I knew Taylor Bays because of his fierce presence in the Greensboro music community. We shared the bill at local venues and parties many times, and we knew the same folks. He gave the best hugs and really cared about his friends and fellow artists. He sang in a way that was raw, electrifying and f*cked up.
Taylor was a complicated being. At times otherworldly, at times wound up and gritty with the world’s pain, he was silly, profound, self-deprecating and uplifting all at once. He caught people off-guard and did unexpected things, which led people to find him weird and eccentric. His charisma usually won people over. Difficult and outspoken, he did have a dark quality to him, and some people remember that side of him too.
I never found him that strange; I thought he was really unique and not afraid to be himself, and I admired his tenacity. He was one of the few people who truly did not give a sh*t what people thought of him. I sometimes wondered how he ended up on Earth. He was different and highly perceptive, behaving as if he came from another place.
He formed close connections with those struggling to make to their art. Since his passing, the musicians I have spoken with about him all say the same thing: Taylor was unconditionally supportive of their music. He would regularly reach out to see how they were doing and was ready to give them constructive, meaningful feedback about their songs. The world needs more people like that.
Taylor was a true friend for many people, and an enemy to some. He listened to people with an open mind and appreciated what he heard. He resonated with people’s pain and felt everything on a deep level. He spoke up when he felt something was problematic or unfair, and towards the end of his life he caused rifts. He left a controversial legacy behind.
He struggled on a daily basis (physically, spiritually and financially) and channeled it all through his music. One of my favorite songs of his is entitled “Pencil Song” (on his album Whatever Dude, recorded in Greensboro at On Pop of the World Studio). I remember seeing him and his band The Laser Rays perform it at The Blind Tiger a few years back. I was so so enthused, so happy to hear someone playing something so unexpected and original that I cried and laughed at the same time.
The lyrics perfectly capture his joyful yet reckless spirit, punk ethos and his supreme closeness to his friends:
I want some ice cream
I want some pie
I want to stick my finger into my eye
so I’ll have a reason to go to the ER
I hope on the way there I don’t crash my car
Cuz I’ll be driving with one eye
Pumping gas with one dollar
I can drink a gallon of orange juice
with one swaller
If there’s a problem
I’ll just call my crew
and they will kick the sh*t out of you
Taylor Bays, you will truly be missed. Your smile was contagious. Your lyrics were genius. I feel like your spirit and music will live on for years to come.
Photo of Taylor Bays draped in a flag by Carolyn de Berry.