He was a co-founder of the Dazz Band, one of the great funk bands of the 80s, but he proved his versatility with a subsequent career in which he became the sought after jazz drummer for the stars. The music industry mourns the passing of drummer Isaac “Ike” Wiley.
With a name derived from the 1977 hit song “Dazz” by Brick, Kinsman Dazz (the successor to local bands Bell Telephunk and Ebony Sweat) burst onto the scene in 1978 with their own brand of Ohio funk. Their first two albums, on 20th Century Fox Records, resulted in a couple minor hits and began to gather a small following for the group. In 1980 the group, consisting of Wiley (drums), his brother Michael (bass), Bobby Harris, Mike Calhoun, singer/trumpeter Skip Martin, Eric Fearman, Ken Pettus, Kevin Frederick and Pierre DeMudd, shortened its name to The Dazz Band and signed with Motown Records.
The Dazz Band’s first two Motown albums didn’t do much better than their earlier releases, hitting the middle of the R&B charts. But that all changed with 1982’s Keep It Live, a funkier, club friendly album that included the uber-infectious dance hit “Let It Whip.” That single instantly turned the group into stars, topping the R&B and Dance charts and winning for The Dazz Band a Grammy for Best R&B Performance. It also began several years of chart strength, mostly consisting of upbeat hits that followed the template of “Let It Whip.” “Joystick,” “On the One for Fun” and “Let It All Blow” all hit the top ten and the accompanying albums were equally successful.
Wiley left the Dazz Band in 1985, but his career was just getting started. For the better part of the next decade he recorded and toured with up and coming jazz great Najee. And into the 21st century he toured as part of the band of jazz legend Stanley Clarke. Wiley also worked with Bob James and other jazz greats, fully establishing a legacy in his second musical genre.
Ike Wiley played a role in some of the most memorable music of the 1980s, and his talent and versatility will be celebrated for years to come.