THE BLUES WORLD HAS LOST A MAJOR FORCE.  THE QUEEN OF THE BLUES, KOKO TAYLOR, HAS DIED AT THE AGE OF 80.

I break away from the radio business for a moment today to talk about my other passion, THE BLUES.

THE QUEEN OF THE BLUES, KOKO TAYLOR.

THE QUEEN OF THE BLUES, KOKO TAYLOR.

It was with a bit of sadness that my band, the Flat Broke Blues Band, sat down to rehearse last night, because our singer, Lorrie Hayes, announced that she had just heard on the NBC News that Koko Taylor had died.  There is more to follow on her and her death here on the blog, but her loss was a blow.  She was the undisputed Queen of the Blues and a true blues legend.  Flat Broke had a chance to open a show for her twice over the years, (once in Chicago and once here at NMU) and never has a more gracious and happy blues belter walked the earth.  She was like a firecracker of a teenager onstage and like an ever-lovin’ blues grandma off-stage.  We will miss her deeply!

A FEW FLAT BROKE MEMORIES:

I remember the first time we opened for her at a show outside of Chicago, Illinois in 1996 or so.  At the time, it was probably the biggest show Flat Broke had ever played, and it certainly was the most financially lucrative that we had ever done.  My longtime friend and Flat Broke bassist Mark Johnson went up to meet Koko and he was a nervous wreck.  After he came back, he was cool and calm.  He told me that she took his hand and saw he was nervous and just talked to him while holding his hand like a grandma would and that was all it took.  He was cool as a cucumber!

And I will never forget when she took the stage at that show and yelled out in her gritty southern drawl, “How about a big round of applaw (she never said “applause”) fo’ dat FLAT BROKE BAND!”  She may have not gotten the name exactly right, but the Queen had just thanked her loyal disciples!  WOW!!

The other memory I have of her is when we opened a show for her at NMU about a year later or so.  She put on one heck of a bangin’ show and brought the house down with her high-energy stage show and undeniable presence.  Over two solid hours of the “get down”!  Afterwards, she was in her dressing room with her foot all iced up and bandaged.  Turns out her foot and ankle were all swollen up from a ripping case of the gout!  You never would have guessed from the show she just put on!  She was a CLASS-A trooper!

Rest In Peace, Koko!

HERE’S MORE FOR YOU TO READ ABOUT THE QUEEN OF THE BLUES:

FROM ROLLINGSTONE.COM:

Grammy Award winner Koko Taylor, dubbed the “Queen of the Blues,” died yesterday in her native Chicago following complications from her May 19th surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding, the singer’s official Website posted yesterday. Taylor was 80. Born Cora Walton in Shelby County, Tennessee, Taylor and her powerful, gritty voice began performing at blues club in the late 1950s. Taylor was most well-known for her 1965 hit “Wang Dang Doodle,” a song penned by legendary bluesman Willie Dixon, who helped her secure a contract with Chess Records.

In 1975, Taylor signed with Alligator Records, and released nine albums during her tenure there. Nominated for eight Grammys over her career, Taylor won the award for her guest appearance on the Blues Explosion compilation in 1985. Taylor was also inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1997 and was awarded the Blues Foundation Lifetime Achievement Ward in 1999. Earlier this year, Taylor performed at the Kennedy Center Honors to honor Morgan Freeman.

“She was very shy, and so was I, so we hit it off,” blues legend Buddy Guy, who played guitar on “Wang Dang Doodle,” tells 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.”

Taylor’s last performance was a May 7th appearance at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis. In all, Taylor won 29 Blues Music Awards, more than any other artist. According to the singer’s Website, over the course of her storied career Taylor had shared the stage with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Jimmy Page. In addition to her achievements in music, Taylor also had roles in films like David Lynch’s Wild At Heart and Blues Brothers 2000.

Funeral arrangements will be announced soon, according to her website.