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Al Rapone And The Zydeco Express

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  • Born: Lake Charles, LA
  • Years Active: 1980s, 1990s


Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

The brother of zydeco's renowned Queen Ida, accordionist and guitarist Al Rapone was not only a driving force behind the success of his sister but also a noted solo performer. Born Al Lewis in Lake Charles, Louisiana in 1936, he first picked up the accordion at age 13, and following the family's relocation to California he was regularly performing live throughout the West Coast by the early 1950s. Within a few years, Rapone also began playing guitar, quickly becoming a noted sideman on the San Francisco blues circuit, where he backed the likes of Big Mama Thornton, Clarence Gatemouth Brown and Jimmy Reed; while in college, he studied composing, producing and arranging, and after graduation formed a group with his sister. However, as Queen Ida soon settled down to raise a family, Rapone assembled a new unit, the Bon Ton Zydeco Band, and over time forged a unique sound combing his distinctive guitar leads with zydeco accordion and country music rhythms. Ida began sitting in with the group during the mid-1970s, and as her career blossomed, the Bon Ton Zydeco Band mutated to become her permanent backing band; Rapone served not only as his sister's ace sideman but also as her producer and arranger, helming her 1982 Grammy-winner Queen Ida and the Bon Ton Zydeco Band on Tour, as well as composing one of her best-loved songs, "Frisco Zydeco." Soon afterwards, Rapone left the group to again pursue a solo career, enjoying his greatest success in Germany, where he recorded efforts including 1982's Cajun Creole Music and 1984's C'est La Vie; upon returning Stateside, he settled in New Orleans, issuing Zydeco to Go in 1990.