Band Biography & Photography
Please click on icon at the bottom of the page for IKO-IKO photos!
ONCE UPON A TIME…
It was the beginning of the 1980’s. Miami, Florida was literally on fire. It was a very exciting time. Beautiful people every where. Rock stars, film crews, Mariel Refugees, Cocaine Cowboys, Hippies, DEA agents, smugglers, dealers,drifters,actors,artists, musicians, bikers, bankers, doctors and lawyers. Miami Vice was a big hit on TV and Miami Disco was rocking the radio. With all this going on who could imagine that the hottest spot in town would be an old Miami river bar with a five AM closing time and house band that kicked out nothing but the Blues. Crouching in the shadows of a rather sketchy , beat up and kind of scarey neighborhood, Tobacco Road became the epicenter, the common denominator, the place where it all came together and Graham Wood Drout’s IKO-IKO was there rocking that amazing house almost every week end all through the Me Decade into the nineteen ninety’s.
IKO-IKO’s sound developed out of this very unique environment. A world audience open to originality and American music. Roots and Blues music mixed with island grooves, latin percussion and Voodoo drums.Tobacco Road began bringing touring Blues Bands to Miami and IKO-IKO was there trading sets on two stages, all night long, forty five on- forty five off, with just about every major and minor Blues, Zydeco, and Roots band in America. Albert King, Albert Collins, Koko Taylor, Sun Ra, David Bromberg, John Hammond, an eleven year old Derick Trucks, Diamond Teeth Mary McClain, The Nighthawks, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Dr. John, John Lee Hooker, the list goes on and on. Other musicians visiting Miami would often end up at Tobacco Road in the early hours of the morning jamming with the bands. If you were up late enough you might have seen David Lee Roth, John Jorgenson, David Bromberg, Brazilian Jazz genius Hermeto Pascual, Weather Reports percussionist Bobby Thomas, Steve Stills, Robert Cray, Pinetop Perkins or Jim Belushi
(just to name drop a few) joining the band on stage.
GRAHAM WOOD DROUT’S IKO-IKO
“Tough and gritty Blues- Rock played with energy and imagination…” – RELIX MAGAZINE
“IKO-IKO’s Graham Wood Drout is one of the most important, seminal South Florida Blues figures.. more than anyone he personifies Florida Blues.” -BIG CITY RHYTHM AND BLUES MAGAZINE
“Deep, thoughtful songcraft and impeccable musician ship elevates this bayou band above most indie rockers.” -BLUES REVUE MAGAZINE
“IKO IKO is a lexicon of classic rock and Blues music. A builder of fires and a keeper of flames.” – CHICAGO TRIBUNE
“IKO IKO is more than just a hot combo. This is engaging, thought provoking music. It’s Blues but with an Americana backstrap pulling Drout and crew into the realm of Tom Petty, early J. Giles Band and even Bob Dylan. Dirty, funky and with a rock urgency.” – BLUES REVUE MAGAZINE
“IKO-IKO voted Best Blues Band in Florida- 1999” -JAM ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE
There are many outstanding Blues Artists calling Florida home but only a few of them can be called legendary. IKO IKO has achieved their legendary status over and over again. The band is best known for their thirty year association with Miami’s seminal Blues venue TOBACCO ROAD awarding them the title “Miami”s House Band” sharing the stage with literally every working Blues artist in America from 1982 to the present.. From Albert Collins, John Lee Hooker,to Sun Ra and David Bromberg the list goes on and on. IKO IKO provided back up for Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, Ron Wood, Bobby Keys and a host of others. IKO IKO even worked with fellow Floridian Jimmy Buffett on his musical ,”Don’t stop the carnival.” When the state of Florida put together a concert to pay homage to its homegrown musical talent including Lynrd Sknyrd, Sam and Dave,and Marva Wright just to name a few, IKO IKO was hired to provide musical support for all the acts. In 1987 IKO-IKO released their first album on King Snake Records “Snowstorm in the Jungle” featurning lable mate Lucky Peterson on keyboards, reaching number 11 on the American Blues Charts.This record was followed by “Riding on the Rims”‘ :Protected By Voodoo”‘ and “Shine.” IKO-IKO’s latest CD is a best of compilation of Graham Wood Drout’s songs entitled “Bullets in the Bon Fire Vol. I” including two songs recorded by IKO-IKO and good friend Albert Castiglia. A tribute album of Graham Wood Drout’s songs recorded by a host of Florida Blues Bands is being released in the Spring of 2015.
Graham Wood Drout’s IKO-IKO “A must see!”- Rock and Roll Road Trip, Rolling Stone Magazine . The San Diego Tribune describes IKO IKO as “An eclectic mix of southern musical traditions.” The band calls it Urban Swamp Music: a swirling mix of Blues, Mardi Gras , Gulf Coast Americana, jazz, jam band sensibilities, Rock and Roll music with a Bo Diddley beat, steller musicianship and the award winning song craft of Graham Wood Drout. Graham’s songs have been a favorite of AAA radio and the satelite stations. His tunes have been covered by IBC Blues winner Joey Gilmore (who credits Graham’s “Ghosts of Mississippi” for putting him over the top. Ghosts of Mississippi went on to win the 2008 Blues Critics Award for song of the year.) and Ruff Records guitar slinger Albert Castiglia who scored a hit with the fabulous Mr. D’s “Big Toe.” Albert’s latest recording “Solid Ground,(which has reached number 10 on the Billoard Magazine Blues charts) features three of Drout’s songs. “Craig Rusky of Delta Snake Magazine says, “As a songwriter Drout is a powerful master.” Ed Ivy of Blues Revue Magazine says, “This songwriting is on the order of Gordon Lightfoot or Jim Croce….great and emotionally complete.” Patrick O’Donnell of Blues On Stage writes, “Graham is an artist in every sense of the word.”
IKO-IKO CONTACT INFORMATION
Graham Wood Drout / IKO IKO (305) 542-9151 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web site: www.iko-iko.com
BAND BIO:Graham Wood Drout, John Wenzel, Mitch Mestel, Ron Taylor, Jimmy Daniel
GRAHAM WOOD DROUT: GUITAR, BASS, VOCALS
Graham Wood Drout was born in Newark, New Jersey on March 22, 1953 and at the age of eight moved to the south side of Houston, Texas. His family relocated again in 1966 to Miami, Florida and once more in 1968 to Rio De Janiero, Brazil where he graduated from Escola Americana in 1971. Graham credits his high school teachers for encouraging and helping to develop his love of writing, music and the arts.”I had two English teachers who were very young and very hip.They turned me on to the beat poets like Allan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac and Blues players like Robert Johnson and Elmore James.” Graham graduated Florida International University in 1977 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art Degree. It was during his time at FIU where he met IKO-IKO’S Blues guitarist Good Rockin’Johnny Wenzel and began playing with Johns group the Incredible Fat Chance Blues Band.In 1987 Graham and IKO-IKO were signed to KING SNAKE RECORDS and shared the roster with such artists as Bob Greenlee’s Midnight Creepers, Kenny Neil, Root Boy Slim, Lucky Peterson, Nobel “Thin Man” Watts, and the “Sauce Boss” Bill Wharton just to name a few.Graham also helped write, play bass and produce Albert Castiglia’s first CD “Burn” on Graham’s own little silver records and Joey Gilmore’s “The Ghosts of Mississippi meet the Gods of Africa” on BluzPik records. Over the years Graham has won numerous awards and accolades for his work as a song writer, musician, band leader, graphic artist and mentor.His current status: LEGENDARY!
JOHN GORDON WENZEL : GUITAR
“Good Rockin’ Johnny” Wenzel (Lead Guitar) originally hails from Santa Maria, CA. An incredible showman & gifted guitar player, John was a member of Fat Chance Blues Band and is responsible for bringing IKO-IKO’S band leader, Graham Wood Drout, out of the audience and into the music business as the singer for the band. Fat Chance eventually evolved into what is now Iko-Iko. John is a dynamic performer and a master of tone who shy’s away from cliche Blues phrasing and over the years has developed a unique musical vocabulary which brings to mind the Southern Rock sensibilities of Duane Allman and others of that generation. Johns playing is ,at times, nothing less than intoxicating giving the band their “Swampadellic” signature sound. His performance credits include work with his own power combo Good Rockin’ Johnny & The Wise Guys, he has recorded and toured Europe with Little Nicky & The Slicks featuring violinist and IKO-IKO side kick Nicole Yarling and he was also the driving force behind south Florida’s Big City Blues Band powered by music legend drummer Freddy Scott who was on the bus at the age of sixteen kicking the drums with Little Richard Penniman. John has shared the stage with a New York phone book size roster of Blues heroes including Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Sam and Dave, John Lee Hooker, Dr. John, Greg Allman, Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughn, James Cotton, Buddy Guy, George Thorogood, Bobby Blue Bland, Koko Taylor and many, many, many others.
MITCH MESTEL: BASS
Mitch Mestel (Bass Guitar, Vocals) was born on January 6, 1956 in northern New Jersey and grew up in New York City. Mitch moved to south Florida in 1971 where he misspent his teen years sneaking in the back doors of south Florida’s most rocking music venues to witness local legends like Iron Butterfly’s guitar man Mike Pinera and our very own and greatly missed bass hero Jaco Pastorius. In the mid 70′s Mitch honed his Folk rock skills playing with the revolutionary Florida banjo pickin’, song singin’, trouble makin’, environmental activivatin’ Val C. Wisecracker and was awarded the title “The Walking Catfish” by Val herself! In the late 70′s Mitch played with the much underrated and now celebrated Cow Punk legends Charlie Pickett and the Eggs. After taking a brief hiatus from the music scene to try his hand at professional race car driving, which included participating in the 1990 Miami Grand Prix. Mitch got out of his Corvette and back in the van to begin playing again this time with Americana singer songwriter Mary Karlzen. Mitch moved to Nashville,Tennessee in 1996 to work with with another roots/rock singer/songwriter Jolynn Daniel with whom he recorded and toured with for the next two years. Returning to South Florida in late 1998 Mitch joined Miami’s Celtic rock band The Volunteers. He also found himself doing some projects with Guitarist George Terry of the Eric Clapton Band, French harmonica master Nico Wayne Toussaint, singer song writer Diane Ward and South Florida’s Blues blaster Albert Castiglia. In 2005 Mitch Mestel became the bass player for IKO-IKO taking over the job from Graham Wood Drout. “Graham approached me and asked if I would be interested in joining the band and I said yes before he could even finish. Like so many players in the South Florida scene I’d wanted to be a part of IKO-IKO since first seeing them tear it up at Tobacco Road in the early 90′s. It was a definitely a no brainer for me.” Mitch’s other interests, besides race car driving, include gourmet cooking. Mitch credits film actor, chef and automobile enthusiast Paul Newman as his main inspiration along with bassist Jack Cassidy of Hot Tuna and the Jefferson Airplane.
RON TAYLOR: KEYBOARD
Ron Taylor (Keyboards) is a Grammy Award-winning artist who started his musical career at the age of 16 performing with local bands in Central Florida, including the Tight Shoes Band fronted by the late, great bluesman, Big Dave Fiester. He moved to South Florida and began his professional engineering career with KC (of the Sunshine Band). He followed that up spending the next several years on tour with The Bellamy Brothers, also co-writing two Top 5 Country hits with them. Ron has performed with a huge range of celebrated musicians that includes The Florida Buttrockers, The Legendary Groove Monsters, Billy Joel, Gloria Estefan, Shakira, Carlos Vives, Luis Fonsi, David Bisbal, Alto Reed (Bob Seger Silver Bullet Band), George Terry (Eric Clapton), Steve Thorpe, The Blues Entourage and many others. Ron has also worked behind the mixing console with some of music’s legends including Frank Sinatra, Phil Ramone, Gloria Estefan, Donna Summer, 2 Live Crew, Timbaland, P. Diddy, Madonna, Chris Cornell, Britney Spears and others. Ron’s ability to upset the room with his keyboard work is worth the price of admission alone. Physical, fiery, passionate, genuinely beautiful, heartfelt and moving, Ron Taylor is an artist of the highest degree.
JIMMY DANIEL: DRUMS
Few have worked as hard and experimented as much with global styles than veteran session drummer Jimmy Daniel. A native of Indiana, Daniel has been exploring the world of sticks and skins since he was 12-years-old playing his first drum kit at local country-western gigs behind bee-hive-toting singers and empty beer bottles. Growing up listening to “feeling” music such as Heavy-duty Blues and Country Western, Jimmy learned to play by feeling the music he heard.
By the age of 17, A friend told him about an open call for drummers for a Rock’n’Roll singer out of Seymour, Indiana named John Mellencamp. “John wasn’t interested in auditioning me at first because I was so young, but my friend convinced him to give me a shot. One morning, Mellencamp called me and said. if you want to try out, you better get over her now. I freaked out and was got there in a heartbeat.” To his own surprise, Daniel blew everyone away and was hired on the spot.
With his first real opportunity as a serious musician beckoning, he was on his way. Jimmy lived with Mellencamp’s band for two years in a farmhouse in Indiana, rehearsing and performing around the region. During this period a buzz was churning about John and soon the band was invited to New York City to cut a demo. It was an exciting time, topped-off by Daniel’s first taste of the thriving music scene in The Big Apple. After touring and recording with Mellencamp, Daniel decided that New York is where he needed to be. But deep down he knew he needed to fine tune his musical skills.
Taking advice from several professional musicians, the now 21-year-old Daniel left John’s band and enrolled at the Berklee College of Music, in Boston. It was during these years that Daniel first explored world music elements. He often played with students from Trinidad to Africa, and became intrigued with indigenous musical rhythms. “Brazilian beats grabbed me by the drumsticks! I had never been around so many people from so many countries before — I loved it! Not to mention that I was studying with Alan Dawson and Gary Chaffee side by side with students such as Branford Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks, Jeff Watts, Steve Vai — it was great.”
By 1981 with New York beckoning, Jimmy finished his bachelor degree in music and remembers, “I was so ready to get to New York that I had my car packed, finished my final tests and moved there that very day.” Now in New York he took any kind of drumming jobs available from Irish music to Neil Diamond Impersonators to weddings. But it was in the groovy R&B scene which flourished in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant’s after-hours clubs that Jimmy started to establish himself. He soon started to work with then 16 year old Teddy Riley which then paved the way to many recording and live dates with B.T Express, Evelyn Champagne King, Gladys Knight, Keith Sweat, Melba Moore, Cissy Houston and Bobby Brown.
By 1985, Daniel, having tasted the urban music front, started to spend his off time traveling and studying world music from South America, the Caribbean, Africa and anywhere the rhythms called him. Back in NYC, he started collaborations with percussionist Nana Vasconcelos and Cyro Baptista, playing Brazilian rhythms with them one day and the next day playing with people like Bo Diddley, Dave Valentin, Dr John, Sam and Dave and South Side Johnny & the Asbury Jukes. “Damn, I was a NY musician! I loved that!” laughs Daniel, “I was making a living playing with all different kinds of bands — learning different styles by doing.”
In 1992, Jimmy got the call from Nile Rodgers to work with Diana Ross which led to gigs with Aretha Franklin, David Byrne, Joan Osborne and Vanessa Williams. By 1995 Daniel was really trying to concentrate on his love for world music he started his own project, NooVooDoo, which was a mix of religious drumming and songs from Haiti and Cuba mixed with western music. “A few years before I was doing a lot of traveling and playing with artist from all over South America and the Caribbean like Giberto Gil, Toots and the Maytals, Raul Desouza and wanted to bring some of those styles to the music I grew up with.”
AND ON VERY SPECIAL OCCASIONS:
NICOLE YARLING: VIOLIN AND VOCAL
Nicole Yarling (Violin, Vocals) was born in New York City to a musical family that helped to shape her own musical style into a wonderful hybrid of Jazz, Blues, Soul, Rock, and Americana. As a solo artist, a featured performer, or as a band-member, her signature sound is her trademark. Her musical contributions include performances with Art Blakely, Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Terrance Simmien, Jimmy Buffett, and her band Little Nicky & The Slicks that featured Iko-Iko’s John Wenzel. The great Joe Williams is credited with discovering her and showcased her talents on the release, “Joe Williams Presents Nicole Yarling at The Manchester Craftsman’s Guild.” Her work also includes being an educator at Florida Memorial University / University of Miami, as well as other schools, to help bring musical heritage and culture to students of all ages. Nicky performed on Iko-Iko’s 2002 release, “Shine,” and returned to join the band in 2011.
JEFF ZAVAC : Saxophone, flute
Jeff Zavac was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio and, after graduating from the University of Cincinnati, came to Miami, Florida in 1977. Due to a circumstance at his premature birth, Jeff lost his eyesight, but his strong desire to excel and compete in all he chooses to do has been an inspiration to all who know him.
Jeff’s formal musical training began at the age of nine when he was given a saxophone. He studied with a well known Toledo based musician and teacher, Gene Parker. He attended St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo where he marched in the band. Jeff earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in music education and performance of the saxophone at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He graduated from the University of Miami with a master’s degree in jazz performance.
After graduation, Jeff began working with seniors in Liberty City, learning to play gospel and hymns. He also worked for the school board in adult education for 13 years in Little Havana, Miami’s Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged, and many other senior centers where he became acquainted with music that influenced his jazz playing. From 1989 to 1991, Jeff worked as an artist in residence at Florida Memorial College. At the same time he played the saxophone at St. Paul’s AME Church in Coconut Grove.
Jeff was a jazz programmer at WDNA community public radio from 1981-2001. In 1998, Jeff and guitarist Jeff Caldwell recorded the CD “A Very Good Year” for Promise Recordings. Since 2001, Jeff has been teaching music appreciation classes at Miami Dade College, Homestead campus. In 2005 Jeff was asked to be featured on Instrumental Magic, a CD commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, produced by Henry and Inez Stone. Jeff also recorded on the CD Gwen McCrae Sings TK on Stone’s Henry Stone Music USA label.