On June 3, 2009, the music world lost two bright stars, saxophonist Sam Butera (81) and singer Koko Taylor (80).
Sam Butera was born and raised in New Orleans, where his father, Joe, operated Poor Boy's Grocery and Meat Market. He got his professional music career started while still a teen in big bands including orchestras led by Ray McKinley and Tommy Dorsey. His big break came in 1954 when he got the call to join Louis Prima and Keely Smith in Las Vegas, where he started his own group The Witnesses. Sam went on to play, sing, and record with stars like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., and was inducted into the Las Vegas Hall of Fame in 1999.
On Friday, June 12, Bill DeTurk will dedicate the last hour of his New Orleans Music Show (1-2 p.m.) to celebrating Sam's life by playing his treasured 4/16/99 on-air interview with Butera, as well as the late artist's music.
Koko Taylor (born Cora Walton) hailed from Shelby County, Tennessee, and moved to Chicago in 1952, where she made her singing debut. She developed quickly and with the help of Willie Dixon, landed a recording contract with blues label Chess Records. Her biggest hit was "Wang Dang Doodle", which she recorded with guitarist Little Walter, and she became known as "The Queen of the Blues" thanks to extensive touring and recording throughout the 1960s and 70s. No stranger to awards, she received 2 Grammys (and 8 nominations) and a record 25 W.C. Handy Awards; she made her final performance at the 2009 Blues Music Awards.
WWOZ's deepest condolences go out to the families, friends, and loyal fans of both these great artists.