Koko Taylor; The Queen of The Blues

Life and Career

Cora Anna Walton, better known as Koko Taylor, was born on a farm in Shelby County, Tennessee on September 28, 1928. Her husband was Robert “Pops” Taylor, a truck driver who in 1952, left Tennessee with her for Chicago, Illinois. It was there in the mid to late 1950s, where she began singing in blues clubs in Chicago. She was spotted by Willie Dixon in 1962, and this led to more opportunities for performing and her first recordings. In 1963 she had a single on USA Records and in 1964 a cut on a Chicago blues collection on Spivey Records, called Chicago Blues.

In 1964 Dixon brought Taylor to Checker Records, a subsidiary label of Chess Records, for which she recorded “Wang Dang Doodle”, a song written by Dixon and recorded by Howlin’ Wolf five years earlier. The record became a hit, reaching number four on the R&B chart, 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.

Her subsequent recordings, both original songs and covers, did not achieve as much success on the charts. Taylor became better known by touring in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and she 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, and came to dominate ranks of female blues singers, winning twenty-nine W. C. Handy/Blues Music Awards.

In her later years, she performed over 70 concerts a year and resided just south of Chicago, in Country Club Hills, Illinois. Taylor’s final performance was at the Blues Music Awards, on May 7, 2009. She suffered complications from surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding on May 19 and died on June 3.

Awards and Accolades

  • Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album, 1985
  • Howlin’ Wolf Award, 1996
  • Blues Hall of Fame, inducted 1997
  • Blues Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, 1999
  • NEA National Heritage Fellowship, 2004
  • Blues Music Award (formerly the W. C. Handy Award), 32 nominations and 29 wins in the categories:
    • Entertainer of the Year (1985)
    • Female Artist (1981, 1995)
    • Song of the Year (2008)
    • Traditional Blues Album (2008)
    • Traditional Blues Female Artist (1992, 1993, 1999–2005, 2008, 2009)
    • Vocalist of the Year (1985)
  • 7th Annual Independent Music Awards for Best Blues Album, 2008


  • Love You Like a Woman, November 30, 1968 (Charly Records)
  • Koko Taylor, 1969 (MCA/Chess Records)
  • Basic Soul, 1972 (Chess)
  • South Side Lady, 1973 (Black and Blue Records)
  • I Got What It Takes, 1975 (Alligator Records)
  • Southside Baby, 1975 (Black & Blue)
  • The Earthshaker, 1978 (Alligator)
  • From the Heart of a Woman, 1981 (Alligator)
  • Queen of the Blues, 1985 (Alligator)
  • Live from Chicago: An Audience with the Queen, 1987 (Alligator)
  • Wang Dang Doodle, 1991 (Huub Records)
  • Jump for Joy, 1992 (Alligator)
  • Force of Nature, 1993 (Alligator)
  • Royal Blue, 2000 (Alligator)
  • Old School, 2007 (Alligator)

Popular Songs

I’d Rather Go Blind

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