They came to pay their respects and remember Taylor as the Queen of the Blues and for her ruckus party classic, â€œWang Dang Doodle.â€
Songstress Dorothy Moore performed a capella at the service, and offered a tribute to one of the many legends who had inspired her.
â€œShe was the Bessie Smith of todayâ€™s blues and thereâ€™s not another. Iâ€™m glad to have known her,â€ Moore said in a release.
Born Cora Walton in 1928, her lifelong nickname, Koko, was attributed to an early love of chocolate. Reared in Bartlett, Tenn., Koko was orphaned by 11. Along with her five siblings, Taylor developed a love of music from a mixture of gospel she heard in church and blues she heard on radio stations beaming in from Memphis.
When she was in her early 20s, Koko and her soon-to-be husband, the late Robert â€œPopsâ€ Taylor, moved to Chicago looking for work. With nothing but, â€œ35 cents and a box of Ritz crackers,â€ the couple settled on the cityâ€™s South Side, the cradle of the rough-edged sound of Chicago blues.
Like most blues legends of the 50s, Taylor supplemented her income working as a domestic, cleaning houses for wealthy families in a northern suburb of Chicago. The couple became regulars of the Chicago Blues nightlife, and after much prodding from her husband, Koko eventually took to the stage to perform alongside performers like Muddy Waters, Howlinâ€™ Wolf, Magic Sam, Little Walter, and Junior Wells. Taylorâ€™s big break came in 1963, when songwriter Willie Dixon caught one of her performances.
Dixon recorded Koko for USA Records and then secured a Chess recording contract for her. He produced several singles and two albums for herâ€”including her 1966 hit single â€œWang Dang Doodleâ€â€”firmly establishing Koko as the worldâ€™s number one female blues talent.
â€œI donâ€™t care where you go down South, when a real party is about to get started, you got to throw Koko Taylor on first to announce to the folks carrying straight razors, pocket knives, and a mess of trouble, that itâ€™s time to ball,â€ said Tonia Phillips, 43, a former announcer in Clarksdale, Miss. â€œKoko will be missed.â€
Though blues ceased being a huge moneymaker in mainstream arenas, Koko remained a staple among blues aficionados and fans. She went on to earn two Grammy Awards, eight Grammy nominations, 29 W.C. Handy & Blues Music Awards, and an induction into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1993.
â€œBlues is my life,â€ Koko Taylor once said. â€œItâ€™s a true feeling that comes from the heart, not just something that comes out of my mouth. Blues is what I love, and singing the blues is what I always do.â€