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Koko Taylor: 1928-2009

June 3, 2009 - Andy Gray
“Queen of the Blues” Koko Taylor died Wednesday in a Chicago area hospital at age 80.

She’s best known for the song “Wang Dang Doodle,” on which she displayed a bluesy growl as fearsome as any of her male contemporaries. Any woman, and a lot of men, who ever tried to sing the blues drew inspiration from Taylor.

I was lucky enough to see her perform live a couple of times. The first was in the mid-‘80s in a banquet room at the Holiday Inn in Richfield.

Taylor would have been about 55 at the time, but since I was fresh out of college, that seemed pretty old to me. Despite the somewhat sterile setting, Taylor gave a ferocious performance, belting out her signature songs in a sparkly blue dress.

After the set, Taylor sat at her merchandise table and signed autographs for the crowd. While I stood in line getting my copy of her "Queen of the Blues" album signed, Taylor’s granddaughter came up to her and asked for change to get a can of pop.

The Queen quickly turned into the doting grandma, telling the child to get grandma her purse and she’d give her the money.

While I’ll always remember Taylor’s music, I’ll always cherish that glimpse of her off-stage persona.


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