Taylor began his career with Vaudeville, playing harmonica and xylophone. In 1937, he played football for the ‘Alabama Crimson Tide Football Team.’ After playing with his team in the 1938 Rose Bowl, he stayed in California to explore work in films.
His ability to play xylophone got him his first break. Director Frank Capra needed someone with a skill to play xylophone for the role of ‘ex-football captain Ed Carmichael’ in the film ‘You Can’t Take it with You.’ This became Taylor’s debut film, which was released in 1938.
Thereafter Taylor played a minor part in the political comedy drama film ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ (1939)).
He played comic character ‘Cannonball’ in ‘Taming of the West’(1939). Over the next 10 years, he played similar role in more than 50 movies. He reprised the same role of ‘Cannonball’ with different Western heroes, including Bill Elliott, Russell ‘Lucky’ Hayden, Jimmy Wakely and Charles Starrett. Taylor did his last 16 films as ‘Cannonball’ with With Jimmy Wakely. He stopped doing the role in 1949.
During this period, Taylor also appeared in some classic films, such as ‘A Star is Born,’ ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,’ and ‘Them!’ During the 1950s, he appeared on ‘The Roy Rogers Show’ and also began appearing different types of roles. During this period, his work included comedies such as ‘No Time for Sergeants’ (1958), ‘A Hole in the Head’ (1959); and crime films such as ‘Crime Wave’ (1954), and ‘Thunderbolt & Lightfoot’ (1974). He was seen repeatedly in the role of ‘Wallie Sims’ on the TV series ‘Casey Jones’ (1957-1958).
Taylor appeared in Walt Disney film ‘Tonka’ in 1958. He also played minor, often uncredited, parts in several films, including ‘Riding Shot Gun,’ ‘Dragnet,’ ‘Tall Man Riding,’ ‘The Fastest Gun Alive.’
In 1962, he appeared on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,’ wherein he played the xylophone with three mallets in each hand, and gave an extraordinary performance.
Taylor was a regular in director Sam Peckinpah’s Stock Company and played the role of ‘Priam, the horse thief’ in his film ‘Major Dundee’ (1965). He also worked in Peckinpah’s other movies, including ‘Junior Bonner’ and ‘The Getaway.’
One of his notable roles was that of ‘Ivan Moss,’ a man who brought down the outlaws, in the 1967 crime film ‘Bonnie and Clyde.’ By the late 1960s, Taylor once again appeared more frequently in Western films and TV series, wherein he played small parts of a miner or a doctor or a ticket agent. Some of his movies of this period included ‘Death of a Gunfighter’ (1969), ‘The Reivers’ (1969), ‘Tom Sawyer’ (1973), ‘The Fortune’ (1975). Television series that featured him included ‘Custer’ (1967), ‘Laredo’ (1967) (1965-66), ‘The High Chaparral’ (1968-1969).
Taylor played varied roles in different episodes on ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’ He appeared on other series as well; he appeared with Shirly Booth on ‘I Love Lucy’ with Lucille Ball, ‘Hazel.’ His other TV appearances were on ‘Perry Mason,’ ‘The Brian Keith Show,’ and ‘The Cosby Show.’
During the latter part of his career, Taylor was seen regularly on the comedy music show ‘Hee Haw’ (1983-1988), ‘Little House on Prairie’ (1980-1981), and ‘Designing Women’ (1989-1990).
He was seen as ‘Grandpa Parks’ in the 1992 Columbia film ‘Falling from Grace,’ which was one of his last movies. The Western comedy ‘Maverick’ (1994) was his last movie, wherein he appeared as a hotel clerk.
Taylor also worked in several commercials, including Western style ads of ‘Hubba Bubba’ bubble gum (late 1970s), and ‘Pace Food’ in 1994.
Family & Personal Life
Taylor married Florence Gertrude Heffernan on April 21, 1931. They were together till her death on October 10, 1987. The couple had two children: a son, Buck Taylor, and a daughter, Faydean Taylor Tharp. He had worked with his son in the film ‘Conagher.’
Taylor lived in Woodland Hills, California, where he died of a heart attack on October 3, 1994. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered around Westlake Village, California.
A documentary on Taylor’s life, ‘That Guy: The Legacy of Dub Taylor,’ was premiered on April 14, 2007, at Augusta, Georgia. It was directed by Mark Stokes, while James Kicklighter was its executive producer.