Both men started playing music at a young age. Billups started when he was about 9 years old taking piano lessons.
Taylor started piano lessons at the age of 7 and played professionally at the age of 12. A graduate of Clay High School, he was a student under Billups who was teaching in the Clay School system.
“At that time, when you took piano lessons, you studied classical music,” Billups said. “You played Mozart and Beethoven.”
He started playing saxophone in a rock band in the late ‘50s when Rock 'n Roll was in its infancy. By 1960, Billups was playing gigs out of town in Columbus and Lancaster then branched out into other cities.
“That's how I got interested because I wanted to improve my playing,” he said.
Billups went on to graduate with his bachelor's degree in music education from Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky., and later received his master's degree from Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va.
Taylor graduated from Morehead State University with a Bachelor of Music in music composition; an MA and a Ph.D. in musicology from The Ohio State University in Columbus. He interrupted his education from 1973 to 1974 to tour with Marvin Gaye on his last U.S. tour before he died.
“That was approximately a 17-week, 38-city tour,” Taylor said. “I continued playing in scores and scores of bands all over the United States for the next 11 years.”
He then went back to Morehead and finished his degree.
Taylor was also the audio and video manager of The Ohio State University's Music and Dance Library from 1992 to 2001. It is one of the largest academic music libraries in the United States.
“Much like Gary, I started in Rock 'n Roll bands too,” Taylor said. “My generation came after the Beatles. From that I somehow managed to learn how to play the blues.”
Billups would go to Taylor's house after school and teach him pieces that were based on the blues progression, he said.
“I joined the musician's union at a very young age - I think I was 14,” he said. “I had really good people to look up to.”
He and Billups played in bands while Taylor was still in high school.
“In order to play in the bands, I had to keep my grades up in school,” Taylor said.
Taylor has vast experience in performing and toured with Marvin Gaye, jazz vocalist Mark Murphy and big band leader Les Elgart.
He has published several articles and given lectures and scholarly presentations throughout the world; hosted his own educational radio series for the Himalayan Broadcasting Company in Kathmandu, Nepal; taught and lectured at The Ohio State University and universities in Moscow, Hong Kong, Beijing and Kathmandu.
In 1998, Taylor accepted an appointment to teach for the University of Colorado at Denver's International College program and taught six years overseas.
Billups has played with some of the big bands and acts including Jimmy Dorsey, Frankie Vallie, the Four Lads, Bob Newhart, Rita Moreno, Bobby Vinton and Rich Little.
“I do a lot of pop stuff and a little bit of jazz,” he said. “Not hard core jazz but a lot of old standards.”
Billups has been performing for 47 years.
He worked as an adjunct faculty at Shawnee State University for seven years, retired after 30 years of teaching in Ohio and for the past 10 years, he has been teaching in the Lewis County, Ky., School system.
Active in the Aladdin Temple Shrine Band, Billups is known throughout the United States and Canada as past president of the Shrine Band Association of North America.
He is currently president of the Southern Ohio Jazz Society, secretary-treasurer for Portsmouth Local 482, American Federation of Musicians and a member of the Western Sun Masonic Lodge of Wheelersburg, Scottish Rite of Cincinnati, Portsmouth Shrine Club and the Aladdin Temple Shrine in Columbus.
“I'm blessed,” Billups said.
The new CD is aptly named with soothing sounds of some of the old standards like “Summertime” and “Time after Time” with Taylor on keyboards and Billups on saxophone.
“We just went in and kind of winged it,” Taylor said.
They did not use overdubbing, electronic gadgets and gizmos, Taylor said.
“It's been a good life, not a lot of money but a good life,” Billups said.
PHYLLIS NOAH can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 234, or email@example.com.