It was an especially hard bit of news to receive after being up all night last night with some sort of reflux issues that had my throat and chest hurting all night. I looked at my cell as I was headed toward the coffee machine and I saw where Dewayne, aka: “Rebyll” had called. I knew something was up because he only calls at night. I called voice mail and heard him, through my sleep deprived stupor, say what sounded like “Taz died last night.” All I could think was, I am hearing this wrong. After a cup of coffee, I will check it out.
After about an hour of scouring the internet, all I had found were a few posts on Taz’s Facebook page from people saying “we will miss you” and similar sentiments.
Finally, I could not wait any longer, so I made a couple of calls to CDB staff and band members. Soon it was official. Taz was killed in a single car auto accident on his way to meet the tour bus last night. The accident happened on I-40 west of Nashville. He was 67 years old. I still can’t believe it.
I had enjoyed his keyboard playing and huge smile for so many years, so many Charlie Daniels Band concerts. And after starting GRITZ back in 1998, I ended up meeting him and getting to know him. I have so many great memories of Taz from the many Angelus benefits and various concerts, and even got to play and sing with him a few times down in Tampa and Clearwater during late night jams at the Angelus events.
I did an extensive interview with Taz in December of 2001, in which I learned a lot about the guy. I know he loved all of his band mates dearly, especially Charlie Daniels, whom he has played with for 41 years as of 2011.
I learned that Joel DiGregorio was born in Worcester, Mass. and I lived there until about 1962 when he went on the road with Paul Chaplan and The Emeralds, a band that was famous for a song called “Shortnin’ Bread” that sold about 250,000 records in 1959.
Taz with Doug Gray of Marshall Tucker at Angelus.
(Michael Buffalo Smith Photo)
During the interview, I had asked Taz about meeting Charlie. Here’s what he said.
“It was 1964 and I was in Orlando, Florida staying in a place called The Palomino Motel on Orange Blossom Trail...I got a job in a place called La Flame that was out near the air force base in Orlando. Charlie came into the club as the main attraction one night and I was playing the breaks. His guitar player quit and he was playing bass at the time. He went back to playing guitar and the funny thing is when I met the man he said that he was looking for someone to start all over again with a band and he said let’s have lunch. So, we had lunch and he told me that if I would cut off my long hair and beard he would hire me to be in his band. It was very funny. That was 1963 and 1964. I played for a couple of years with him in a band called the Jaguars and I got drafted and he went to Nashville. After I got out of the service we put the band together.
"Basically the original band was Charlie, Jerry Corbitt from the Youngbloods, Billy Cox from Band of Gypsys and Jeffrey Meyer and myself. That band did not stay together but about six months then it just dissolved. Then it was me and Charlie and Jeffrey and a guy named Earl Grigsby. The original Charlie Daniels Band still can be heard if you can find it. It is a bootleg and it is called Corbitt and Daniels, Live at Carnegie Hall.
“We opened in 1970 for Delaney and Bonnie and it was a showcase and they brought Atlantic Records and all of these companies came and basically they wanted me and Charlie and did not want anyone else. We decided we would all stay together.”
And Charlie and Taz did, for four decades.
I will never forget the fun times and laughs shared with Taz at shows, and especially in the relaxed environment of those Angelus events over a ten year period. I will always cherish the memories of the weekend I drove up to Nashville for the sole purpose of hanging out in the recording studio while Taz recorded his second solo album. He had a great band and recorded an entire album, but later decided it wasn’t what he wanted and ditched it and started over. That was Taz. He didn’t do things half way.
Today I was looking at the glossy 8 X 10 photo he signed for me at the studio, with a bold inscription in black Sharpie. “Michael Buffalo - You sir are a diamond! Taz.”
The feeling is mutual my brother. See you in the light.
- Michael Buffalo Smith