Koko Taylor and Marcia Ball

Friday, June 15; Pageant

Combine Koko Taylor's raw-edged Chicago blues and Marcia Ball's Texas-tinged roadhouse R&B and New Orleans groove, and you've got one hell of a musical package. That's exactly what's in store at the Pageant this Friday, when these two powerhouse musicians will share the bill. Although the two women are on tour at the same time -- and both are now signed to Alligator Records -- the Pageant gig appears to be their only shared date this summer.Taylor (pictured), one of six siblings raised on a sharecropper's farm outside Memphis, grew up singing gospel but soon turned to blues, which she first heard on then-DJ B.B. King's daily radio show from Memphis. At 18, she moved to Chicago with her future husband, got a job cleaning houses and began haunting the blues clubs at night. Eventually she began sitting in with the likes of Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and was signed to Chess Records by blues legend Willie Dixon in 1962. Although her first major hit, "Wang Dang Doodle," remains her signature tune, Taylor is far from a one-hit wonder: She's earned more W.C. Handy awards than any other female musician, along with the undisputed title of Queen of the Blues.

Ball, who was born on the Texas-Louisiana border, learned the foundations of her boogie-woogie piano style from a talented aunt. But it wasn't until Ball first heard New Orleans soul diva Irma Thomas sing at a Baton Rouge concert that music became the driving force in the teenager's life. She soon discovered the music of piano legend Professor Longhair, and by the time she was in college, Ball was playing in bands. A trip to San Francisco after graduation ended abruptly in Austin when her car broke down, but Ball found a comfortable home in Austin's funky R&B/rock/country scene. Over the years, her style has acquired a unique flavor, one that blends New Orleans and Austin influences into something instantly recognizable to her fans around the world.Although Ball and Taylor have each made stops in the St. Louis area over the past few years, it's a rare treat to hear them on the same bill. The combination should bring out the best in each musician -- and offers the intriguing possibility of Ball and Taylor's joining forces for a tune or two.

 
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