"Wild Thing" creator's newest tunes are making kids' hearts sing

Oct. 24, 2011 at 11:50 AM ET

Davey Wilson / Davey Wilson /
Riley, Samantha and Kate Ennis pose with their grandpa Chip Taylor (or as they call him, Pepa) at a train station in New York.

The songwriter behind the party anthem "Wild Thing" and the one-night-stand anthem "Angel of the Morning" is back on the music scene with a new album... for kids.

Singer/songwriter Chip Taylor has written for huge stars during his long musical career: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin and Emmylou Harris. But on his latest album, “Golden Kids Rules,” the singers aren’t major stars, but rather Taylor’s beloved granddaughters, Riley, Kate and Samantha. It’s same country-folk music Taylor has been making for decades. It’s the lyrics – about listening to mom and dad and sharing your toys – that makes it kid’s music.

“Kids have so much to say, and so much to give, if you give them an open space to let out what they’re really thinking about,” said Taylor.

Taylor has often written songs about, and for, family members. His siblings, Oscar-winning actor Jon Voight (Angelina Jolie’s daddy) and geologist Barry Voight, are the subject of his affectionate tune “Bastard Brothers.” While caring for his seriously ill mom in the 1990s, Taylor was inspired to begin writing music again after a 15-year hiatus. He’d left the business in the 1980s, fed up with what he called “cookie-cutter songs,” to become a successful professional gambler.

“I started singing songs for mom instead of going to the racetrack,” he recalled. “After a couple of weeks, I was on the road, playing for people.”

It was his son Kristian’s wedding that ultimately sparked “Golden Kids Rules.” Taylor wrote several songs for his daughter Kelly and her three daughters to record as a wedding gift. “The Possum Hunter,” “Happy Wedding” and “Now That Kristian and Anna Have Wed” all appear on “Golden Kid’s Rules” – sweet, affectionate songs peppered with family inside jokes and infectious joy.

One day, while walking on 57th Street and First Avenue in New York City, Taylor started humming what would become the first track on the new album, “I’m Just Thinking About What I’m Thinking About.”

“It just came to me in a period of 15 seconds,” he said. “I called my wife, and I said, wouldn’t it be nice if the kids sang that?”

He went to Connecticut, where the girls live, and played the song for them. “They started singing and smiling, and that was the start of it,” he said. Taylor and his granddaughters share equal vocal time on the album, and the obvious love between them is sure to make you smile.  

“Quarter Moon Shine,” a song inspired by an “absolutely beautiful” moon, asks the questions kids ask about how far the sky extends, and where old dogs go when they die. “Daddy Is a Red Sox Fan/ Mommy Is a Yankees Fan” describes what it’s like to live in a family divided: “’Jeter go for two,’ Mommy shouts/ Daddy says, ‘Throw the bum out.’ I don’t know what that’s about. /What’s a little girl to do?”

Taylor, who’s been in front of countless audiences in his 50-year musical career, said his favorite moment on stage was with his granddaughters. Smithsonian Folkways, the label for “Golden Kids Rules” (and lots of other American artists), held a concert on the National Mall. There were two main acts, and Taylor and the grandkids were one of them.

“It was just so real and so warm, and we love each other so much,” remembered Taylor, with palpable pride. “Just looking at the kids, rising to the occasion and seeing their faces and how happy they were … it was like Ray Charles and the Raelettes answering each other.”

You can see Taylor and his grandkids discussing the album here

 And here's an early version of the girls practicing the song “Daddy Is a Red Sox Fan/ Mommy Is a Yankees Fan.”