New Orleans, Louisiana's Iguanas reflected the diversity of musical styles found in their home state by fusing blues, 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 Bugaloo in 1994, Panker was 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. ~ Richard Skelly