Olga Watkins Band
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Olga Watkins Band

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2003 | SELF

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2003
Band Blues Funk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Steelers songs fuel fans' playoff drive, talent"

Olga Watkins was walking through the Strip District when she saw a $5 T-shirt that piqued her interest.

A few days later a new Steelers-themed song was born. With Jay Weaver from the Olga Watkins Band, the singer wrote music and lyrics based on the slogan emblazoned on the shirt — "Drink Up Yinz ..." — turning it into a rallying cry for fans of the Black-and-Gold.

"Some of my lyrics tend to be pretty irreverent," says Watkins, a Highland Park resident.

"Drink Up," which has the air of an Irish drinking song, was updated this week to poke fun at the New York Jets, the Steelers' opponent in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.

"We've had a thousand hits on the website (olgawatkinsband.com), and we've had hundreds of downloads," Watkins says.

Since the mid-1970s, when Jimmy Pol took the melody of "The Pennsylvania Polka" and wrote lyrics about Rocky Bleier, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and Gerela's Gorillas, a cottage industry emerges when the Steelers make the playoffs.

"We get new submissions every day," says Val Porter, music director at WDVE-FM, where "Drink Up" and a new version of the "Steelers Polka" by local band Gene the Werewolf are getting substantial airplay. "Once (the Steelers) make the playoffs, we start getting hammered with them."

Pol's "Steelers Polka" set the tone for other songs, including "Here We Go," by Roger Wood in 1994, and "Go Steelers" by Kardaz, which debuted when the team was making its Super Bowl run in 1995. Set to the music of Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters," the song is updated every year the team makes the playoffs.

"We just look at the roster and try to put as many names of players as we can in there," says Kardaz keyboardist and arranger Bob Kardasz, who with his brother Chris has been in the Beaver County-based band for more than 30 years.

This year's version includes nods to veterans Ben Roethlisberger, James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward, and newer players Isaac Redmon, Mike Wallace and Maurkice Pouncey, whose shout out is accented with the words "Pro Bowl!" Even new kicker Shaun Suisham is in the mix, substituting for the departed Jeff Reed.

The band gets requests for "Go Steelers" as soon as it becomes apparent the team will make the playoffs.

"People want to party and celebrate, especially as we get closer to the Super Bowl," Bob Kardasz says.

Gene the Werewolf lead singer Jon Belan -- who takes on the persona of the slick playboy-like singer Gene in the group -- says the decision to re-record Pol's classic song with updated lyrics came after the regular season ended.

The band traveled to Innovation Studios in Steubenville, Ohio, to record the version with engineer Mike Ofca, who worked on the band's previous album. Gene the Werewolf's take on the "Steelers Polka" is a bit wilder and more revved up than Pol's original, with Belan singing the verses in falsetto.

If there's one thing all Steelers songwriters share, it's acknowledging that Polamalu's name is a lyrical gift.

"You couldn't have picked better syllables when you're writing a song," Belan says.

Steeler Nation Radio

In 2005, Mt. Lebanon resident Paul Carosi launched Steeler Nation Radio at radiofreetunes.com, a site that features songs about the team.

"I created the (site) to connect with Steelers fans around the world," says Carosi, who notes a MySpace link to Steeler Nation Radio has more than 4,000 friends.

Among songs are "Steeler Nation" by the Granati Brothers, "Calling Steeler Nation" by Mike Stout, Dusty Drake's "The 12th Man Song" and "Puhlahmahlu" by Mr. Devious.

Read more: Steelers songs fuel fans' playoff drive, talent - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/ae/music/s_719310.html#ixzz1GcKn9YBh - Pittsburgh Tribune Review

"The Olga Watkins Band"

The Olga Watkins Band, voted “Best Blues/Jazz Band or Performer 2010” in Pittsburgh by readers of the Pittsburgh City Paper, is based in Pittsburgh, PA and was formed in 2003 as a vehicle for vocalist Olga Watkins to reenter the local music scene after a ten year hiatus.

The band’s initial focus was on polishing their performance of various jazz, blues and soul standards and working as often as possible at events and in venues that featured music of those genres. With the evolution of the band members was the chemistry that allowed for the development and subsequent performance of Olga’s original songs. “Long Time Coming” the band’s first, full length, self produced, studio CD, released in April 2009, is a collection of ten of those original songs as well as two covers; one, Paul Desmond’s “Take Five” with original lyrics by Olga Watkins and the other, a band favorite, “God Bless the Child”, the timeless classic by Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog.
“Long Time Coming” is selling on itunes, Amazon, Mp3, www.olgawatkinsband.com, Rhapsody and all other mainstream digital download sites via Songcast.
The band features Subha Das on drums and percussion, Jay Weaver on guitar, Mason Embry on organ and piano and Brian Sanders on the bass. All songs were arranged by the Olga Watkins Band with all the background vocals by Watkins. The first track, “Why”,a rock steady tune with a hint of reggae and a bridge that brings to mind a taste of the band No Doubt, is the only track to feature guests artists. On trombone is Reggie Watkins, former music director for the Maynard Ferguson Band, currently on tour with Jason Mraz and Grooveline Horns and younger brother to Olga. Local music educator and composer Ray Strobel makes his contribution on trumpet and Rick Matt, local musician and music therapist plays saxophone and flute. All the original songs on the CD tell some seemingly personal stories, be they funny, good, bad or ugly, and often with irreverent lyrics. “It’s a Lie”, “Run Around Blues” and “Bad Dog” are frequent crowd favorites. Although “It’s a Lie” is a clear reference to a man or men in her life, “Bad Dog” is said to be about some actual canines with which she’s acquainted. The last track, “Ella’s Lullaby” is an acoustic duo with Jay Weaver on guitar. The CD was recorded and mixed at Sound Color Studios in Mt. Lebanon, PA, a teaching and recording studio owned and operated by the band’s guitarist, Jay Weaver. Playing bass with the band since the November 2008 is bassist, songwriter and choir director from Sewickley, PA, Brian Sanders.
Olga Watkins and the Olga Watkins Band, also voted second Best Blues Band in the Pittsburgh City Paper’s 2009 reader’s poll, have been featured in USA Today, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The Pittsburgh Tribune Review, The Pittsburgh City Paper, Pittsburgh Magazine, Pittsburgh Downtowner Magazine, Ohio Valley Magazine, the Wheeling News Register, the Sewickley Herald, the Washington, PA Observer-Reporter, the Beaver County Times, the Pittsburgh Courier, Taste of Pittsburgh Magazine and on websites and blogs ranging from the local www.Zbands.com to Asia One’s www.shosiok.com.

The OWB performs their original show, most often as a quartet, sometimes with horns and back up vocalists, in venues and for events and organizations including but not limited to Heinz Field, PNC Park, The Rivers Casino for the Pittsburgh City Paper “Best Of” Party, Molly Brannigan’s in Mt. Lebanon, PA, Little E’s Jazz & Blues Club in Pittsburgh, PA and Hollywood Gardens Bar in Rochester, PA, as featured guests on Pittsburgh Today Live on KDKA TV, 96.9 Bob FM Mellon Square Music Series, 92.9 FM Toys for Tots Christmas Show, Pittsburgh Citiparks Riverview Jazz Series, Westmoreland Arts Festival, Greendance Winery Summer Music Series, Pittsburgh Cabaret Theater, Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret, Highland Park Festival, Urban Fusion Live, Annual Food & Wine Show in York, PA, Pittsburgh City Paper’s Sound Kitchen Series, Three Rivers Arts Festival, Challenge the Champions for Every Child Inc., Annual Uncorked Gala for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Mars Youth Home Annual Steelers Meet & Greet, Steelers All Stars for the Thomas E. Starzl Transplantation Foundation at UMPC, Pittsburgh Fallen Heroes Fund (multiple concerts), Pittsburgh United Artists for Christ, Pittsburgh Dilworth Elementary Music Department, Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind, Musician’s Katrina Fundraiser, Glen Montessori Annual Gala, Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Gala and Annual Wine and Dine in the Park and the CFF & AMD Chocolate and Martini Gala. The band has also performed many shows for Oglebay Institute and Towngate Theater in Wheeling, WV and has been the featured act of many local and regional music series, festivals and television and radio events, and hundreds if not thousands of charitable events, private parties, corporate events and weddings.
The Olga Watkins Band is focused on developing original music for live performances in clubs and for festivals and concerts as well as for commercial licensing opportunities. - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

"Best Jazz/Blues Band or Performer"

After a short stint at Chatham College on a music scholarship in the early '90s, Wheeling, W.Va., native Olga Watkins set out for Chicago to sing opera -- and wasn't particularly fond of the job.

"I just hated it," she recalls.

She returned to Pittsburgh, then set off on a series of jobs that would take her across the hospitality industry: working on an Air Force base, in restaurants and as a caterer. Music didn't figure as much in her life. But in the early 2000s, Watkins decided to get back into the game.

Having gotten married (to CP readers' choice for best bartender this year, Mark Miller of Monterey Pub) and now raising a child, "I didn't want to tell my daughter about what I did when I was young," Watkins says. "I didn't want to be one of those 'used-to-be' singers. ... I had to get it in gear."

She began playing with local musicians she met through her brother, Reggie, a noted local trombonist. The band that's now The Olga Watkins Band has taken numerous forms, with musicians dropping in and out. (It's sustained a name change, from Soul Kitchen, as well.) Besides Watkins and Subha Das, the current band includes bassist Jason Hollar and guitarist Jay Weaver.

The band has also gone from playing only jazz standards to writing its own songs. Early this year, the band released Long Time Coming, a CD featuring several originals along with a few classics, including an arrangement of Paul Desmond's famous "Take Five," for which Watkins wrote lyrics. ("I wrote it on a dare, basically, from [local jazz pianist] Craig Davis," she explains.)

It's not just jazz, and not just blues: The cover of Long Time Coming calls the band's music "original soul, blues and funk," and the opening track introduces some rocksteady to the mix as well.

Watkins isn't interested in being pigeonholed: "When we sell our music on the web, it's sometimes categorized as 'Adult Contemporary,' but I don't like that. It sounds like a section of the library." Instead, she worries about doing things right.

"Our primary focus is on performing our show, wherever it may be -- a festival or a bigger venue or a small club, headlining or opening," Watkins says. "We concentrate on our show." - Pittsburgh City Paper


Still working on that hot first release.


Feeling a bit camera shy


The Olga Watkins Band has been performing together since 2003. Their original music combines influences of  blues, funk, soul, jazz, reggae and rock into a truly unique sound. They have been voted the Best Blues/Jazz Band of the year in the Pittsburgh City Paper on multiple occasions. They perform throughout the Pittsburgh and surrounding areas at clubs, events, fundraisers and festivals.

Band Members