VETERAN ROBERT TAYLOR served his country in more ways than one. As a soldier in the United States Army, not only did he serve his county, but he also served fellow soldiers by sharing his gift of music.
Taylor gives thanks to God and his mother, who made him play for an hour every day, for his musical talent and abilities. At the age of seven, he started accordion lessons, and the rest was history.
In 1967, Taylor enlisted in the army after auditioning for the 3rd United States Army Band in Atlanta. He began playing with combo at the NCO club with his new Cordovox Accordion, and he’s been playing it ever since. Since then, he has played in multiple settings within the military.
“While in basic training at Fort Gordon, Augusta, GA, I was placed in the 3rd Training Brigade Band, which was the only one in the Army, and played drums for my own graduation ceremony. On Nov. 3, 1968, I left for Vietnam. I played with the 1st Infantry Division Band for 9 months, and 3 months with the 1st Cavalry Division Band.”
Though Taylor thoroughly enjoyed playing music for his colleagues, that’s not all he accomplished while in Vietnam. Being a soldier, of course, requires courage, commitment, and support to other battles.
“While in the 1st Infantry Division Band in Vietnam, I and another band member volunteered to fly door gunner on a huey helicopter because the gunners were getting very little rest. On our second flight, we came under heavy small arms fire and rocket fire, sustaining over 14 hits to the bottom of the helicopter. The pilot was wounded. Three crewmen received the Distinguished Flying Cross and me and my band buddy received the Air Medal for Valor.”
After returning from Vietnam, stationed with the 283rd Army band at Fort Benning, GA, Taylor played accordion with a combo at the Officers and NCO clubs. One of the main jobs of the marching band was to play for Officer Candidate School Graduation which turned out a big class of new 2nd Lieutenants every other week for Vietnam. “I felt bad every time we played those guys, knowing that a lot of them would not come back alive.”
Taylor had many more experiences playing with many other combos in the military, but soldiers were not the only ones that have been able to experience Taylor’s years of polished talent and bravery.
In 1970, Taylor moved to Savannah and joined the police department for several months before transferring to the Chatham County Police Department, which he retired from after 20 years.
During that time and prior, Taylor continuously showed the southeast a good time. He did some solo shows, but he did many more shows with his bands, The Velvetones and The Rhinelanders, at bars and breweries, restaurants, parties, festivals, and more!
“While playing accordion at The Hofbrauhaus in Hilton Head, SC for 13 years, I had requests to play German musik for Oktoberfest events while we had The Velvetones, and were playing at Johnny Harris (for 15 years). I had a friend make a German Musik book for me 25 years ago and the Rhinelanders were born. One of our first Oktoberfest jobs was at Fort Stewart. So the band was the Velvetones and the Rhinelanders at the same time. Of course, the band wears Lederhosen for German jobs,” said Taylor.
The Rhinelanders, played for over 25 years during the Oktoberfests in Savannah, SC, and Jacksonville, FL, bringing joy to many, during the festive season, for decades.
“My experiences as a musician taught me not to take talent for granted. The Lord gave me the talent to play beautiful music. My mom who made me practice for one hour every day, made me perfect that talent. I am eternally grateful to both. My military experience taught me that if you want something bad enough you can do it.”