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Koko Taylor, “Queen of the Blues” 1928 – 2009

Posted in A Day in the Life, Celebrities | No Comments »

Koko Taylor, Queen of the Blues

Koko Taylor, 80 year-old Grammy Award-winning blues legend, died on June 3, 2009 in her hometown of Chicago, IL, as a result of post-surgical complications. On May 7, 2009, the critically acclaimed Taylor, known worldwide as the “Queen of the Blues,” won her 29th Blues Music Award (for Traditional Female Blues Artist Of The Year), making her the recipient of more Blues Music Awards than any other artist. In 2004 she received the NEA National Heritage Fellowship Award, which is among the highest honors given to an American artist. Her most recent CD, 2007’s Old School, was nominated for a Grammy (eight of her nine Alligator albums were Grammy-nominated). She won a Grammy in 1984 for her guest appearance on the compilation album Blues Explosion on Atlantic.

Born Cora Walton on a sharecropper’s farm just outside Memphis, TN, on September 28, 1928, Koko, nicknamed for her love of chocolate, fell in love with music at an early age. Inspired by gospel music and WDIA blues disc jockeys B.B. King and Rufus Thomas, Taylor began belting the blues with her five brothers and sisters, accompanying themselves on their homemade instruments. n 1952, Taylor and her soon-to-be-husband, the late Robert “Pops” Taylor, traveled to Chicago with nothing but, in Koko’s words, “thirty-five cents and a box of Ritz Crackers.”

In Chicago, “Pops” worked for a packing company, and Koko cleaned houses. Together they frequented the city’s blues clubs nightly. Encouraged by her husband, Koko began to sit in with the city’s top blues bands, and soon she was in demand as a guest artist. One evening in 1962 Koko was approached by arranger/composer Willie Dixon. Overwhelmed by Koko’s performance, Dixon landed Koko a Chess Records recording contract, where he produced her several singles, two albums and penned her million-selling 1965 hit “Wang Dang Doodle,” which would become Taylor’s signature song.

Koko Taylor was one of very few women who found success in the male-dominated blues world. She took her music from the tiny clubs of Chicago’s South Side to concert halls and major festivals all over the world. She shared stages with every major blues star, including Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy as well as rock icons Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.

Obituary adapted from

Koko Taylor – I Cried Like A Baby

How Do You Choose to Show Up in the World?

Posted in A Day in the Life, Indie Music | 1 Comment »


Last night I attended a special Artist’s Success Salon, featuring my dear friend and publicist, Ariel Hyatt, and entertainment industry Certified Results Coach Debra Russell. As these two powerful women shared their insights on how musicians can become successful, and actually make a living make music, there was much discussion on how we unconsciously block ourselves from success. We often see challenges to our success as events that occur outside of us, but really, success is an inside job.

We might not like to think about it, but we are the only ones in the way of our success. Related to my last blog post inspired by Derek Sivers, we broadcast to the world how we feel about our worthiness through our actions, and inactions: Were we prepared for that audition or gig? Did we show up on time? Were we fully present and accountable? Did we follow up on that great connection? Did we consciously create memorable moments during a performance? It’s the little things that we do well day-by-day that gain momentum and lead us to the bigger opportunities.

So ask yourself: “How do YOU choose to show up in the world?”

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

From Return to Love by Marianne Williamson

If You’re a Musician, You’re an Entrepreneur. So Act Like It.

Posted in A Day in the Life, Future Legends, Indie Music, Music Blogosphere | 2 Comments »

Will Sing for Food 350px

One issue that comes up when talking to musicians is that many of them don’t believe that they have a business until their music makes money.

If you consider the bad habits that some musicians are known for (being late, flaky, intoxicated, etc), it’s not a surprise why their anticipated success does not come. And when I think of the musicians who are getting ahead, they usually have their business together, even if their musical peers don’t believe that they’re musically talented.

In my opinion, the reality is actually the other way around: Only after you deal with the business side of things will your music make money. When you (not your manager, agent, or mother) are the one managing important day-to-day details like organizing your time, following up with contacts, and evaluating your progress, only then can you expect that your music business will grow.

While percolating on this idea for Musicians Lunch New Orleans, I was inspired to ask Derek Sivers for a different kind of interview. As the creator of CD Baby, he’s had a bit of success over the years. Curious girl that I am, I wanted to know what makes success like his possible: What in his mindset enabled him to start the first online CD store for indie musicians??? Interviewers usually ask him about indie music and musicians, and he’s generous with sharing what he’s learned, but I wanted to dig deeper.

So for the past few days, Derek and I have been emailing back and forth questions and answers on having a success mindset. As usual, he gives answers I never expect, and blows my assumptions out of the water. Regardless of his unexpected responses (which will be featured soon here in the blog), it’s obvious that he has a success mindset.

At the ripe age of 14, Derek decided that he was going to be a professional full-time musician, and gave serious thought to what that would mean: no salary, no insurance, no security, no guarantees, etc. Because he understood these facts, he made decisions accordingly in order to be successful in pursuing this goal. He started making money from touring when he was 18. When he was 27, he was able to buy a house in Woodstock, NY from touring.

By the time he had the “one-in-a-million brilliant” idea to create CD Baby, he had already mastered the entrepreneurial skills needed to run a successful company. He makes it sound so easy, but in reality,
Derek Sivers honed his business skills while he was a full-time musician.

If you don’t believe me, read his latest blog post What do musicians and entrepreneurs have in common?

If you want more ideas on how to grow your music business, check out the blog posts from November’s “Recession-Proof Musician” series! Featuring awesome guest blogs from folks like Seth Godin, Bob Baker, Hugh MacLeod, there’s a lot of inspiration to be enjoyed!