Koko Taylor (1928-2009)

Koko Taylor more than once said she hoped that when she died, it would be on stage, doing the thing she loved most: Singing the blues.

I used to work at Streeterville Studios in Chicago in 1998 a few years before it went under. I worked with a lot of well known and phenomenally talented people but with very few true professionals. She was one of them.

I assisted on a Koko Taylor session for Alligator Records where I think Keb’ Mo’ was sitting in on acoustic slide. Koko was a quiet unassuming little old lady with a soft raspy voice sitting in the break room while we were getting things ready. She must have been about 69 or 70. She looked like somebody’s grandma just hanging out.

After the band played for a few minutes to get levels and warm up, she came in and brought her own microphone, a Shure Beta 58 (not one of those fancy ones we had laying around that cost over a grand). She plugged it in and got a quick level. Then the engineer hit record and this little old lady opened up and let it rip. I remember thinking, “Holy shit! Where did that come from!”

The band was on. She only needed 2 or 3 takes and she had it. In and out. She unplugged her mic, dropped it in her purse, chatted with the producer a bit and then left. I did the recall and documentation, cleaned up and went to my next session. I don’t remember what it was.