Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, Jr. was born in 1942 in New York, and grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. He grew up in a musical family, his parenst having backgrounds in both gospel and jazz, and from an early age was also exposed to music from the Carribean and Africa. He learned many instruments, taking up the guitar aged thirteen, and later went to the University of Massachusetts - he almost pursued farming as a career instead of music.
However in 1964 he made the move to California, having decided to be a full time musician, and took up the unlikely stage name Taj Mahal. He formed a group called The Rising Sons, a racially integrated blues / roots band, with Ry Cooder, Jesse Lee Kincaid, Gary Marker and Ed Cassidy. They had a record deal with Columbia Records but never released an album at the time, and broke up before long (an album of their recordings finally saw release in 1993). He did end up staying with Columbia though when they offered him a solo contract.
His debut album, Taj Mahal, was released in 1968. It was pure blues music, and mostly covers of well-known blues tunes at that, but it managed to come out fresh, lively and interesting, with a rootsy stripped-down style. Taj sang and played slide guitar and harmonica, and was helped out by Jesse Ed Davis on lead guitar and piano, his old bandmate Ry Cooder on guitar and mandolin, bassist James Thomas and drummer Chuck Blackwell.
|> The Natch'l Blues (1968)
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