As a teenage daughter of the saxophonist for the ‘80s rock band Toto, neighbor Joslyn Taylor dreamed of a 9-to-5 job, and wanted to wear business suits, have health insurance and invest in a retirement plan. If she had the opportunity to go on the road to be a rock star or head to Hollywood to be an actress, she would have passed it up for a chance to stay home and get to know her neighbors.
In Toto’s 1982 hit “Africa,” the song ends with, “Gonna take some time to do the things we never had.” The hit, which has resurfaced as a viral meme and as a Weezer cover, also echoes Taylor’s pursuit of the things her childhood lacked. Her father, Jon Robert Smith, played saxophone for Toto among many other bands through the years, resulting in a less-than-average childhood for Taylor. She says she moved 17 times and never stayed in one place more than two and a half years. The moves took her and her twin sisters from California to Texas to Louisiana and back again.
Smith grew up in Louisiana listening to Fats Domino, Little Richard and Big Joe Turner, and learned to play the saxophone in garage bands. One night after playing a show in New Orleans, he hopped in a car with some older musicians and drove to New York City. As his reputation grew, he played with Dale Hawkins and Edgar Winter, who had three gold albums in the early 1970s.
Smith met Taylor’s mother, JoLynn, when she caught his eye from the front row at a music festival in a South Carolina cornfield. He talked to her after the show. She met him later at a show in Atlanta and then flew to California to meet him again. They are still married 45 years later.
While living in California, Smith booked jobs with bands such as the Doobie Brothers and Randy Newman, but he always felt the need to protect himself and his family from the hard-partying rock culture of the 1970s. At one point, he turned down an offer to play for War, which would go on to be one of the biggest bands of the 1970s. The drugs and drama that surrounded the band worried him, but still. “I could have kicked myself,” he says of his chance to be in War.
Taylor remembers that many of the moves were to find the best school systems. “It had a lot to do with not wanting to subject my children and wife to things that I knew I would have to do if I stayed,” Smith says.
But Smith had his time in the spotlight. He met future Toto drummer Jeff Pocaro on a tour, and when they geared up to record Toto IV, Smith was asked to play the saxophone for the album. The album was one of the most successful of the ‘80s, with songs such as “Africa” and “Rosanna.”
For 10-year-old Taylor, seeing her dad in a music video on early MTV brought some memorable moments. Pat Benatar told Taylor she liked her outfit when they met once backstage. “I got a lot of mileage out of him being in Toto when I was a teenager,” Taylor says.
Taylor would grow up to find a stable career. After stints in marketing and as an editor at D Magazine, she is now a partner and principal of interiors at Swoon, a multi-disciplinary design firm. Her work can be found everywhere from Forty Five Ten to the Joule and Adolphus hotels. For Taylor, her job balances the creativity her father experienced and the stability she craved.
Her parents have lived with Taylor and her husband, Bryan, in both East Dallas and Lake Highlands over the years. At age 73, Smith now lives in Louisiana and still plays several nights a week after surviving kidney and bladder cancer.
Taylor’s children, who are now in sixth grade and high school, have the settled childhood Taylor wanted to provide them. “I get to live out the best of both worlds,” she says. “That would not have happened if I had not been raised by an artist.”
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