“I have been singing since I was eight years old," says Precious Taylor, who is the niece of the late Queen of the Blues, Koko Taylor. "For a long time, I didn’t want to perform on the blues circuit because I knew that I could never be her. But then people were telling me that I was just as good in my own right."
By Eric Schelkopf
Photo: Dianne Bruce Dunklau
Her raw energy and powerful vocals helped earn Koko Taylor the title "Queen of the Blues." The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as Chicago musician Precious Taylor – Koko’s niece – proved during her riveting show with Matthew Skoller at last month’s Chicago Blues Festival. Taylor will be performing with Skoller again on July 14, 2023 at The Venue, 21 S. Broadway Ave. in downtown Aurora. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15-$20, available at The Venue’s website, themusicvenue.org. I had the honor of interviewing Taylor about the upcoming show. Q – Of course you performed recently with Matthew Skoller at the Chicago Blues Festival. How did you connect with him? Well, I've known Matthew for many years. We go way back to the early ‘90s. He did some shows with my aunt Koko and he played on some of her CDs. We’re working on a CD and a project. I’m excited about the show at The Venue. I know a lot of great people have come through there and I just feel honored to appear there. Q – I know you’ve performed with him several times. What do you like about performing with him? Well, for one thing, he has a good grasp on the true roots of the blues. He has a true sound that makes it authentic. I like that. And he sings as well. Our voices kind of match. Q – Did your aunt introduce you to the blues? Well, she had a big part in that. My granddad, Andrew, played slide guitar and my dad played piano. And my mom sang. I would go to my Aunt Koko’s shows and just admire her from afar.
Q – What things struck you as you watched her perform? It was her stage presence. She just had a good way to get the audience involved. I liked how she worked the stage and also her unique vocal ability, which I never tried to imitate because I never could in a million years. She had her own sound. Right until she passed, she was still performing and she still put on a great show. I pray to have that type of stamina. Q – Yeah, Buddy Guy says he’s on his last tour, but I doubt that. I think in a couple of years, he’ll be back out on the road. If you’ve been doing it your whole life, it’s like having your arm cut off, to me. One time, I had a vocal problem where I couldn’t sing for almost six months. And I almost lost my mind. Music is uplifting, it’s motivating, it’s universal. If you are able to continue to perform, why wouldn’t you want to share that for others and for yourself? Q – Yes, people like John Primer and Lil’ Ed Williams, they’re not spring chickens either and they are still performing. That’s a good example. But they still get up there with the same fire. They are still doing it. Q – Given that Koko Taylor is your aunt, do you feel pressure to live up to her name? When you step on stage, do people expect you to sound just like your aunt? And do they start yelling out, “Wang Dang Doodle”? Yeah, all of the above. I have been singing since I was eight years old. I majored in opera and was going to be an opera singer. Instead of that, I wound up doing a lot of jazz, which is my first specialty. For a long time, I didn’t want to perform on the blues circuit because I knew that I could never be her. But then people were telling me that I was just as good in my own right. And that kind of encouraged me just to do it my way and not try to be like her. I’ve done some shows in Spanish. I’m not fluent, but I can pull it off. I just finished a CD in Swahili. It’s a jazz CD. I amazed myself with that one. Q – I understand that you began performing in a band with your brothers when you were eight years old. It seems like that music has been a family affair for your whole life. Yes, absolutely. My mom would be singing while she was cooking. It was just a good atmosphere. Q – Will you perform “Wang Dang Doodle” at The Venue if asked? Oh yeah. I’ll be doing a couple of her songs. We’re also going to do some of her more obscure songs. They are some really good songs that people aren’t up on. You’ll get to hear some of that stuff too.
Photo: Dianne Bruce Dunklau
About the author: Eric Schelkopf has covered the arts and entertainment scene in Chicago for over 30 years. Visit his informative blog at: http://www.thetotalscene.blogspot.com/