Saturday, January 27, 2018

Koko Taylor (1928 – 2009)

Cora Walton was born in Shelby County, Tennessee in 1928. The daughter of a sharecropper she and her six siblings enjoyed music and were exposed to a mixture of gospel and blue. At home and church, she was encouraged to sing gospel but preferred singing blues clandestinely with her brothers. Cora soon got the nickname ‘Koko’ because she loved eating chocolate. When Cora was 11 years old she and her siblings were left orphaned. Her early blues influences included Big Mama Thornton, Bessie Smith, and Memphis Minnie.

Circa 1952, she moved to Chicago with Robert "Pops” Taylor to get work. There in the blues clubs they were exposed to Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Magic Sam, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. “Pops” Taylor (now her husband) started getting regular invitations to jam with headliners and soon Koko joined them to sing. She established a strong following and was spotted by Willie Dixon in 1963. He first recorded Koko for USA Records before singing her to Chess Records. In 1966 she had a huge hit single with the Willie Dixon song. Wang Dang Doodle.

She was the first of the South Side Chicago blues artists to find regular on the cubs on the North Side (predominantly white).

Her national profile was raised in 1972, when Koko and her band, The Blues Machine played at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival. The concert was recorded by Atlantic Records and the album sold well.

She signed Alligator Records in 1975 and released the album I Got What It Takes.

Although she would never repeat her early commercial success she did develop a knock out onstage persona and was dubbed the "Queen of the Blues.” Known primarily for her rough, powerful vocals and traditional blues styling, she toured extensively throughout the US and has appeared and recorded with the greats, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Dixon, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Lonnie Brooks, Robert Plant and many, many others.

During the nineties Koko ran her own blues club in Chicago and still performed. She appeared in several movies including Wild At Heart (1990) and the Blues Brothers 2000.

Her final performance was at the Blues Music Awards, in May 2009 and Koko Taylor died later the same year following surgical complications.

Worth a listen

Wang Dang Doodle. (1966)
Let the good times roll (1978)
Spoonful (1978)
Hound dog (1993)
Born under a bad sign (1991)
Piece Of Man (2007)
Better Watch Your Step (2007)
Bad Avenue (2007)
Black Rat (2007)

No comments: