Born: Birmingham, AL

Jazz Vocals

Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame

Ona's Music Room

Ona Watson established his first Music Room in 1997. Ona Watson established it because he felt Birmingham had a need for additional venues for musical artists. He wanted the place to be home for a variety of musical styles and for that reason, he chose the name "Music Room." It's a place for all kinds of good music. Music that evokes emotion and make people feel good.

on watsonMusic has long been part of Watson's life. The son of a minister, he began singing in the church choir at age thirteen. He loved music and would spend hours listening to it and singing while other kids were playing basketball. He recalls that he and friends would often sing on street corners just for their own entertainment and pleasure. His older brother would occasionally sneak Watson into clubs to allow him to listen to the groups.

In elementary school Watson played horn, under the direction of Dr. Frank Adams. The band needed a trombone player so Watson became a trombonist to help fill the void. Later in his school years, he concentrated not on instruments but on singing. He became the lead singer for the group "Alpaca" and recalls times singing with the group when payment was $5 a night and all the hamburgers you could eat. He spent time on the road with the group, making a route of Charleston, Boston, and New York. He wasn't performing for the money but for the sake of performing. He said he hadn't realized, in his youth, people were paid to sing--he just liked to sing.

In early years, Watson primarily listened to the popular music of the time, and emulated the popular singers. As he grew older, he received guidance from a number of experienced local artists and studied the works of legendary artists such as Johnny Mathis, Frank Sinatra and Al Jarreau. Watson was encouraged and determined to spend more time listening to the “classic” singers of the forties and fifties. These influences greatly contributed to shaping Watson’s ability to handle groove tunes along with contemporary ballads.

Watson had a desire to teach because he loves kids and wanted to contribute to shaping young lives. However, the demands of music with respect to practicing, performing and perfecting one's skills left time for little else. Watson says a successful musician has to have a drive, a fire in the belly about music, and must be willing to devote a great deal of time to it. He had that drive and knew as a teacher his available time for music would be restricted therefore he felt he had to choose one or the other. He chose to pursue music.

In 1986, Watson was the youngest person ever inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. He performs in a variety of venues, from occasional private bookings to opening a show for a headliner. His biography lists co-performances with Phyllis Hyman, Nell Carter, Eddie Kendrick, Bobby Womack, and Grover Washington.

Watson's love of music inspired the design of Ona's Music Room. He is personally aware that some clubs have distractions: people dining and chatting, televisions playing and the noise of arcade games. The stage is usually relegated to a small corner of the room. He intentionally eliminates these distractions at Ona's Music Room, where the focus is on music. That's why the stage is centered, why drinks are served but not food, and why there's only one television -- and that television is not on during performances.

The clientele of Ona's usually prefers dressy attire…and sometimes casual, but not too casual. Athletic attire and head bandanas are prohibited. The dress code lends itself well to the ambiance of the room…a sense that you're in a nightclub. Watson wants people to view the room as a friendly place, a comfortable room where a variety of people can feel at home.

On the wall of the hallway, you'll find photos of Watson, renowned performers, supporters, local artists, TV personalities and dignitaries.

Watson has been commended for his contributions to the entertainment community in Birmingham. He is recognized as being a champion of worthwhile causes, devoting his life’s work in pursuit of entertaining, inspiring and motivating others and for choosing Birmingham to practice his genius.

Ona’s Music Room has been named the “best Jazz Club” in Birmingham by Birmingham Magazine, one of the top “10 Jazzy Places” in the country by USA Today and commended by the State of Alabama for its positive impact on the community.

The establishment of Ona's Music Room marked the attainment of a goal. In 2010, After 13 years at the 20th Street location, change was eminent. Watson closed the old Ona’s Music Room location and began his new project at Pepper Place. In January of 2011 Watson established Ona’s Music Room at Pepper Place. New place, new style, new adventure. However, Watson still is forever embracing the familiar theme that music fans love. Ona's Music Room at Pepper place… a great place to enjoy music, where the emphasis is always on music.





More info:

Video: Taylor Hicks sings "Woman's Gotta Have It" with Ona Watson at Workplay

Video: Ona Watson & Champange LIVE in Ona's Music Room Jan.2013

Video: ona watson falling in love again


Amazon: Ona Watson

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