Known as the “flat-picking Dobro man,” Tut Taylor developed his own style of resonator guitar playing using a flat pick. The list of musicians he played with over the years is a who’s-who of country and bluegrass music that includes greats such as Roy Acuff, Grandpa Jones, Norman Blake, and John Hartford. Through performances, recordings, and jam sessions, Tut shared his style and his love of music with mountain music fans for decades. In 1996, he was named Dobro Player of the Year by the city of Tmava in Slovakia, home of the Dopyera Brothers, inventors of Dobro guitars.
Tut grew up near the Oconee River in Georgia in the Possum Trot community. “I came from a musical family,” he said. “My daddy played a little thumping banjo, my mother played the fiddle, my older brother the guitar and my other brother the mandolin.” Tut learned to play the mandolin at the age of 12, inspired by an uncle who would drop in for visits. “When he would visit us he would bring his mandolin and sneak into the room and wake us up playing “The Old Hen Cackled,” he remembered. During the early part of World War II, he got his first steel guitar, which he bought from a friend who was leaving to fight in the War. Tut taught himself to play with a flat pick.
His first professional gig was with Porter Wagoner, recording an album called Bluegrass Story. He went on to participate in the groundbreaking Aereo-Plain recording with John Hartford, Norman Blake, and Vassar Clements. He made several albums of his own, including 12 String Dobro, Friar Tut, Flat Picking Dobro, and Dobro Country, which he recorded with Roland and Clarence White. He won a Grammy, along with Jerry Douglas, for their recording project The Great Dobro Sessions. Shack Town Road, which came out in 2006, featured Norman and Nancy Blake.
Tut was also an instrument collector. “I got my first Dobro from Buck Graves,” he said. “I don’t remember the model but it had f-holes instead of the round screen holes. This got me started on collecting Dobros, and I eventually ended up with sixty-seven.” In 1970, he moved to Nashville and bought the Grammer Guitar factory, making Tennessee banjos, resonator guitars, and mandolins. Later, he opened the Old Time Picking Parlor, a music shop in Nashville with some sales, a whole lot of picking, and a repair shop. Tut moved to Wilkes County in 2002, where he became an active part of the music community and hosted a jamming tent annually at MerleFest.
Tut Taylor passed away on April 9, 2015 at the age of ninety-one.