Blesok no. 21, June-July, 2001
Interview with Koko Taylor
"I Remember All the Lights of the City"
1. At what age did you start your career in music?
I STARTED SINGING AS A CHILD WITH MY BROTHERS AND SISTER'S OUT BEHIND OUR HOUSE. I CAME TO CHICAGO WHEN I WAS 18.
2. Was music sort of tradition in your family and what kind of music you have listened to at that time?
WE LISTENED AND SANG GOSPEL MUSIC. BUT US KIDS ALL LOVED THE BLUES. WE USED TO LISTEN TO B.B. KING'S RADIO SHOW AND RUFUS THOMAS' RADIO SHOW AND LEARN AND SING ALL THE SONGS WE HEARD.
3. Who were your early musical influences, what sort of music did you prefer most?
MEMPHIS MINNIE'S BLACK RAT BLUES WAS ONE OF MY VERY FIRST FAVORITES.
4. Beside singing did you play any instruments?
NO, ALTHOUGH I DO PLAY A LITTLE GUITAR NOW AND THEN JUST FOR FUN.
5. Whose vocal style had most impression on you and did you “borrow” some of it?
MEMPHIS MINNIE STUCK TO MY BONES MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE.
6. Where were you born?
OUTSIDE OF MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE.
7. When did you come to Chicago?
I CAME TO CHICAGO WHEN I WAS 18. MY HUSBAND POPS AND I CAME ON A GREYHOUND BUS WITH NOTHING MORE THAN 34 CENTS AND A BOX OF RITZ CRACKERS.
8. How and when did you land a deal with Chess Records?
I WAS SINGING, JUST SITTING IN, WITH HOWLIN' WOLF'S BAND ONE NIGHT WHEN WILLIE DIXON APPROACHED ME AND SAID, 'THE WORLD NEEDS A WOMAN WHO CAN SING THE BLUES LIKE YOU.' NEXT THING I KNOW I HAVE A RECO0RDING CONTRACT WITH CHESS. I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW WHAT A RECORDING CONTRACT WAS, LET ALONE A RECORDING STUDIO. BUT THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED.
9. Was the blues scene then a tough competition among blues women, or you were friends with everybody?
MUDDY WATERS WAS MY NUMBER ONE MAN. I LOVE THEM ALL. THE HOWLIN' WOLF, WILLIE DIXON, BUDDY GUY, B.B. KING, LUTHER ALLISON.
10. How did you get songs, did somebody write especially for you or you also sang other people's material?
WILLIE DIXON TAUGHT ME TO WRITE SONGS. AND I'M ALWAYS LISTENING TO MUSIC, COMING UP WITH IDEAS OR SONGS I LIKE.
11. Who were your favorite musicians in those days, the ones you've played with or some other?
ALL OF THEM. I LOVED LISTENING TO THE BLUES.
12. Who was most supportive of your talents?
MY FAMILY, MY FRIENDS. BUT WILLIE DIXON GAVE ME THE BIGGEST BREAK OF ALL.
13. In those days, Chicago seemed to be blues center of the world, what are your recollections of those days?
I REMEMBER ALL THE LIGHTS OF THE CITY WHEN I FIRST CAME TO CHICAGO. 'MY GOD,' I THOUGHT, 'THIS MUST BE HEAVEN.' EVERY WEEKEND WE'D GO LISTEN TO SOMEBODY PLAYING THE BLUES SOMEWHERE.
14. How did a deal with Alligator happen?
AFTER CHESS, I KNEW BRUCE HAD STARTED A LABEL AND I KEPT CALLING AND CALLING HIM, TELLING HIM TO SIGN ME. HE KEPT RESISTING. BUT EVENTUALLY I CONVINCED HIM TO GIVE ME A CHANCE. THAT WAS 1974 AND WE'VE BEEN TOGETHER EVER SINCE.
15. Was Bruce Iglauer responsible for your connection to Alligator?
LIKE A LONG-TIME MARRIAGE, HE'S RESPONSIBLE FOR ME AND I'M RESPONSIBLE FOR HIM. (LAUGHS).
16. When you look back on your recordings are you completely satisfied, or you think some stuff could have been done differently?
EVERY SONG ON EVERY RECORD IS DONE FROM MY HEART FOR MY FANS.
17. What do you think about the current blues scene in general?
SO MANY OF THE OLD-TIMERS ARE LEAVING US. JUNIOR WELLS, LUTHER ALLISON, POPS STAPLES. THERE'S A LOT OF YOUNGER FOLKS PLAYING THE BLUES RIGHT NOW, AND THAT'S A GOOD SIGN.
18. Are there some good younge ladies who sing the blues at the moment and who do you like?
I'M GLAD TO SAY THAT THERE ARE. ESPECIALLY SHEMEKIA COPELAND.
19. You have sang throuhout the world, can you tell how people accept the blues in different parts of our planet?
PEOPLE LOVE BLUES ALL OVER THE WORLD. MY FANS KNOW THAT MY MUSIC MAKES YOUR BLUES GO AWAY.
20. Do you have a regular performing band and what's the line-up?
YES. RIGHT NOW I HAVE CALVIN LOUDEN, MELVIN SMITH, STANLEY BANKS, BRIAN PARKER, AND SHUN KIKUTA.
21. Which are your favorite songs?
MY FANS LET ME KNOW THEIR FAVORITES BY REQUSING SONGS ALL THE TIME. THOSE ARE THE ONES I LIKE BEST.
22. What would be your message to your fans in Macedonia?
THANKS FOR LISTENING. I HOPE TO SEE YOU ONE DAY.