Koko Taylor

Blues Blast Magazine – 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award

Koko Taylor – “Queen of the Blues”

Grammy Award-winning blues legend Koko Taylor was born Cora Walton on a sharecropper’s farm just outside Memphis, TN, on September 28, 1928.  She got her nickname for her love of chocolate. Koko fell in love with music at an early age and began belting the blues with her five brothers and sisters, accompanying themselves on their homemade instruments. In 1952, Taylor and her soon-to-be-husband, the late Robert “Pops” Taylor, traveled to Chicago with nothing but “thirty-five cents and a box of Ritz Crackers.” In Chicago, “Pops” worked for a packing company, and Koko cleaned houses. “Pops” encouraged Koko to sit in with the city’s top blues bands, and soon she was in demand as a guest artist. In 1962  arranger/composer Willie Dixon landed Koko a Chess Records recording contract where he produced her recordings. Dixon wrote her million-selling hit “Wang Dang Doodle,” which remained Taylor’s signature song throughout her lifetime. Taylor was signed to Alligator Records in 1975 by Bruce Iglaur. She soon released the Grammy-nominated I Got What It Takes. She recorded eight more albums for Alligator between 1978 and 2007, receiving seven more Grammy nominations. She won a Grammy in 1984 for her guest appearance on the compilation album Blues Explosion on Atlantic. During her 40-plus-year career Taylor received every award the blues world had to offer. In 1993, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley honored Taylor with a “Legend Of The Year” Award and declared “Koko Taylor Day” throughout Chicago. She was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 1997. Chicago Magazine named her “ 1998 Chicagoan Of The Year” and Taylor received the Blues Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.  She won the very first Blues Blast Music award for Best Female Blues Artist in 2008. Taylor’s final performance was on May 7, 2009 in Memphis at the Blues Music Awards, where she sang “Wang Dang Doodle” after receiving her award for Traditional Blues Female Artist Of The Year. That award, her 29th Blues Music Award, made Koko the recipient of more Blues Music Awards than any other artist in history. Like early legends Bessie Smith and Big Momma Thornton, Koko Taylor’s raw big voiced vocals made her a singer who could compete in the male dominated blues world. Her unique vocal style made her a star in the new electrified era of Chicago blues. She took her music from the tiny clubs of Chicago’s South Side to concert halls and major festivals all over the world. Koko Taylor was the Queen of Blues! * Portions of this biography taken from Alligator Records website.