When the conversation was interrupted by a deafening roar, in 1968, the soul singer Bobby Taylor was in his room at the Regal Theater in Chicago.

“What’s that sound?” Mr. Taylor asked.

“That is a little child,” said Marshall Thompson of the Chi-Lites, the very best act on a seven-band bill.

Mr. Taylor went to grab five brothers from neighboring Gary, Ind., fronted by the youngest, a turning, pint-sized nine-year-old called Michael Jackson.

Mr. Taylor thought that the kid cried too much while singing, but was impressed with his measures.

“Damn, that little sucker dances like James Brown,” he noted.

He requested that Michael be sent to his room. The singer was shadowed by the lad for the length of a run. The boy’s father was convinced to have the action join Mr. Taylor in Detroit, where he promised to find the family a contract with Motown Records.

Mr. Taylor, who has died in Hong Kong, didn’t find the Jackson 5, but he had been instrumental in bringing them to Motown, where he made their first records for the storied Detroit tag.

Motown’s marketing strategy shortly minimized Mr. Taylor’s role in the group’s success, and the singer finally found himself embroiled in a dispute over royalties and credit. His career had an unfortunate fate, a journeyman’s trajectory for a singer whose wondrous tenor earned comparisons to that had been considered for an open place with The Temptations and Smokey Robinson, and Marvin Gaye.

With pinky rings and snazzy tailored suits, in addition to a confidence bordering on arrogance, Mr. Taylor’s stage persona was a charismatic, yearning lothario.

Before he met with with the Jacksons his chart success came. As the front man for Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, he set the city’s small but powerful Ramp;B scene afire from the mid-1960s, becoming the first local act to sign with Motown founder Berry Gordy, who listed them on his subsidiary Gordy label. A poignant ballad about interracial love, Does Your Mama Know About Me, was a Top-30 pop hit in 1968.

Through time, Mr. Taylor was described as an Olympic boxer and a Muhammad Ali sparring partner; a military cook during the Korean War; the son of a black Puerto Rican mother and a native American dad; one of 21 children whose twin brother died in a tragic accident; and, the hapless guy who fired Jimi Hendrix for playing his guitar too loudly. All these were exaggerations and fables conjured from embellishment braggadocio and conservative ballyhoo.

“Bobby was an enigma,” said Tommy Chong, who lured the singer to Vancouver. “He’d make his own reality{}”

His story needed adornment as it was.

Robert Edward Taylor was born to Raymond Joseph Taylor and the Ethel Mae Kemp. Census records indicate that he was born in 1940’s first quarter, though he gave dates. (He may have exaggerated his age to sing in nightclubs as an underaged celebrity.) From the time of his arrival, his mother lived with her parents and six siblings and a nephew in a row home in the Kingman Park neighbourhood. The household was encouraged by the income that his grandfather earned as his uncle, his grandma as a national and a truck driver for a warehouse labourer.

Mr. Taylor lived with family while attending high school in Ohio, where he staged high tenor for the Columbus Pharaohs, a doo-wop quartet with whom he appeared on a first single, Give Me Your Love, on the regional Esta tag.

While studying music at San Jose State College (now University), Mr. Taylor earned tuition playing in a group at Big Al’s, one of the striptease clubs in San Francisco’s North Beach neighbourhood. The group’s contract stated they had to play with so a solo break was taken by every group member in turn. It was one of these short recesses which Mr. Taylor met Mr. Chong, a Chinese-Canadian guitarist with the touring Vancouver group Little Daddy and the Bachelors.

“We were down there {}, searching for a gig,” Mr. Chong said recently. “Bobby was really friendly. Big Al hired us for a night per week.”

Mr. Taylor finally moved north to join the group, which changed its name to Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers. The Chong family worked two clubs with the afterhours Elegant Parlor in the cellar along with Dante’s Inferno on the floor at the Embassy Ballroom on Vancouver’s Davie Street. The downstairs room attracted Ramp; B fans, in addition to the typical flotsam that was after-midnight, including entertainers from venues who would drop in to catch an act, or to take the stage.

1 late evening after performing at The Cave Supper Club, Mary Wilson and Flo Ballard of the Supremes captured Mr. Taylor’s performance, which consisted of spirit standards and Motown covers. Their rave reviews led to Mr. Gordy signing the group based on a demo tape.

The group went through member changes, as drummer Floyd Sneed left (he’d shortly appear on dozens of hit records financing Three Dog Night) and the Vancouvers absorbed a number of the Elegant Parlor’s house band. The lineup included Wes Henderson on bass, Robbie King on keyboards, Ted Lewis (later to be called Duris Maxwell) on drums, Eddie Patterson and Mr. Chong on guitar, all backing the vocals of Mr. Taylor, that could mmm, whoop and growl with the best.

“Best singer I ever worked with,” asserted Mr. Maxwell, whose extensive credits include recording sessions with Heart, Jefferson Airplane and The Temptations.

The group’s eponymous debut included three singles that charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 — I’m Your Man, Malinda and Does Your Mama Know About Me, that was composed by Mr. Chong with songs by Tom Baird, a former Vancouver disc jockey. The latter jumped to No. 5 on the Ramp;B chart and could be dealt with by many acts, such as Jermaine Jackson and Diana Ross and the Supremes.

The band was delivered by Motown . They spent with the Miracles, the Marvelettes, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson and Chris Clark as the musical act from the Motortown Revue.

They played with a series of music festivals and revues such as the Soul Festival in New York and the Philadelphia Music Festival, using a schedule that would come to include opening.

As the three novices refused to be considered hired sidemen instead of equals, the group broke up in an acrimonious dispute. Mr. Chong soon fell from favour in Motown after missing gigs to explain his legal working status in america. (Later in Vancouver, he hooked up with American draft dodger Richard Marin, forming the comedy duo Cheech and Chong.)

Following the shows in the Regency in Chicago, Mr. Taylor brought the Jackson 5 and their dad to his apartment in Detroit. Mr. Taylor called Suzanne de Passe, a current Motown hire as a creative assistant, to come to his package to listen to the group. A a performance that was spontaneous was performed by them and she became their champion at the tag.

Even then, Mr. Gordy was reluctant, as he believed that the additional work necessary for children’s acts made them not worth the bother. After relenting and registering them, Mr. Gordy delegated Mr. Taylor that the job of producing their records. The singer told Mr. Berry how excited he was to have the chance.

“Taylor, allow me to tell you something,” Mr. Gordy responded, according to Gerald Posner’s 2002 publication, Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power. “When they get rich, they are gonna forget who you are.”

The normal spirit numbers Mr. Taylor chosen for the team highlighted Michael’s preternatural vocal prowess, but the job didn’t meet Mr. Gordy’s exacting measure. He had another sound in mind for the group — “bubblegum soul{}” Produce and others have been brought in to compose. The last production credit on their debut album would include Mr. Taylor and what was known as the Corporation, four Motown veterans including the creator.

Diana Ross, who embarked on a solo career, was chosen to present the group, linking the brightest star of the label to its action. She played host on a TV special showcasing the brothers, and their debut album was titled Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5.

Some of the conventional soul tunes Mr. Taylor made for the group weren’t heard by the general public for a quarter-century before the launch in 1995 of Soulsation! , a four-CD box set.

He continued searching for Motown for talent, finding. The Undisputed Truth had a Top 40 hit with Smiling Faces Sometimes.

Meanwhile, Mr. Taylor released a solo album in 1969. Taylor Made Soul opens with two sizzling cuts in Out in the Country and Oh, I’ve Been Bless’d and includes a gorgeous, tragic ballad in It Should Have Been Me {}. The record never caught on, though it’s come to be a favorite among aficionados for showcasing an underrated soul vocalist in the peak of his abilities.

The singer released a couple of singles on labels.

He returned after forming a band being diagnosed with throat cancer and rekindling a romance. “He outdated me back then and possibly two or three hundred other girls,” she explained recently, with a laugh. “I saw him for the first time in 20 years and we got married a month later.” The union lasted a decade. Mr. Taylor opened a club called the Ramp;B Link in North Vancouver, mentored aspiring singers, educated choir and persuaded teenagers to go caroling throughout the area each yuletide. He performed in the Gastown district at Rossini’s where he coached an vocalist called Carsen Gray, from Skidegate that was isolated on Haida Gwaii. The woman reminded him. “Like him, she has the ability to go all of the way,” he told a reporter in 2002. Earlier this year, Ms. Gray was named best new artist in the Indigenous Music Awards in Winnipeg.

In 2006, Mr. Taylor moved to Beijing, where he started a recording studio and started a music school. He relocated to Hong Kong, where he performed at clubs and jazz festivals and taught. His final public performance came on what was billed as his 83rd birthday on Feb. 18 before this season.

Mr. Taylor died of cancer at a Hong Kong hospital on July 22. He leaves a daughter, Donielle Artise Taylor, a dancer and actor, of Los Angeles; a sister, Dorothy Murray, of Fayetteville, N.C., and, a half-brother, Jerome Burton, of Columbus, Ohio.

The Motown founder’s warning that the Jacksons would dismiss Mr. Taylor once they found success proved false. The family made a point over the years of crediting Mr. Taylor with their breakthrough victory. Subsequently, he encouraged Michael Jackson against accusations of child molestation attending an event.

On Mr. Taylor’s departure, Jermaine Jackson offered a tribute at a two-part message composed in Twitter staccato: “Our mentor Bobby Taylor … put J5 on the road. Worked on album on many tunes with us. Taught me much about singing w/ atmosphere{}”

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