Friday, September 10, 2010

Sweaty Betty Blues Band

Sweaty Betty from Pittsburgh Dance

Now where have you heard of the Sweaty Betty Blues Band? Well, heck, could be from anywhere locally.

If you follow the blues, Sweaty Betty has taken the stage at the Pittsburgh Blues Festival at Hartwood Acres, the Carnegie Blues Festival, the Indiana Music and Arts Festival and will play tomorrow at the First Annual Sharon Blues Festival.

They've entertained fans at PNC Park and Heinz Field. SBBB are regulars at Kelly's Riverside Inn in Bridgewater, Rochester's Hollywood Gardens and North Side's Park House along with many of the regional and City clubs. And hey, if you have a hall that needs some action, well, they've probably been there, too.

Marcy Brown - Sweaty Betty herself - was the ringleader of the popular annual "Bye Week Blues" festivals for the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank at Moondog's Pub in Blawnox, going on since 2006 to provide an outlet when the Steelers are off. It's October 10th this year.

They've also performed for the benefit of the Special Olympics in Allegheny and Lawrence Counties and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research organizations.

The band formed after Marcy Brown met her future hubby Bill through Yahoo Personals. Hey, it is the internet age. Things went along swimmingly, they found out that they shared a musical background - Marcy was a vocalist with Jack Purcell, and Bill was a rock drummer - and nature took its course.

Neither wanted to become another classic rock band, so they opted for Bill's decades-old love, the blues. He was a fan of Stevie Ray Vaughan, but liked the old guard: Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Big Joe Turner.

Sweaty Betty put together a playlist from old-school bluesmen like Slim Harpo, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Big Joe, and company.

And they're not a blues-as-an-artform band; they do great slow tempo stuff, but are known for getting folk on the dance floor, a dying art in today's music scene.

Lindy Hop dancers regularly book Sweaty Betty for their events. They play jump blues tunes. And heck, shuffle dancers adore the band; Marcy Brown says they even go out of their way to avoid shuffles when adding new songs because they perform so many now.

And they can get a bit playful, too, with double-entendre tunes like "Dirty Old Woman" and "Little Beef on the Side." Guitarist Max Schang will even throw in a riff from a TV theme like "Green Acres," "Mr. Ed" or "The Flintstones" just to see if the crowd is paying attention.

The Sweaty Betty Band:

Marcy Brown, the lead vocalist, is a Maryland native who played lacrosse at the University of Maryland (she was a star high school player). Brown also was a DJ in Ocean City, Maryland, before taking to the stage.

She performed for 15 years with Pittsburgh's Jack Purcell Orchestra, a 12-piece Big Band, singing jazz standards. She has sung the National Anthem for the Pittsburgh Pirates five times, and performed with everything from wedding to rock bands in between.

"Too Tall" Bill Brown has performed as a drummer and vocalist for over 30 years in rock bands in the Butler and Kittanning areas, and is a veteran of the regional rock scene.

Lead guitar player and vocalist "Blue Max" Schang from Sharon has the group's most varied resume. He studied classical guitar and participated in seminars with guitarists Howard Roberts, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis and Pat Martino.

Schang went on to found the Jazz/Rock group Crown Vetch with George Grexa in 1974, and played with the the nationally recorded Mahoning Valley rock group Blue Ash in 1976. He performed as a member of the Erin Burkett Group in Pittsburgh, and was a blues band booking agent/promoter from 1990 - 2000.

He performed on two European tours with Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang, which featured members of Howlin' Wolf's old band. He has performed in five Chicago Blues Festivals, including three on the main stage with Eddie Shaw. In 2000, he released the CD "All These Years: Blue Max Schang."

"Blue Max" also sits in with the E.G. Kight band and the Billy Price Band. He regularly performs in his stomping grounds, the Mahoning Valley, and in the region, with his own band.

Schang replaced long-time guitarist George Kalazantis, who lost his day job and moved to Chicago after five years with Sweaty Betty.

The keyboard player, John DeCola, is from Slippery Rock. John is a seasoned musician who also performs with several local bands and singers like Christopher Jones.

Jim Spears, the bassist, is from Butler by way of LA. He's performed with a mix of national and local artists like Leslie Gore, B.E. Taylor, Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Platters, Sputzy & The Soul Providers, Tommy Roe, Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers, and 8th Street Rox.

He currently plays with the Vanilla Soul Revue, Soul Patrol, and his jazz group, Uptown Combo.

So hey, there are the players. And if you're ready for a little three-stepping to the jump blues, look up Sweaty Betty.

Sweaty Betty - "Tore Down"

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