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Queen Ida Guillory

Queen Ida. Photo by Ben Brown, reprinted under a Creative Commons license.

Queen Ida. Photo by Ben Brown, reprinted under a Creative Commons license.

Queen Ida Guillory has brought her trademark Latin-inflected zydeco all around the world as California’s most famous Creole accordion player. The Louisiana-born daughter of rice farmers, she grew up cooking for the field hands, driving a tractor, and helping her mother harvest vegetables from their enormous truck patch. The family moved to San Francisco when she was 17. There, she drove a school bus for a living and played her accordion occasionally—until a San Francisco Chronicle reporter photographed her at a Mardi Gras masquerade and dubbed her “Queen Ida.”

That photo helped launch her on an international touring career, which included appearances on Saturday Night Live and A Prairie Home Companion. She won a Grammy Award in 1982 and was later named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts. In this outtake, Guillory explains how her parents decided to move across the country in the 1940s—and how they found other Creoles in California.