Toledo, mid 1960s - late 1970s
Gloria Taylor came so close to being a major star. She was nomited for a Grammy award (best R&B vocal, female) in 1970, only to lose to Aretha Frankin. She released several more near miss hits over a period of about 8 years, but never quite had another breakthrough record.
She was born in West Virginia but moved to Toledo as a toddler. She was part of a large, poor family who attended church regularly. She had a tough time as a teen dealing with rheumatic fever but eventually recovered. Gloria sang in the church choir and when Motown records and the Detroit soul scene started to explode, she started performing in local clubs to earn money, singing Aretha Franklin songs, Motown hits and R&B classics.
Walt Whisenhunt, an independent producer from Cincinnati who had started out working with James Brown, wanted to be part of the Motown scene, so he started looking for talent, and found Gloria. Eventually their relationship turned into a marriage. They started out recording a couple 45s for Walt's King Soul label. After a couple misses, they recorded "You Gotta Pay the Price" which had been recorded as an instrumental for its writer, Detroiter Al Kent. The record took off locally and was picked up for national distribution, first on their own Glo-Whiz label, distrubuted by Shelby Singleton's operation in Nashville, and then on the Silver Fox label. Silver Fox was run by Leland Rogers, Kenny Roger's brother, who had once been a producer in the legendary 1960s International Artists record label from Houston.
The 45 was a top 10 R&B hit and reached the 40s on the Billboard pop charts, and landed the Grammy nomination. Looking for a follow up, they recorded another Detroit song from a couple years back, "Grounded", originally recorded by Belita Woods. It wasn't as successful, but Gloria's success led them to a recording deal with Mercury. Meanwhile, Walt had setup another label, House Guests (aka House Guess) to record the Cincinnati band (with the Collins brothers). Gloria recorded a 45 with the band and Walt released it on the new label, to little success. Gloria and Walt released another one shot 45 on the Whizenglo label, which like the House Guests 45, is hard to find. An ad exists showing Gloria performing with the House Guests along with Ben Starr, who also had a 45, and Toledo's Unlimited Four.
Around this time (1970-1) Gloria and Walt moved to California, possibly inspired by Motown's relocation. Gloria's younger brother Leonard went as a backing musician. The Mercury deal led to two 45s, but according to an interview with Gloria, the couple was impatient with Mercury's operation and tried getting a deal with another label, which led to being dropped by Mercury. When no other deals happened, Walt set up another label, Selector Sound (apparently running out of ways to incorporate their names).
Over the next year they released 5 singles on Selector Sound, none of them becoming hits. After 1973/4 she hardly made any more recordings. A few years later, Walt released a 12" record with a generic front cover, including a couple of her Selector Sound songs backed with a new recording. This record has hardly distributed and now sells for a lot of money when offered for sale.
Gloria eventually moved back to Toledo, sometime in the late 70s or early 80s. She decided to stop singing secular music and sang only in church. In the 2000s her recordings started getting a lot of attention in the soul collector scene which ended up in a retrospective LP release in 2015. Gloria passed away in 2017. Walt had passed
You Might Need Another Day / Poor Unfortunate Me - King Soul 493
Born a Woman / Do Your Duty - King Soul 865
You Got to Pay The Price / Loving You and Being Loved By You - King Soul 71769/968, Glo-Whiz 1, Silver Fox 14
Grounded Part 1 / Grounded Part 2 - Silver Fox 19