Ted Z and the Wranglers Are Ready to Ride

Categories: Locals Only

Lindsey Duffek
If there's such a thing as a high-functioning rock band, Ted Z and the Wranglers are it. Since getting serious as a band a couple of years ago, they've been on a creative tear, with a debut LP released last year, an EP in January and another EP dropping this month. "I still have more songs," says Ted Zakka, the group's front man and primary songwriter. "I'm actually starting another full-length. I figure the more music I get to people, the better, instead of just waiting."

And these aren't one-take, raw-and-rowdy fuzz/punk recordings. The Wranglers root themselves in the realm of cowboy Americana, a sound more akin to Nashville than SoCal, and they employ the genre's requisite high level of musicianship, with band members flexing their chops, reminiscent of the famous Nashville A-Team session crew that backed Elvis, Dylan, Patsy Kline--basically everyone who had a country hit in the '50s, '60s and '70s.

Unlike most session ensembles, however, Zakka's band are mostly his old friends. He has worked on and off with guitarist/harmonica player Mike Leyton since they were high school pals in Newport Beach in the late '90s, playing reggae-punk together. He has known bassist Dan Mages (a local philosophy professor) even longer, since his elementary-school days.

Zakka, who for years was primarily a bassist in the band Handsome G, has been teaching the comparatively inexperienced Mages his way around the instrument, coaching him until he could hang with the rest of the band. The seat behind the drums, however--as is the case in about every local band in the history of music--was the toughest spot to fill, but Zakka hit the jackpot last year with Mike Myers, a hard-hitting skins player who sings a high harmony. As if they need it, they've added even more instrumental clout by signing up reigning Guitar Center blues-guitar champion Jackson Leverone.

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