Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band

The Olympia Brass Band was one of the most prominent bands in New Orleans from the 1960s to the 1980s, led by saxophonist Harold “Duke” Dejan (February 4, 1909 – July 5, 2002), who had played jazz and brass band music since the 1920s.

Olympia began by playing traditional repertoire in the style of earlier brass bands (Eureka, Onward, Tuxedo), but modernized the style through the introduction of contemporary rhythm & blues. Trumpeter and co-leader Milton Battiste (1934-2001) was responsible for the new sounds after joining in 1962.

Olympia also opened up the brass and tradition to new audiences. They were the first brass band to tour extensively, starting in the late 1960s. They also played in nightclubs and Preservation Hall and were featured in television commercials, sporting events, national and international tours.

Olympia continued to play traditional jazz funerals and second line parades, and they are believed to be the first band to eschew the traditional uniform for matching T-shirts with the band’s logo. Changes such as these paved the way for later bands like Dirty Dozen and Rebirth to integrate contemporary popular musical styles and repertoire.

The Olympia Brass Band continued to play into the late 1990s and early 2000s, and provided the music for Harold Dejan’s funeral parade in 2002. Along the way, the band served as a training ground for many young musicians in New Orleans.

Membership at various times included Harold Dejan, (saxophone), Willie Humphrey and Joseph Torregano (clarinet), Milton Batiste (trumpet), George Colar (trumpet), Paul Crawford (trombone), Wendell Eugene (trombone), Allan Jaffe (sousaphone), Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen (sousaphone), Jeffrey Hills (sousaphone), Leroy Breaux (snare drum), Kerry Hunter (snare drum), Henry Glass (bass drum), and Cayetano Hingle (bass drum).

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