Gustafer Yellowgold is the creation of singer-songwriter Morgan Taylor, and the whole endeavor is quite ingenious. Without the financial support of a Nickelodeon or Disney, Taylor has melded his children’s character into a cottage industry. There are songs and accompanying cartoons, stuffed toys and T-shirts.
Gustafer Yellowgold, incidentally, came from the sun and he’s friends with an eel and a rock band composed of bees. He looks a bit like a yellow Smurf, minus the hat and stretched out a bit. More important, the music is actually wonderful. If parents want a break after being driven to distraction by the awful warbling of The Wiggles, Morgan Taylor and Gustafer offer just that. We spoke to Taylor about it all.
L.A. WEEKLY: How long have you been writing, singing and performing? When and why did you create the Gustafer character?
I started on stages with lead roles in school and church musicals starting age 9. I spent about 15 years playing in several original bands in Dayton, Ohio, then five years of my Morgan Taylor band in NYC in the early 2000s. I was finding my songwriting voice when Gustafer happened. I added my love of cartooning to a set of my more quirky songs, and set out with the idea to make picture books with CDs in the back pocket. The buzz started very quickly, and within a year I had a 10-song DVD of hand-drawn music videos.
It seems to have really taken off — how do you do something like this independently, without a TV show, etc.? How do you capture the kids' imaginations?
The key was playing over 100 live shows a year for the first 10 years of Gustafer. I had carved out an annual circuit around the U.S. and within three years was able to do Gustafer full-time. It’s a certain combination of work ethic and creative flow. More fun stuff is in the works, and after 14 years of solely Gustafer-focused work, I’m hitting a totally new depth to the creativity. I’m constantly inspired to create more for the world of Gustafer and I feel like I have full access to my kid-brain/creative center. Doing the live concerts, I’m constantly reminded of which parts the children latch onto the most.
Do you enjoy playing L.A.? Any memories?
To quote Randy Newman — I love L.A. Some of my very early shows were in children’s museums there. It’s always fun to have celebrity sightings in my audiences.One time I was playing at McCabe’s and I thought I knew this guy in the audience. I thought he looked familiar as maybe another children’s musician I’d met somewhere. Later, after the show, I was standing in front of my merchandise table (attended by my wife, who toured with me in the earlier days). She whispered, “Get out of the way. You’re blocking my view of Christian Bale.”
Plans for this set?
My current live concerts feature new animated songs/videos I drew to go along with my Audible Original audiobook. It’s so fun to finally be able to tell the full story of Gustafer’s life on the sun before he came to Earth. And of course I’ll be including several of the existing fan favorites!
Morgan Taylor and Gustafer Yellowgold perform at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, March 10, at McCabe's Guitar Shop.