Three Dog Night - Naturally, was the first album I ever bought.
Favs - 6
Aerosmith - Toys in the Attic
Van Halen - Women and Children First
Journey - Infinity
Rush - Moving Pictures
James Taylor - Greatest Hits
Doyle Bramhall II - Jellycream
You can check out Ron Taylor's band Lowside HERE.
Below you will find several YouTube links to music Ron has made over the years with Stiff, Lillian Axe and The Bridge. Make sure to give them a listen.
Scott Carr is a guitarist who plays in the Columbus, OH bands Radio Tramps and Returning April. Scott is also an avid collector of vinyl records and works at Lost Weekend Records. So...if you are looking for Scott....you'll either find him in a dimly lit bar playing his guitar or in a record store digging for the holy grail.