Koko Taylor

Rising from the cotton fields of Tennessee, Koko Taylor became known as the 'Queen of the Chicago Blues' and was widely regarded as one of the great female singers of her era and a natural successor to the likes of Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie and Ma Rainey. Born on a sharecropping farm in rural Memphis, her mother died when she was three and the family grew up in a shotgun shack without electricity, working in the fields and singing in their gospel church on Sundays. She left for Chicago in 1952 on a Greyhound bus with her future husband and 35 cents to her name, and quickly fell in love with the bright lights and hustle and bustle of the city. Nicknamed Koko because of her liking for chocolate, she found work as a house cleaner and began singing at night in the South Side clubs that were starting to thrive at the time. She was spotted by songwriter and producer Willie Dixon, who was blown away by her energy, sass and the graceful, growling power of her voice; and he signed her to the Chess Records label, where her rendition of his track 'Wang Dang Doodle' sold over a million copies and became a classic jumping, grooving blues standard. With her backing band The Blues Machine, Taylor became a hugely popular live performer and started writing her own songs, including 'I'm a Woman', which re-worked Muddy Waters' 'Mannish Boy' into a bragging female anthem that told the world just how tough she was. It featured on her 1978 album 'Earthshaker' for Alligator Records, and she found more acclaim in 1985 when she was part of the compilation album 'Blues Explosion', which won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. In her later years she appeared in the 'Blues Brothers 2000' movie and continued to perform regularly before her death in 2009 at 80-years-old.

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Stations Featuring Koko Taylor

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