JOINED BAND: 1997
POSITION: Percussion, Song Writer
Melvin Leon Taylor, known to all as Leon Taylor, was born on September 23, 1955 in Johnson City, Tennessee. When Leon was three, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Leon has lived ever since. With father Mel Taylor as mentor and teacher, Leon grew up listening to, and ultimately playing, many styles of music including The Ventures. Other influences include uncle Larry Taylor, the original bass player with Canned Heat.
Throughout his teenage years and early 20″s, Leon played with all types of bands, listening to artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Iron Butterfly, Styx and Kansas among many others, which led to his ability to adapt to any situation — studio work, live gigs with other musician friends — music being a huge part of his life. Leon gained experience during the 1970s playing private parties and dances, then working with Top 40 bands in the 1980s, later forming an original roots rock band, Restless Society, to play at clubs in the L.A. area. When this band reorganized, Leon”s younger brother, Michael, joined as bass player — obviously, with the same early influences and love of music.
Over the next few years, into the early 1990s, Leon worked with his brother, recording and playing in the group IXL, further polishing his talents. He gained more insights into performing through the many dates he played, keeping his goals fixed on the future. His father, Mel, followed Leon”s career closely. In the mid-1990s, Mel mentioned that he was thinking of retiring some time in the future to work on recordings and producing other artists � he said he hoped that Leon would take over for him as drummer for The Ventures. The time came sooner than expected when Mel passed away in August 1996.
Don and Bob asked Leon if he would come into the group and, before the end of the 1996 tour in Japan, Leon traveled to Tokyo and appeared on stage with The Ventures for the last few songs of the concert, being introduced as their new drummer. The response from the packed 2600-seat house was electrifying � they took Leon to their hearts immediately! When Leon did his drum solo and even Mel”s signature tattoo on the bass guitar � the applause was unbelievable. Don remembers thinking that, when Leon started to play that evening, he had to turn around to make sure it was not Mel!
Leon has now performed with The Ventures for over 10 years, and has made the drum platform his own. He has played well over 600 shows in Japan alone, as well as dozens of concerts in the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, and The Ventures” “Surfin” to Baja” cruise to Mexico in 2003. He is also no stranger to recordings: he has played on almost 20 studio CDs, as well as half a dozen live CDs for the Japanese market. Several of these CDs have been released in the U.S. He is also co-writer on several of the more recent Ventures” original songs.
In Japan, Leon has his own signature drumsticks, manufactured by Canopus Drums, who also build customs snare drums for Leon, as they did for Mel in the past