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Queen Ida and the Zydeco Kingdom

If I could magically have the talent to play any instrument in any type of group, I would play washboard in a zydeco band.

Queen Ida — with whom I only recently became familiar — simply is tremendous. Here is the beginning of AllMusic’s profile of the Queen:

Queen Ida was the first female accordion player to lead a zydeco band. Favoring a 31-button accordion, she is noted for her melodic playing, and for focusing on the treble side of her instrument, which makes her style similar to Mexican playing styles. Though like many other zydeco artists of the ’80s, her music was well grounded in Creole traditions, she also integrates Caribbean, Cajun (with the addition of a fiddle to her Bon Temps Zydeco Band), blues, and other genres. She came to music rather late in life.

Born Ida Lewis to a musically talented family in Lake Charles, LA, she learned to play accordion from her mother after she spent a few years learning the piano. Her family moved to Beaumont, TX, when she was ten, and eight years later moved to San Francisco. Her first language is French, and wherever they went, they took their Creole culture and music with them. But while music was important to Lewis, during her young adult years she married (becoming Ida Guillory) and raised a family, only rarely performing for social occasions. She briefly attended nursing school but left during her first pregnancy. When her children were all school-aged, she became a part-time bus driver. As they grew, Queen Ida’s friends began more strongly encouraging her to perform publicly. (Continue Reading…)

Above is “Grand Mamou” and below is “Jambalaya (On the Bayou).” I always wondered about that song. It’s great, of course. It seemed discordant that it was written by country star Hank Williams.ย Was he talented enough to write an authentic song in a completely different genre than the one for which he was known? Do zydeco and cajun artists accept the song as authentic, or do they play it because it is expected by audiences?

(Homepage Photo: Ben Brown)

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--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.