Johnny Iguana grew up in Philadelphia, where he studied piano from age eight and played piano and organ in blues bands from age 16. He moved to New York City at age 22, where he met one of his greatest musical heroes, Junior Wells. He was hired by Junior after auditioning live at the Boston House of Blues, and moved to Chicago in February 1994. He toured with the Junior Wells Band for three years, performing in the U.S., Canada, South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Johnny has appeared on album with Junior (the Grammy-nominated “Live at Buddy Guy’s Legends” and “Live Around the World”), Carey Bell (the W.C. Handy Award-winning “Good Luck Man”), Koko Taylor, Lil’ Ed, Matthew Skoller, Eddie Shaw and many others. He is the piano player in the Chicago Blues: A Living History band and has performed on both their 2-CD recordings (which netted multiple Grammy and Blues Music Award nominations) and all their tours. His fellow musicians in that group: Billy Boy Arnold, John Primer, Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, Carlos Johnson, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, Felton Crews and Billy Flynn with special guests including Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Magic Slim. He has performed on stage with nearly all of the above plus Otis Rush, Lonnie Brooks, Sugar Blue, Otis Clay, Van Morrison, Jeff Healy and more. (See the discography page on this website for many more albums featuring Johnny). Most recently, Johnny played on a third Grammy-nominated album: Muddy Waters 100; Johnny is the touring piano player for that band as well.
All along, Johnny (often as Iguana or Ig) has also had his own decidedly non-blues rock bands, usually playing his distinctively grimy overdriven organ. First came Stevie Lizard & His All-Reptile Orchestra (late ’90s). Then came the nationwide cult favorite oh my god (see discography and press quotes), who have toured and recorded since 2000. His band Them vs. Them, formed with JQ of the Q Brothers, recorded and performed between 2005 and 2008. The synth-fueled Software Giant came next.
Since late 2010, Johnny has been recording and touring with his burlesque-blues band the Claudettes, releasing their first album (“Infernal Piano Plot…HATCHED!”) on the Memphis label Yellow Dog Records in late 2013 and their second in 2015 (“No Hotel”). To hear the Claudettes’ “Cosmic Cartoon Music,” to watch some great live video and to read all about the bizarre-but-true story of the Claudettes’ formation, go to their Yellow Dog Records page.
A short list of Johnny’s major musical inspirations: Otis Spann, Jay McShann, Ray Charles, Mose Allison, Bobby Timmons, Mike Watt, Bob Mould, Joe Strummer, Captain Beefheart and the near, dear, late, great Junior Wells. Johnny is a proud carrier of tradition (including the Chicago blues that uprooted him from his East Coast home and planted him firmly in the Windy City) but is even more proud to have developed abusive organ tones and a highly rhythmic, very “in-the-moment” piano style that sounds like no one else.