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Summit Insights | Ida Guillory

Long Live The Queen

As a California-based company, we are drawn to Golden State artists whose lives and accomplishments speak to the values and drive that we prize here at Summit Strategy Group. We have particular admiration for those who persevere through adversity and emerge at the top of their field.

Please meet Ida Guillory.

Ida Guillory, a Louisiana Creole who moved with her family to the Bay Area as a teenager, was a mother of three, a housewife and a school bus driver before taking up the button accordion in her 40s. Tutored on the instrument by her brother, Al Rapone, she was invited to play with his band at a church Mardi Gras celebration the next year.

The result was electric. There was already an acknowledged king of zydeco, Clifton Chenier, so the show’s emcee dubbed Ida the “Queen of Zydeco” and a reporter seized on the title for a San Francisco Chronicle feature. The title stuck and the reign of Queen Ida, the first woman to ever front a zydeco band, had begun. For the next 30 years, Queen Ida and her Bon Ton Zydeco Band would bring joyous dance music to audiences around the world.

“She has never taken the title lightly,” says drummer Ben Holmes, who spent seven years in service to the Queen. “She made sure it was deserved. On top of being an inspiration to women everywhere that they could be out front in a male dominated music, she pushed herself to keep climbing.”

Queen Ida won the 1982 Grammy for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording. She performed on Saturday Night Live. Francis Ford Copolla featured her in his 1983 movie “Rumble Fish.” She headlined international festivals. She published a cookbook and played nationally televised talk shows.

As with other royals, there has been a lot of family involvement. After having her career launched by brother Al, her band included her brother Wilbert on rubboard, her son Myrick on accordion, and her husband Ray as her driver and road manager. But the Queen has always been the boss.

“Ida is a super strong woman, but she was always very gracious and very appreciative of her fans and her band members,” says Holmes. “She is very down to earth.”

Retired from performances for the past decade, Queen Ida, 93, now lives near Napa. The festivals, recording dates and television appearances might be behind her, but the royal title endures. Long live the Queen.

Ida Guillory, and many others like her, inspire us to aim high and never settle for second best. Join us.


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