September 28th is the anniversary of the birth of The Queen Of The Blues…Koko Taylor. Currently the Queen is Shemekia Copeland. Shemekia loved Koko….as did all of us who were lucky enough to know her.
Koko had a bigger-than-life voice, and a heart to match. You'd be hard pressed to find a person/woman/musician with a more generous heart. I first met Koko in the mid 1970's at Bruce Iglauer's home. I knew Bruce when I was working behind the scenes at WGLD in the Oak Park Arms. My first radio job! Bruce was doing promotions for Delmark Records and I was always glad to see him because he was a nice guy and we were becoming life long friends. And because he was bringing some great blues records from Bob Koester.
I later moved to Rochester, N.Y (first air shift) and Bruce started Alligator Records. When I moved back to start all nights at XRT in 1973, I'd been here a couple of years and Bruce threw a party in his home. He was taking me around to meet everybody. Then he got to the Queen. Koko Taylor and her husband Pops. Love at first sight. I said "Wang dang doodle….you're one on the reasons I live in Chicago." Koko patted the chair next to her and told me to have a seat. One of the great moments of my life.
Pops and I became fast friends. For years he'd call me wife #2. If Koko passed first or left him, I'd be his next wife. We got a lot of laughs over that. In fact when they were in the hospital in Tennessee after a nasty van accident when they were on tour, I sent flowers to the hospital. One for Koko and one for Pops (signed "wife #2") And their daughter Cookie was and is my blues sister. Family affair.
Had so many great times with Koko. Always a lot of love and humor.
One night backstage, Mavis and Yvonne Staples were joking that I'm in their family. Koko and Cookie said they saw me first. For a kid from Ohio, that was a pinch me I'm dreaming moment. Having fun with four of the most amazing women I've ever known. Bo Diddley used to throw a benefit concert every year for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and I was one of the MC's for many times.
One night I was sitting backstage. Bo Diddley on one side. Koko Taylor on the other. Bo was playing a beat up old acoustic guitar, singing across me to Koko making up a song as he went along. Then Koko answered back with a verse. Back and forth. What I'd give for a recording of that. Again, a lot of laughs and love when Koko was in the room. Good times.
Maybe next time I'll share the story of how Rev. Jesse Jackson and I "MC'ed" Koko's funeral. Yea. MC'ed. That's a great story. Stay tuned.
But Koko. I love you and the whole city of Chicago….the world…misses you. But in keeping with her sense of humor, I'm sure Koko is laughing in heaven because she knows I have to go back now and fix the spell checking that turned every "Koko" to "Yoko." Wang Dang Doodle all night long.