Koko Taylor, the 80-year-old Grammy-winning singer often called the "Queen of the Blues," died Wednesday, June 4, from gastrointestinal surgical complications, according to her Website. She was a legend in the blues world, and was most famous for her 1965 mega hit "Wang Dang Doodle."
Koko was born Cora Walton in Shelba County, Tennessee, and began singing and playing homemade instruments with her five siblings at a young age. In the 1950s she moved with her husband Robert Taylor to Chicago, where both would work during the day and hit up blues clubs at night. Koko’s career started to take off after guesting with Chicago’s best bands, before ultimately meeting composer Willie Dixon, who would write her most famous song.
She later signed with the legendary Chess Records (immortalized in the recent film Cadillac Records), then, in 1975, with Alligator Records, where she recorded nine albums. Koko racked up many accolades in her decades-long career, including eight Grammy nominations (and one win in 1985 as a guest on the Blues Explosion compilation album), the Blues Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award and a spot in the Blues Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone reports that she won more Blues Music Awards than anyone–29 in all.
“She was very shy, and so was I, so we hit it off,” Buddy Guy, the guitarist that played on "Wang Dang Doodle," told the Chicago Sun Times. “Willie Dixon and I had to get her out of her shell for ‘Wang Dang Doodle.’ She was one of the last of the greats of Chicago and did what she could to keep the blues alive here, like I’m trying to do now.”
Koko continued to perform and sang her last show at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis on May 7. She was also featured in movies like Wild At Heart and Blues Brothers 2000, and has performed with nearly every blues great: B.B. King, Muddy Waters, to name a few.
Koko’s Website will update soon with funeral arrangements.
– Whitney Teal