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Printed in Eye Magazine May 1968Article written by Lillian Roxon Illustration by Michael Foreman

James Taylor

From Billboard, 1998:

Then I dropped out of school. I had some emotional difficulties. It actually was probably typical adolescent stuff, but the people around me put me into a mental hospital called McLean for nine months. That was my exit from the family agenda, as I perceived it. I did get a high school diploma, but it was from the school at McLean, the Arlington School. I never went to college; it’s funny that my father was such an academician and none of his children-not one of us-went to college. When I split from McLean, I went to Boston and then to New York to hook up with Kootch, who was in a band called the King Bees. I lived on Columbus and 84th, and then my friend since my teens, the bassist Zack Wiesner, he and I lived in the Albert Hotel on University Place and 11th Street in Greenwich Village, on a floor that was burned out except for two rooms.

We lived at the Albert for three months, rehearsed in the basement of the Albert, and we all became a house band at the Night Owl Cafe for eight to nine months as the Flying Machine. That was really the only job we had. We tried to get a manager for a while, but I don’t think he was that interested in us; he just did it as a favor to the people who were producing our record.

[Question: What was the origin of the awful “James Taylor And The Original Flying Machine” LP that was released in 1971 after the success of “Sweet Baby James”?]

It was the doing of Chip Taylor…. He and a partner came down and hear us, and they signed us to a contract.

From Fire and rain: the James Taylor story by Ian Halperin:

Taylor rented a room on Columbus Avenue and Eighty-Fourth Street in Manhattan and joined his longtime musical buddy Danny “Kootch” Korchmar, who had been living in the Village playing guitar in a band called the King Bees. After a couple of the band’s members had a huge fallout, the King Bees broke up. Kootch decided to form a new band, and he wanted James to be the frontman. Taylor got very excited at the prospect of singing lead vocals; the two spent hours huddling in a cafe working out the logistics and details. Kootch was so happy Taylor had joined him that he even proposed to name the group after him.

“Let’s call it Stringbean [one of Taylor’s nicknames] or the James Taylor Group,” Kootch said, as Taylor listened attentively. “We’ll get some local gigs and start recording our music. Then if things go well we’ll buy a van and hit the road.”

Kootch and Taylor finally settled on calling the band the Flying Machine. They recruited Vineyard alumni Joel O’Brien on drums and Zach Wiesner on bass. Taylor and Wiesner moved in together to a tiny room with little sunlight at the dilapidated Albert Hotel on University Place and Eleventh Street. This was one of the seedier hotels in the Village, frequented regularly by junkies and prostitutes. A fire a year earlier had charred a good part of it, but its owners refused to close the hotel and rented rooms on the floors that were not gutted.

One of the prostitutes who hung out at the Albert called herself Flo. Between tricks, she used to bum cigarettes from Taylor. Flo was a teenage runaway from Buffalo who came to New York wanting to be a model but wound up turning tricks after failing to find work and falling into the Village’s drug subculture. She was stabbed to death in 1973 by a former boyfriend.

“There were lots of weird people constantly hanging out at the Albert,” said Bradlee Dixon, who once worked late shifts at the Albert. “We had an eclectic mix of clients, from hookers to Mafia types to artists. It was wild and we just pretended not to notice what was really going down in the hotel. I vaguely remember Mr. Taylor, but after he became famous I recognized him when I saw him on TV. He was always polite, and I remember that he dressed like a hippie. I also remember him because Flo was a regular client of ours and I saw them on a couple of occasions smoking outside of the hotel. I always remained good friends with Flo and we used to go out occasionally for drinks. When she died, I thought to myself that the only time she seemed happy was when she hung out with artist types like Mr. Taylor. I remember that she thought he was a really nice kid and she admired him immensely.”

At Kootch’s insistence, the Flying Machine rehearsed relentlessly in the basement of the Albert. The music was distorted because they didn’t have a proper sound system; still, after only a few weeks the band began to play in a polished fashion. The combination of talent, circumstance, and American dream inspired Taylor and his band mates to get gigs in the Village. They developed a repertoire of folk-rock songs, took their lumps, and then looked for patrons, managers, and record companies to support and promote them. They were ready for their first gig.