WANT TO GO?
WHERE: Charleston Municipal Auditorium
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
TICKETS: $26.50, $34.50 and $38.50
INFO: 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Over the years, singer/songwriter B. E. Taylor's visits to Charleston have become nearly as reliable as Santa's. They're a holiday staple. Almost every year, Taylor swoops in around Christmastime, enlists a local choir and local musicians and puts on what is considered by some to be a Christmas tradition.
The Wheeling-based 51-year-old returns to the Municipal Auditorium Tuesday, and while it might be easy for someone like Taylor to consider the show just another walk in the park -- an easy way to make a buck -- Taylor doesn't see it that way.
"I wouldn't want people to think I'm complacent," he said.
He admitted the show is never vastly different from year to year, but it's always a little different.
"A lot of people come to our show year after year," he said. "They love what we do. We do little tweaks here and there just to keep it interesting, just to show them we really care about the show. It's not something we do on autopilot."
Christmas is a busy time of the year for Taylor, and it starts early.
"We start stepping into the Christmas show around the summer," he said.
There's a lot of preparation, and Taylor said he takes nothing for granted. He remembered his first Christmas show in Charleston 10 years ago.
"That first show, I remember we got a church choir from Dunbar, the Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church choir," he said. "They sounded just wonderful."
The day before the show, however, he got a call in his hotel room. Ice storms were being reported to the north and south of Charleston.
The choir called him and said, "We're not sure if we're going to be able to make it."
A cold chill crawled up Taylor's spine.
"I suddenly envisioned a solo performance, just me and an acoustic guitar."
That wasn't the sort of show he'd planned or promised.
"But they all made it," he said.
The shows have been great since.
Playing Christmas shows is not something Taylor ever envisioned himself doing. He just sort of fell into it after he released his first Christmas album in 1994.
Taylor said, "If you'd asked me 20 years ago what I'd be doing in 2011, I'd have given you a very long list. Playing Christmas shows would not be on that list."
But after parting ways with a major label and joining a Christian record company, Taylor enjoyed a new kind of freedom.
"I enjoyed being on Epic/CBS records, but I could never have done that first Christmas record the way I wanted with them."
Like most people, Taylor listens to more than just one kind of music. He thought a Christmas record should reflect lots of different styles in one place.
He said, "When I did the Christmas record, I said, 'This song has a calypso vibe. Let's do a calypso vibe.' I said, 'This song has a Middle Eastern vibe. Let's do something Middle Eastern.' This song has some funk. This song has more of a rock edge, and if the record fails, I'll blame myself."
It was far from a failure, though. Instead, it launched a career.
Taylor is still taken aback by how people have not only embraced it, but kept asking for more.
Since the first Christmas album, there has been a follow-up and a live album. A third Christmas album is on the way next year.
"We do shows all year round," Taylor said. "But Christmas, by far, is the most requested thing."
The hardest part is having to work the holidays. Audiences tend to want to hear the Christmas music during Christmas, but even that's not too bad. His tour is a family affair. His son plays in his band, and his wife helps run the business.
The only person missing is his daughter. She's a manager at a Best Buy in Texas and can't get away and join them until the first of the year.
"It's a pretty busy time of the year for her, too," he said.
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.