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Laughlines: Taylor Mason
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Quick-wit Taylor Mason chats with Andy about his unusual Homecoming beginnings … and the origin of Bill Gaither’s “mini-me”! ...

ANDY: Taylor! Thanks for doing this. You know, I was a bit surprised to see you with the Homecoming bunch a few years back. We knew each other as comedians on the college circuit.

TAYLOR: Yes, we did. When was that? About a hundred years ago, wasn’t it?

ANDY: Well, it has been a while!

TAYLOR: Actually, the way the whole Homecoming thing happened in the first place was amazing.

ANDY: Tell me!

TAYLOR: First, you have to know that my dad was a deacon in the Presbyterian church. We grew up talking about Jesus. I was with him on a business trip one time when his car broke down. We were driving through Peoria, Illinois — it was nighttime, and the closest thing to where we were stranded was a black church having a revival. They were doing the black gospel music when we walked in.

ANDY: Was that the first you’d ever heard it?

TAYLOR: Oh yeah. Our organist at First Presbyterian didn’t know any of those songs! Anyway, they helped us that night with the car, but for years, that’s how I thought all gospel music sounded.

ANDY: Wasn’t your father also an entertainer?

TAYLOR: Yes, he had a show on WGN for years.

ANDY: So you followed in his footsteps…

TAYLOR: I did. As you know, I was the emcee for three years at “Catch A Rising Star” in New York, then became the music director for Second City before touring colleges and universities all over the country, doing my own show.

ANDY: When did you and Bill connect?

TAYLOR: We had a mutual friend, and he had encouraged Bill to call me. When he did, I was invited to perform at what was then Praise Gathering in Indianapolis.

ANDY: Were you thrilled?

TAYLOR: Ahh…Actually, I had heard of the Gaithers...

ANDY: And?

TAYLOR: I thought they were faith healers.

ANDY: (laughing) Seriously?

TAYLOR: Well, yeah. And I figured I’m only doing this once, so I thought I might as well have some fun with it…

ANDY: What did you do?.

TAYLOR: I got a picture of Bill…and the hair, I thought, was really interesting.

ANDY: (laughing) Keep going…

TAYLOR: I made a Bill Gaither puppet and brought it to Praise Gathering! Let me tell you, that weekend, that fuzzy-headed puppet was a star!

ANDY: I’ll bet! What did the real Bill say?

TAYLOR: It was all great. And Bill was great, too. The rest, as they say, is history. After that one weekend, I toured with Gaither Homecoming concerts for several years.

ANDY: You and the Bill puppet…

TAYLOR: Yes. I think the invitation to travel with the group was probably for the Bill puppet. Fortunately, we are a package deal. The puppet-Bill doesn’t talk a lot without me around!

ANDY: Ha! I can see how that might make a difference. Taylor, you are still the best! Thanks for the time!

TAYLOR: Absolutely! I enjoyed it!