Fernando “Fred” Suco celebrated the third anniversary of his Woody’s West End Tavern last Friday night (Sept. 20) by presenting Iko Iko, much to the delight of local fans. The iconic band has become legendary in South Florida since its founding in 1981 and has also enjoyed nationwide success.
After three years as owner, Suco said life at his restaurant and lounge has been “interesting” and he puts in “24 hours a day, mentally.”
A retired Miami-Dade County homicide detective, resident Suco is always involved in the community but he said, “I wish I could give more. If you give, you always get back.”
Suco said he first became aware of Iko Iko in the ’80s and personally knew their guitarist at the time. He also met Graham Wood Drout, the group’s leader, lead singer, guitarist and songwriter.
“I’m trying to bring more blues and jazz here,” said Suco. “Everybody has rock ‘n’ roll and top 40. I want to present a little bit of everything. Something different.”
Suco said he wanted to do something special for his third anniversary, which actually was on Sept. 9, but Iko Iko was available last weekend, so the event evolved around them. Suco said he also booked the popular band for Saturday, Nov. 23.
Other upcoming groups include the Avocado State Band, made up of UM students, and other groups that include violinists, banjo players and instruments not usually included in bar bands.
“I want to eventually have entertainment on both Fridays and Saturdays,” said Suco. “Once I present a band or singer, I won’t have them back for months. I want to mix it up.”
Iko Iko leader Drout said, “We’ve been playing here for years, like at the River Festival. The Springs is such as nice place to play, nice people and everything is good. I considered buying a house here a few years ago.”
Drout said he is celebrating the 30-year anniversary of his group becoming Iko Iko after first performing as the Fat Chance Blues Band. Besides Drout, the band at Woody’s included Jeff Zabac on sax, Jea Skolnik on drums, original band member John Wenzel on lead guitar, and Mitch Mestel on bass guitar.
Although Iko Iko has been in movies and performed on soundtracks, the band has an avid local fan base and is widely known mainly from performing for years as the house band at Tobacco Road, which also has a cult-like following.
“I’ve been seeing Iko Iko for about 25-30 years,” said Fernando Diaz. “The last time was about a year ago. They may change members but they play consistently good blues.”
“My introduction to Iko Iko in the Springs was at the Festival,” said Terry Massa.
Peggy Collins said, “It’s the greatest band I ever saw. I first saw them at Tobacco Road many years ago.”
Aldo Legido said, “I’m a big fan. I’ve seen them 25 times or more. I have their first album on vinyl, before CDs. Graham and the guys all signed it.”
When asked if he still described his band’s sound as Urban Swamp Blues, Drout said, “Hell yeah!”