New Orleans, Louisiana's Iguanas reflected the diversity of musical styles found in their home state by fusing blues, Latin, classic R&B, zydeco, Cajun, Tex-Mex, and roots rock & roll.
The group formed in 1989 around vocalist and guitarist Rod Hodges, who began playing guitar in San Francisco Bay Area blues and rock bands at age 14. While playing with a blues band in Colorado, he rediscovered the conjunto music that was a part of his mother's Mexican heritage, and inspired by master accordionist Flaco Jiménez, he took up the accordion as well. Vocalist and saxophonist Joe Cabral was raised in Nebraska, and his first musical experience came as part of his father's Mexican band. In college in Montana, he discovered Chicago blues, New Orleans R&B, and the honking saxophone style. Bassist Rene Coman was a native of New Orleans whose recording credits include Alex Chilton, Guitar Slim, Jr., and Willy DeVille, while saxophonist Derek Huston and drummer Willie Panker rounded out their original lineup.
The Iguanas recorded their self-titled 1993 debut -- a pastiche of New Orleans funk ("Late at Night"), Latin music ("Para Donde Vas"), and Mexican polka ("Take Your Pictures, Your Letters and Your Ring") -- for Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville label. By the band's second release, Nuevo Boogaloo in 1994, Panker had been replaced on drums by Doug Garrison. According to Garrison, he first worked with Rene Coman in the Alex Chilton band in the mid-'80s, where they developed strong musical bonds. They have also recorded together with Tav Falco's Panther Burns, and Garrison appears on Charlie Rich's last recording, the jazz-influenced Pictures and Paintings. In 1996 the band recorded its final disc for the Margaritaville label, Super Ball, which included a guest spot from guitarist and Iguanas fan Dave Alvin. Following the release of 1999's Sugar Town for the Koch label, the Iguanas signed with Yep Roc, reunited with producer Justin Niebank, and released Plastic Silver 9-Volt Heart in 2003. Scattered for a time in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Iguanas reconvened with Niebank and Yep Roc in 2008 for the relatively (and understandably) subdued If You Should Ever Fall on Hard Times. Playing the Crescent City weekly and the American Southeast festival circuit, the band didn't record again for another four years, issuing the more characteristically upbeat and celebratory, Latin-infused rock date Sin to Sin in 2012 on Piety Street. Before Piety Street Studio closed, the band went all the way back to their roots for their Latin garage rock date Juarez in 2014, recorded with Mark Bingham. That same year, they released the first of five annual live albums containing their concert performances at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for MunckMix. ~ Richard Skelly, Rovi