Koko Taylor  is often referred to as today’s Queen of the Blues. Koko is blues royalty who has shared the stage with other greats like Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, B.B. King and many many more. Singing for over 40 years, she still performs over 100 concert dates each year. When Koko sings you can hear the influence of Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thorton , but the sound is all Koko.

Born Cora Walton in a small town just outside of Memphis, Tennessee, she and her five brothers and sisters were raised on a sharecropping farm. An orphan by age 11, Koko grew up in the church, being particularly attracted to the rousing gospel music. "Even though her father encouraged her to sing only gospel music, Koko and her siblings would sneak out back with their homemade instruments and play the blues. With one brother accompanying on a guitar made out of bailing wire and nails and one brother on a fife made out of a corncob, Koko began her career as a blues woman," states her bio from Alligator Records.

Koko did not always have the ambition to be a singer. At the age of 18, she and her husband, like so many others, be moved to Chicago to look for work. Koko and her husband moved to the Southside where on weekends she would go see Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and many other Chicago blues legends. She eventually started to sit in with them and in 1962 she met Willie Dixon who loved her raw style. Willie helped to get Koko a contract at Chess Records and in 1965 Koko had a million seller with the record "Wang Dang Doodle" written by Dixon.

Koko continues to be a driving force in the blues world. She has won many blues music awards and has been nominated for several Grammies. The Chicago reader so accurately stated that Koko has a "searing power and a steely emotional tautness …she radiates a warmth that borders on the spiritual; few performers in any genre are as capable as she is of generating genuine intimacy out of fervid house-rocking moments...a living treasure."

Lea Gilmore
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©2002 Lea A. Gilmore and P.W. Fenton, All Rights Reserved.