King of the Queen
Bill Taylor resurrected music in the most musical of cities, New Orleans, post flood. Now he’s resurrecting Wilmington’s most famous theater—and starting something much bigger.
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The profile you are about to read is a play in two acts. It is the story of Wilmington native Bill Taylor, head of the Light Up The Queen Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising funds to restore the old Queen Theatre on Market Street in Wilmington. The first act takes place in Taylor’s recent past, in a magical place called the Crescent City, and the second act is happening now in Delaware. It is a story about aspiration, tragedy, hope, and the power of coming home.
Act One | Entirely Indescribable
When the levees gave way on August 29, 2005, Bill Taylor was nowhere near his apartment by Tipitina’s Music Club, the famed venue he managed at Napolean and Tchoupitoulas avenues in New Orleans. He was a nine-hour drive away, in Asheville, North Carolina. He had arrived two days earlier to kick around with his staff the idea of opening an artist co-op, similar to one he helped start in New Orleans.
The first call from home came from his friend Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, a legendary bluesman and member of the famous Mardi Gras Indians. “He told me, ‘My friend, it looks like the storm is comin’,’” Taylor says. When he woke on Sunday morning, an associate gave him the news, speaking through tears. “It’s not good, Bill,” she said.
Taylor had gotten to know many of the city’s most famous musicians. They listened to WWOZ, a famed blues and jazz station where Taylor worked before leaving to run Tipitina’s. They’d go to the Tip as if it were a religious destination, a temple for the spirit, where the hottest acts in blues and jazz would play. Irma Thomas. Marva Wright. Marcia Ball. Cyril Neville. Tab Benoit.
Taylor had migrated to New Orleans a decade before. He learned almost immediately that the Zydeco and blues and jazz didn’t simply flavor the lives of those in the Bayou. The rhythms coursed through their veins and choreographed their steps.
Taylor and his staff spent six weeks in North Carolina, trying to save, by phone and email, the city’s musical soul. When he returned to New Orleans in October, the devastation was “entirely indescribable, an Armageddon, beyond ‘Thunderdome.’
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