One of Howard's favorite musicians (and one of the world's favorite musicians) is singer-songwriter James Taylor. When Howard was a teenager, a girl he was in love with wouldn't give him the time of day but would stare at the cover of James' seminal album 'Sweet Baby James'. Howard wanted to hate James for being so damn good-looking, but once he heard James sing, there was no way he could hate him.
James sat down with Howard this morning for an epic, two hour interview, and they covered everything – the songs, the relationships, everything.
Some of the best James Taylor stories involved the other iconic musicians of the sixties and seventies.
James ended up moving to London, first visiting a friend, and then ultimately staying and performing wherever he could. After making a demo and shopping it around to some industry folks, Taylor called his friend from the US, Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar to get Peter Asher (of Peter and Gordon)'s contact information. Asher had coincidentally just signed on to do A&R for a new label called Apple Records – of course home to the Beatles (though at the time they were on contract with EMI still, so they couldn't even be signed to Apple).
"It was an amazing coincidence," Taylor told Howard. Peter's sister Jane was dating Paul McCartney at the time, which is how they connected. And just like that, James became the first American act signed by the Beatles.
"I sent my dad a letter asking him to sign the record contract for me because I was under the age of consent," he explained. "In Britain I was under the age of consent, but I was 18 when I signed that April/Blackwood contract by about three days."
Being 1968, the Fab Four were in the process of recording the White Album when Taylor joined them in the studio to record his debut album.
"They just booked the studio for about three months, so whenever they were finished with one of their marathon sessions, Peter and I would scurry in there and lay down a couple of tracks," James recalled.
Howard asked about the reaction of John, Paul, and George to his music and James says that while Paul and George were pretty hip to him, John bonded with him on a more recreational level. "I'm lucky I didn't kill him," James, who struggled with addiction, mused to Howard.
Unfortunately, John Lennon's life was cut short anyway, and in one of the most chilling moments in Stern Show history, James recalled an encounter with Lennon's assassin Mark David Chapman the day before he killed John. As if that weren't eerie enough, James lived in the building next to John's and heard the fatal shots ring out.
One of the great loves of James' life was fellow singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. They performed on each other's albums and their relationship was the inspiration for much of Joni's seminal album 'Blue'.
'It was a remarkable year,' James said.
Another luminary he crossed paths with was Howard other favorite musician, Neil Young. James went down to Nashville to do a guest spot on Johnny Cash's TV show while Neil was recording. James ended up playing banjo on Neil's classic 'Old Man'.
Since all of this has probably gotten you in the mood for some new James Taylor music, you're in luck! He's about to put out his first album of new material since 2002! So be sure to pre-order it. And since you can never have enough James Taylor, check out his brand-new limited run station on SiriusXM channel 17.
Pre-Order James' new album here!