Living in Chicago provided me with many things… frost bite on my face, frozen muscous as I would inhale through my nose… and a first hand love of the Blues. Kingston Mines, Biddy Mulligan’s (gone), Mama Rosa’s, B.L.U.E.S., the Checkerboard Lounge… all places I would frequent to see and hear the likes of Albert Collins, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, James Cotton and Koko Taylor. I’ll see you real soon Chi Town… my beloved Second City…
Koko Taylor – Live From Chicago: An Audience With the Queen
When Koko Taylor passed away in June of 2009, I wrote about her in detail… Here is part of that blog… Maybe I’m being lazy today by recycling that… or maybe I like what I said back then… I don’t know… It still moves me and is what I would say all over… I do know this is one of my favorite albums and favorite live albums as it fully captures her raw and beautiful power… “I’d Rather Go Blind” slays me every time I hear it… her version beyond anyone else’s… it can literally stop time for me. So stop time I will… or at least go back almost two years… Two years… wow…
“Koko Taylor was the Queen of the Blues, and she was the Queen. The only person I can think of that comes close is Etta James… But Koko was a bit rougher, a bit tougher and grittier… more of a powerhouse… at least she seemed so to me… But she was also lovely and gracious and is someone who will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Back in 1988 when I was still at Northwestern University, Koko Taylor and her band were in a horrible auto accident. She was in pretty bad shape, and her companion Pops Taylor died. I remember going to a benefit concert for her, aptly named “A Benefit For the Queen” where blues legends like Albert Collins and Willie Dixon played. It was one of the most beautiful and moving evenings of my life. And the music… oh man… there is nothing like seeing the blues in Chicago… No, I have not been to New Orleans or the Mississippi Delta… Someday… Someday I’ll make it to the Crossroads. But I cannot imagine it gets any better than the Kingston Mines, Blues, etc. or the late, great Biddy Mulligans.
One of the first performances after her accident was at Northwestern. I think it was a Dillo Days concert, in fact… This is the one day of the year that the mostly conservative campus… although I think it has changed a bit since I was there… lets loose with ‘shrooms and pot and tons of drink, and parties like we are all tie-dyed hippies.
She was amazing… had not missed a step… and songs like “Wang Dang Doodle” and my all time favorite “I’d Rather Go Blind” had the crowd going nuts.
After the show, I waited for her backstage. I walked up to her and told her how happy I was to see her back and healthy and how much I have loved seeing her today and over the years I was at school. She gave me the biggest bear hug I have ever received… It still moves me and makes me laugh thinking about it… Here she was, this larger than life, sweatier than life, blues legend hugging me like I was family. It was one of the best moments of my life.
I miss Chicago so much some times it hurts… Wondering what might have been if I had stayed and gone through Second City… or lived there a bit longer, instead of racing home and then off to the glamor of Hollywood. Chicago is a great city… the best city next to New York (sorry) and certainly the friendliest.
I have no idea what would have happened had I stayed… yet I can say with no doubt and the most complete certainty of anything I have ever said before… I would have heard and seen a lot more blues… and Koko Taylor and I would have had at least one more bear hug.
Good night my Queen…”