Iko-Iko's Graham Drout: "I'm Being Dubbed the New Willie Dixon!" | County Grind | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


Iko-Iko's Graham Drout: "I'm Being Dubbed the New Willie Dixon!"

No matter that he's been awake some 36 hours straight, Graham Drout finds himself traveling the roads of America's Deep South, symbolically following in the footsteps of many of his blues idols. He's working his way back from Memphis, where his band Iko-Iko ably represented the South Florida Blues Society in the 2015 International Blues Challenge. "I can hear the ocean in my head," he swears as that endless highway brings him closer to home.

Despite the fact that Iko-Iko wasn't given the opportunity to advance to the finals, Drout still finds reason to be proud. According to him, the band still managed to make a favorable impression, and its new album, Bullets in the Bonfire Vol. 1, has climbed to the top of the blues polls in the weeks since its release. The chance to network with DJs, promoters, and other performers during the group's stay in Memphis made the time spent there a profitable experience.

"Winston Churchill said, 'Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm,'" Drout recalls, turning philosophical. "We had to win to get there, so in reality, we arrived having already won."


Drout has good cause for optimism. "I'm being dubbed 'The new Willie Dixon' in the blues press," the singer/guitarist proclaims. "All you need is one reviewer to say it and the rest will cut and paste me into the history books."

If Drout seems to be overstating the case, then perhaps it's for good reason. Bullets in the Bonfire is not only the band's first new album in more than six years but it's also the first to focus mainly on Drout's original compositions. It's an outstanding set of songs, one that's filled with the kind of skill and diversity that goes well beyond any single-minded style.

"I wanted to be a songwriter when I was still riding my bike with training wheels," Drout explains. "I chose the songs that best represented my Gulf Coast Americana theme. New Orleans and the South. No singer/songwriter stuff. Party-poppin' music for the most part. I also used the CD to put my name out in front, to let people know that I write the songs. I chose the title Bullets in the Bonfire from an experience I had while attending a Boy Scout camp out in Texas many years ago. I put Vol. 1 in front of it because I just might release a singer/songwriter CD someday, and I always dig the volume ones. Best stuff right off the top."

While Drout is clearly happy to seize the spotlight, he's also gracious in giving kudos to the competition. "The big winner at this year's IBC was a guitarist and singer named Eddie Cotton from Mississippi," he says, putting the emphasis on the champion's state of origin. "When I saw Eddie perform at the competition, I said, 'There it is! Here's our winner.' And then he won. The down-home blues is a black thing. It's a Mississippi thing. Iko-Iko can only play the notes. The Mississippi guys are the music. When I got to sing my songs at Red's Place in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the folks liked my songs. But when a 16-year-old local guitar slinger and blues singer named Kingfish got up after me, I was soon forgotten."

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Lee Zimmerman

Latest Stories