Sample the Queen of Chicago Blues: Koko Taylor


Sample the Queen of Chicago Blues: Koko Taylor

Channeling legends like Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie, and Ma Rainey, late Chicago R&B singer Koko Taylor put her own stamp on then-contemporary blues. Raw, dynamic and electrifying blues by the reigning queen of the genre.




February 3, 2022

With her distinctive powerhouse of a voice, Koko Taylor rose to fame in the mid- to late-60s on Chess Records. The record label was based in her hometown of Chicago, with a roster consisting of big names like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and Bo Diddley. It was her shouting style of singing reminiscent of Howlin’ Wolf and Mama Thornton that made iconic blues musician, producer, and Chess Records artist Willie Dixon fall in love with her music. 1965’s “Wang Dang Doodle” was her huge breakthrough hit: a Howlin’ Wolf cover, as sampled by RZA for Raekwon's "Incarcerated Scarfaces" on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.

I Got What It Takes - A Crate-Digger's Classic

Koko Taylor's 1975 record, 'I Got What It Takes'

“As far as the songs: Koko wasn’t a very confident songwriter at that time in her career," writes album producer and Alligator Records boss Bruce Iglauer in the record's liner notes. "So we mostly relied on Koko-ized versions of songs that had been previously recorded by other artists. The only Koko original was 'Voodoo Woman,' the last song she recorded—in one take!—for the album.”

More Originals by Koko Taylor

More Koko-penned originals include “The Man Next Door,” featuring vocals and down-and-dirty Delta slide guitar-playing by Keb’ Mo’. Or “Spellbound” and “Put The Pot On” off her Grammy-nominated 1993 record, Force of Nature. Or a slightly more slick sound on her Jump For Joy LP, with a snappy electric bass solo by Jerry Murphy on the title track.

The legacy of Koko (born Cora Anna Walton, who was named after her love for chocolate) still remains: to this day, she won more W.C. Handy blues awards than any other female artist in history. Her music was sampled by the likes of RZAKRS-OneHarry Fraud, and Brazilian producer Papatinho. And with so many crate-digging treasures in her four-decades spanning catalog, we’re sure producers keep on flipping her blues for many years to come…

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