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Fri, 09.28.1928

Koko Taylor, Blues Singer born

Koko Taylor

*Koko Taylor was born on this date in 1928.  She was a Black blues singer.  

Born Cora Anna Walton on a farm near Memphis, Tennessee, she was the daughter of a sharecropper. She left Tennessee for Chicago in 1952 with her husband, Robert "Pops" Taylor, a truck driver.  

In the late 1950s, she began singing in blues clubs in Chicago. She was spotted by Willie Dixon in 1962, leading to more opportunities for performing and her first recordings. In 1963 she had a single on USA Records, and in 1964, a recorded on a Chicago blues collection on Spivey Records called Chicago Blues.  In 1964 Dixon brought Taylor to Checker Records, where she recorded "Wang Dang Doodle," a song written by Dixon and also recorded by Howlin' Wolf. The record became a hit, reaching number four on the R&B chart and number 58 on the pop chart in 1966 and selling a million copies.  

She recorded several versions of the song over the years, including a live rendition at the 1967 American Folk Blues Festival with the harmonica player Little Walter and the guitarist Hound Dog Taylor. Her subsequent recordings, both original songs and covers, did not achieve as much success on the charts.  Taylor became accessible to a wider record-buying public when she signed a recording contract with Alligator Records in 1975. She recorded nine albums for Alligator, eight of which were nominated for Grammy awards. She came to dominate the ranks of female blues singers, winning twenty-nine W. C. Handy/Blues Music Awards.  

She survived a near-fatal car crash in 1989. In the 1990s, she appeared in the films Blues Brothers 2000 and Wild at Heart. She opened a blues club on Division Street in Chicago in 1994.  In 2003, she appeared as a guest with Taj Mahal in an episode of the television series Arthur. In 2009, she performed with Umphrey's McGee at the band's New Year's Eve concert at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago.  Koko Taylor's style encompassed Chicago blues, electric blues, rhythm, and blues and soul blues. Sometimes called "The Queen of the Blues," she was known for her rough, powerful vocals.   She influenced Bonnie Raitt, Shemekia Copeland, Janis Joplin, Shannon Curfman, and Susan Tedeschi.   

In her later years, she performed over 70 concerts a year and resided just south of Chicago in Country Club Hills, Illinois.  Her final performance was at the Blues Music Awards on May 7, 2009. She suffered complications from surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding on May 19, and Koko Taylor died on June 3, 2009.   On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Koko Taylor among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire. 

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