Friday, June 05, 2009

Koko goes to Blues Heaven

For the last month or so The Vinyl Word has had no significant deaths to report, but it was too good to last. The Grim Reaper has struck in earnest with a trio of significant deaths in the last few days.
Not for nothing was Koko Taylor known as the Queen of the Blues. Eight of her nine albums on Alligator were nominated for Grammy awards and she won no fewer than 25 Handy Awards - more than any other artist. But it was her first hit Wang Dang Doodle recorded for Chess in 1966 and written by Willie Dixon that really turned me on to her. She fairly belts her way through a story featuring such characters as Automatic Slim, Razor Totin' Jim, Fast Talking Fanny and Pistol Pete, with Buddy Guy ( not Little Walter as Wikipedia claims - see comments and obits) on guitar. And the B side Blues Heaven is just as good, as she pays tribute to Sonny Boy, Nat King Cole, the Big Bopper, Big Bill, Billie Holiday, Elmore James and Sam Cooke. I saw her a few times, including a great show in New Orleans at Muddy Waters club. But now she's gone, aged 80, to join that great line up in Blues Heaven. Here are a couple of obituaries:

Another to bite the dust is New Orleans born sax player Sam Butera, who died aged 81 in Las Vegas. Sam was best known as band leader of the Witnesses, who added excitement to a host of records by Louis Prima and Keely Smith. He moved easily between big band and R and B styles and was known for his raucous style, and continued a successful career in Vegas after Prima died in 1978. Obituary in the Indy:

A third death is the somewhat bizarre demise of David Carradine, who starred as Kwai Chang Caine in 70s TV series Kung Fu , and in the two Kill Bill films. His death could have come straight out of a Kill Bill film. Carradine was found hanged in a wardrobe in a hotel in Bangkok, apparently the victim of an auto erotic asphyxiation session that went tragically wrong. He was aged 72. Here's the obit in the Indy:


At 11:55 am , Blogger Private Beach said...

"Little Walter on guitar"?! I assume you didn't mean to type that.

At 7:35 pm , Blogger Nick said...

Interesting. According to Koko Taylor's entry on Wikipedia Little Walter played guitar on the record (and there's harmonica featured on the original version of the song), but Wikipedia is notoriously inaccurate, and I've read elsewhere that it was Buddy Guy. Koko recorded the song several times and there's a video clip on Youtube with Little Walter playing harmonia, but was it Walter or Buddy - or someone else - on that great original version? And whose was the fantastic male voice on both Wang Dang Doodle and Blues Heaven?

At 7:38 pm , Blogger Nick said...

I meant to say there's NO harmonica featured on the original.
Here's the Youtube clip

At 10:53 am , Anonymous Pete W said...

It's Buddy Guy on guitar without a doubt - and the male voice is that of writer Willie Dixon. Both instantly identifiable without need of Wikipedia!

At 11:33 am , Blogger Nick said...

Thanks Pete. You've confirmed my suspicions, given that Willie Dixon wrote the song and produced the record. Shame that neither Buddy Guy as guitarist or Willie Dixon as bass singer are credited on the record. I will never trust Wikipedia again!


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