Benny Taylor is a real charmer. That down home Southern drawl and straightforward conversation makes a person feel right at home. Benny started out in life as the son of a Georgia moonshiner. By the time he was 31 he’d made some not-so great-choices that landed him in the California Prison System.
Benny walked onto the yard at Folsom in 1975, guitar in hand. He spent lots of time playing, taught some fellow convicts to play, and even managed to teach a few of them to sing.
Here are his comments in a recent interview:
Where did you meet your wife?
Cheryl and I met in Folsom Prison at a wedding. I was the Best Man and Cheryl was the Maid of Honor. We just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.
Does anything in particular stand out in your mind from your time at Folsom?
When Nicholas Cage was researching Con Air, he came to Folsom and asked to talk to an “authentic convict.” Sgt. Huttner asked me if I was an “authentic convict,” and brought Nicholas Cage to meet me. We walked around the yard and talked.
What did you do once you were released?
When I was released in 2004, Cheryl and I bought a ranch in Gridley and joined an equine rescue service. We adopted mares and their foals out of the PMU (pregnant mare’s urine) industry where they were kept in horrid and unsanitary conditions. We adopted eight horses over the course of 18 months. We’d “gentle” the horses, then bring riders together with them for a match. We still have three of the horses with us.
I understand you earned a psychology degree while you were at Folsom. How have you put that to work for you outside?
We recently moved to Coulterville. I was introduced to a grandfather and his 11-year-old granddaughter. He asked if I, along with one of my horses, could work with her regarding self-confidence, self-esteem and poor choices. I thought, “My God! Who better to discuss those issues than me!” The child has already been on my horse, and is in love with her.
What other things do you and Cheryl enjoy doing?
We are members of Clowns International. I am a Clown Magician, Cheryl is Tootsie the Clown. We frequently did gigs with puppets when we lived in Gridley. I also sang and played electric guitar during 4th of July celebrations in Gridley.
Benny and his wife are retired and live in Coulterville on their ranch. Benny is still a musician. Every other Friday night you can find him playing guitar and singing at The Lumberyard in Coulterville. Of course, he plays “cowboy” music, both popular Country Western music and his own creations. Benny invites at-risk kids come to his ranch to ride horses