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Custom Taylor Band bringing country act to Sackets Harbor, Waddington

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Country singer Chris Taylor said he received lots of attention when he moved to the north country in the 1980s.

It wasn’t for his music.

“My brother moved me to Potsdam in 1986,” he said. “I was the only black guy in high school.”

Mr. Taylor, who now lives in Syracuse, is looking forward to returning to the north country for two concerts with his Custom Taylor Band. It will perform from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday in the Concerts on the Waterfront Series in Sackets Harbor and will be the entertainment headliner from 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 11 in Waddington on the last day of the Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown on the St. Lawrence River. The showdown is part of the Bassmaster Elite Series of fishing tournaments.

Mr. Taylor said his friends, especially in St. Lawrence County, may be surprised that he became a country singer.

“Nobody knew me as a singer,” he said. “This is going to be a shock for some people.”

He is apparently quite good at his craft. The Syracuse New Times named the six-piece band he leads as that city’s best country band of 2012.

Mr. Taylor, a native of Owensboro, Ky., who grew up in Evansville, Ind., began his band 12 years ago. Its members have come and gone, but Mr. Taylor has been a constant.

“A friend of mine named the band Custom Taylor Band because bands are usually being re-created, custom-built,” he said.

He said he came to the north country as a high schooler with his brother, who was an Army recruiter. He spent about a year in the Potsdam area and returned to Indiana, where in 1988 he graduated from Benjamin Bosse High School in Evansville. He later moved to Syracuse and began to make regular trips to the Potsdam area to visit friends.

Mr. Taylor said he was introduced to live country music during his short stay in the north country. He recalled the musical acts at the former Happy Harold’s Tavern on Liberty Street in Massena. He was brought there by a friend, whose parents were in a country-western band.

“I was watching bands,” Mr. Taylor said. “That’s where I fell in love with country music. We’re talking back when Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks first started out.”

Mr. Taylor wasn’t seriously interested in singing at the time. That changed in 1993 when he attended a karaoke night at George’s Tavern in Norwood.

“I got up there and sang ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ and the crowd just went nuts,” Mr. Taylor said.

In Syracuse he started competing in karaoke competitions.

“I won a ton of contests,” Mr. Taylor said.

Word got out in Syracuse that Mr. Taylor was looking to start a band, which led to the Custom Taylor Band. It has opened for Big and Rich, Craig Morgan, Mark Chesnut, Diamond Rio, Joe Diffie, Tracy Lawrence and other acts.

“We’re a high-energy cover band,” Mr. Taylor said. “I kind of sprinkle in some of my originals.”

One of those originals, “Something Beautiful,” when purchased on iTunes, benefits the “Y Partners” Campaign, a drive to raise money to assist families, seniors and youth in the Syracuse community.

The last time the Custom Taylor Band played in the north country was in 2008 in Sackets Harbor as part of the Concerts on the Waterfront Series.

“Other than that Sackets Harbor concert, we’ve not played in Watertown or anyplace up north at all,” Mr. Taylor said. “Down here, we’re killing it everywhere.”

the details
WHAT: The Custom Taylor Band, featuring Chris Taylor
WHEN/WHERE: 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday in Sackets Harbor at the Battlefield State Historic Site and from 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 11 in Waddington at Whittaker Park as the entertainment headliner at the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament
COST: Both concerts are free.
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