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Texas folk trio and one member’s journey take center stage in ‘Nobody Famous’

Don Williams, Susan Taylor (Taylor Pie), and Lofton Kline formed the trio the Pozo-Seco Singers who found fame as part of the folk revival of the 1960s.
Photos from the Taylor Pie collection, Illustration by Raul Alonzo / Texas Standard
Don Williams, Susan Taylor (Taylor Pie), and Ron Shaw – who replaced original member Lofton Kline – formed the trio the Pozo-Seco Singers who found fame as part of the folk revival of the 1960s.

If you’ve never heard of the Pozo-Seco Singers, you’re not alone.

And for singer Susan Taylor, now known as Taylor Pie, living outside the limelight is something that is all the more welcomed – even as she was approached to be featured in the documentary “Nobody Famous,” based on the Corpus Christi folk group that nearly made it big in the 1960s.

Provided by Tamara Saviano

“Pie did not want to – how can I put it? She did not want to focus on her personal life,” filmmaker Elizabeth Ahlstrom said. “And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘oh my God, well, how do I tell a story about someone when they don’t want to talk about their personal journey?’”

Pie concurred.

“First thing I said to Libby was ‘well, if I do this, it’s not going to make me famous, is it?,’” she said. “I wish you could have seen her face.”

In “Nobody Famous,” viewers quickly learn just how close the Pozo-Seco Singers came to making it big.

Their song, “Time,” got them signed to Columbia Records and made the Billboard charts – where it stayed for over a year. The Pozos performed on national television, released four albums, and were managed for a time by Albert Grossman – whose other clients included some names you may have heard before: Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin. And before Texas country artist Don Williams became “The Gentle Giant,” he was a member of the Pozo-Seco Singers.

But by the end of 1970, as folk music became less popular, the group split up.

'Nothing stops Pie'

It’s the transformation of Susan Taylor to Taylor Pie that makes up a central theme in the film: how a talented musician evolves from a teenage member of a folk group on the rise, to a woman figuring out how to live by her own values and sense of personal integrity.

Pie, as her friends call her, was only a child when she began learning the guitar. It was her brother who originally wanted to play.

“So, being the oldest in the group and three kids and struggling, he got the guitar, but it hurt his fingers,” Pie said. “And so he would throw it down like, ‘oh, ouch, ouch, ouch,’ and go outside. It was a really crummy guitar. I mean, it was a Silvertone from Sears Roebuck, and I think the strings were at least a half an inch off the fret neck. But he wouldn’t persevere. Me, I really wanted to play.”

So play she did.

A Columbia Records ad promoting the Pozo-Seco Singers’ “Time,” one of the group’s most successful records.
From the Taylor Pie collection
A Columbia Records ad promoting the Pozo-Seco Singers’ “Time,” one of the group’s most successful records.

By age nine, Pie was working with her brother’s guitar teacher who had her playing on stage. As a teenager and member of the Corpus Christi folk society, she remembers seeing her future bandmates Don Williams and Lofton Kline perform together at Del Mar College.

“At that time, it was a junior college and they had hootenannys because they were popular,” Pie said. “I hadn’t gone on yet, and I was there waiting in the wings and they did their set. When they came off, I said, ‘Wow, you guys are blowing me away. I would love to sing with you!’”

“Nobody Famous” not only turns a spotlight on Pie’s spirit of collaboration and deep love of music. But also – on her experience with the music business. But despite a wealth of stories to draw on from her time on the road, Pie was reluctant to share much.

“There was a lot of resistance,” Ahlstrom said. “There was a lot of uncomfortable moments and a lot of challenging conversations and really having to communicate – like find ways to communicate in ways that find that door. Like, where can we compromise and agree on an entry point and how we navigate once we’re in.”

Despite these challenges, the set was pretty fun most of the time, Ahlstrom said. Now in her mid-seventies, Pie’s lively personality and seemingly endless energy is on full display in the film.

“Nothing stops Pie,” Ahlstrom said. “She is the most energetic, inspired, like maybe more than ever.”

From the Taylor Pie collection
Susan Taylor (Taylor Pie) and Ron Shaw.

A dream scenario

As her first feature, Ahlstrom was given an open budget for “Nobody Famous,” as well as the freedom to find her own inspiration in telling Pie’s story – a dream scenario for many filmmakers.

Over a year after beginning work on the documentary, Ahlstrom thought it was pretty much finished.

“And then there was a real kind of, for want of a better term, coming to Jesus moment where we realized that it just wasn’t where it needed to be,” Ahlstrom said. “We literally walked away and said, ‘we’re starting over.’”

Another year and a half later, Ahlstrom and her team were happy with the result – and so were many in the film industry. Among other accolades, “Nobody Famous” won official selection at the 2020 Nashville Film Festival and best music documentary at the 2020 Seattle Film Festival.

“We were over the moon and the feedback was – I think the thing that made us most happy, the feedback, which is just showcasing who Pie is,” Ahlstrom said. “And just her character, her legacy, her music. But most of all, the feedback from Pie, which almost brings a tear to my eye because she just feels like finally her story was told in a way that she felt she could be proud of.”

“Nobody Famous” will soon be airing on public television stations across Texas.

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Leah Scarpelli joined Texas Standard in September 2015 from NPR’s Morning Edition, where she spent seven years as a producer, director and occasional reporter of music and arts pieces. As Texas Standard director, Leah is responsible for the overall practical and creative interpretation of each day’s program: choosing segue music, managing the prep of show content, and providing explicit directions for the host and technical director during the live broadcast. She graduated from Ithaca College in New York with a Bachelor of Science degree in Television and Radio. She enjoys riding her Triumph motorcycle and getting out for hikes in the Texas countryside. Her late grandfather was from Yoakum.