Much like their legendary relatives, Meagan Taylor and Jason Coleman share plenty of musical talent and a special chemistry on stage.
Taylor is the niece of Chet Atkins, and Coleman’s grandfather was Floyd Cramer. Atkins and Cramer performed together often in the 1950s and ’60s with Atkins on the guitar and Cramer on piano. The two are regarded highly in the industry as masters of their respective instruments.
Playing the same instruments as their iconic ancestors, Taylor and Coleman are keeping their relatives’ memories and music alive as “Nashville Legacy.” The pair will bring their acoustic country music show to the Janesville Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Feb. 1.
The duo will perform songs written and performed by their relatives as well as the music of Patsy Cline, the Everly Brothers and Elvis Presley—all artists whose careers were in some way impacted by Cramer and Atkins.
“Meagan and I love bringing back the music of my granddad and her uncle. Floyd and Chet passed away 20 years ago, but their music is an opportunity to keep their style of piano and guitar alive,” Coleman said.
The show will feature Coleman and Taylor performing duets and solos along with telling stories about their memories performing with Cramer and Atkins. The two younger artists said they learned a lot about music and performing from their musically gifted family.
Coleman was 12 when his grandfather died, but he said he spent much of his youth learning from and being inspired by Cramer.
“What I remember most was how much fun he had playing the piano and how much his music makes people happy,” Coleman said. “For me, just seeing the response to his music is what makes it worth it.”
For Taylor, it was her uncle who introduced her to music. She didn’t start playing guitar until after high school.
Taylor’s grandmother—Atkins’ younger sister—also was very musical.
“Growing up around her, when I was around 10, I wanted to play fiddle,” Taylor said. “Uncle Chester was a good fiddler, so he gave me my first lesson.”
Taylor listened to Atkins’ albums as a child and would go see him perform with the family. She said a light bulb went off in her head while watching him play, so she started playing guitar and singing.
That experience proved to her just how talented her uncle truly was.
“Guitar showed me the impact he had on the music world. The stuff he did for the musical world is incredible. There’s not many people who can play everything he played,” she said.
Taylor said that, like their relatives, she and Coleman were a natural fit when they first started performing together 14 years ago.
The two met by coincidence. Coleman was performing at a birthday party, and someone in attendance was a friend of Taylor’s mother. The friend told Coleman’s mother she knew Taylor and introduced them, and the musical duo hit it off from the beginning
“We’ve been great friends since then, and our styles just meshed,” Coleman said. “The legacies between us is pretty cool because granddad and Chet spent their entire careers together.”
“We kind of have a relationship like a brother and sister,” she said. “When we started playing together … of course his grandfather and my uncle played a lot together, but that kind of translated to us.”
The duo perform in a style that is warm and fun, Taylor said. Both artists will sing during their shows, which Janesville Performing Arts Center Executive Director Nate Burkart said he expects to be worth every penny.
“I think the sound is going to be everything you like in a broken-down country show. It’s going to be very lyrical and singing based. They’re going to be solid the entire time. I’m expecting great storytelling,” Burkart said.
While the show is a tribute to their relatives, Burkart said it also should stand as a testament to Coleman and Taylor’s own talents, as well.
“Every thought that’s gone into what they’ve picked goes into a real-life story of something that happened with their family members. It’s an honor,” Burkart said. “The fact we’re able to bring in artists like that who are connected family-wise but have their own careers outright is a bonus.”
Though it’s not a warm, southern location for the country duo, they are ready to bring their sound and energy to Janesville.
“This is music that’s worth remembering and worth listening to. These are the songs worth remembering,” Coleman said.
Taylor is excited to see the effect their musical style will have on their Janesville audience.
“I think people will feel like they’re at home with us, and they’re going to feel like they’re part of our family,” she said. “You’ll leave with a smile on your face.”