LOS ANGELES >> The little kid stood right in front of the stage, his eyes fixed on Joe Mailander. The kid mirrored Mailander, one of the guys onstage in the Okee Dokee Brothers, down to the plaid shirt, pint-size fedora and toy guitar with steel strings and capo, no less. He mouthed every word that Mailander sang. Between songs, the kid tried to tune his guitar, just like Mailander did.
Mailander has seen it before. Many times, in fact.
“I’d say it happens 50 percent of the time,” Mailander said of young fans who imitate him and fellow Okee Dokee bro Justin Lansing.
Yes, kids’ music stars have their own groupies. No matter where they play.
On that morning, it was Lucky Strike bowling alley in Hollywood. A week earlier, it was Lincoln Center — yep, prestigious Lincoln Center — in New York City. On March 18, the Okee Dokee Brothers performed by the aquarium at the Minnesota Zoo. The next day, the Minneapolis-based duo was in concert at Orchestra Hall with the Minnesota Orchestra.
Welcome to the world of kids’ music. It’s a field in which the Okees have become big-time contenders. Each of their past three albums has been nominated for a Grammy, an uncommon run in the modern era of this particular genre. The duo snared the Grammy once, with their first nomination for “Can You Canoe?” in 2013.
At the zoo, the Okees introduced their latest song, “Countin’ on Me,” commissioned by the zoo to help promote animal conservation projects. It took some back and forth with zoo folks.
“It was learning the technical terms,” said Mailander. “We had ‘buffalo’…