A downtown rocker loves the shocked faces in the crowd when she owns the stage. They don't expect her to play like that. Through a series of adversities, this woman's developed a toughness to go with her talent.
It was night out when an act started playing at Layla's downtown. A cover of "Sweet Child O' Mine" got the crowd running onto the floor.
Taking on those Nashville honky-tonk stages, no one could be prouder of singer Amanda Taylor than her mom. Mom wasn't in the crowd on this night. She was up on the stage. Paula Jo Taylor is known as Nashville's Guitar Shredding Granny.
"People will walk in and see me setting up on stage and putting my equipment up, and they'll look like 'what in the world is grandma doing on stage?'" laughed Paula Jo. "When I do something like that they're shocked."
"She'll start shredding or whatever and they're like WHOA," added Amanda.
"Hey! OK! There we are! Alright, girls, can you see me?" asked Paula Jo, looking at two little girls she'd just Facetimed on her computer screen. "I love you guys."
"We love you," they replied back.
Paula Jo's always keeping up with the grandkids, telling them about the latest on their Aunt Amanda.
Those grandkids were some of the little faces Paula Jo had in her mind when she got difficult news. She'd been diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.
"I don't know that I really grasped thinking about whether I was going to live or die," said Paula Jo. "It was more about the downtime, not being able to play on stage. What about the chemo? What if I have to go bald? Will I have the energy? Will I still be able to perform? To give that up would be extremely difficult. I'm a pretty determined person, and that would have been deathbed for me to have to give it up."
"I just went, 'Wow, my mom has cancer. That's real,'" said Amanda. "Something you never, ever thought would happen. It happened."
After a double mastectomy, Paula Jo spent 18 months going through chemo by day, still playing those gigs downtown by night. Neuropathy from the chemo caused a numbness in her fingers.
"On the days I didn't play my gigs, I would pick up a guitar and keep my fingers going cause I thought it was the only way to stay on top of it," said Paula Jo.
"I think that was a big part of helping her to get through it," said Amanda.
Amanda wrote a song for her mom, that guitar-shredding granny who fought and is today cancer-free. The two performed that song, "Plans Change", on the Layla's stage.
"She's my best friend, and she's definitely an inspiration," said Amanda. "I knew she was going to do whatever it took to get through it, and I knew she wasn't going to stop playing either."
"I've always wanted to come to Nashville," said Paula Jo, thinking about her years before arriving in the city. "I was determined that nothing was going to stand in my way now. I waited all my life to come down here, so here I am."
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