Greazy Keyz – Keyboardist for the Charlotte Checkers Hockey Organization – Musician
Greazy Keyz is a much beloved musician with a cult following in the City of Charlotte. Famous as a stadium organist, he sits behind the mighty Bojangles Coliseum keyboard at every Charlotte Checkers home game. He provides both musical entertainment and crowd energy making him central to the stadium vibe. In his 9+ season with the Checkers, Greazy Keyz has become a local sensation.
As the players line up, looking left at the flag, they see a man with long black hair and dark sunglasses. He may look like any other hockey fan in his Checkers jersey, but he’s the only one with a powerful organ at his fingertips. As Greazy Keyz plays the Organ he hits every note with precision and adds a little flair to keep things interesting. He receives a loud round of applause after every rendition, and he keeps rocking during the game with a range of diverse tunes.
A good hockey game is about more than sports; it’s about energy and passion. Greazy Keyz has those attributes in bucketloads, and the crowd is very much on his side. He’s the coolest man in the Coliseum during every game, and fans have made him one of their own. By his own admission, Greazy is not a huge sports fan, but in a city that lives and breathes hockey, he has become one of Charlotte’s most important players.
Greazy Keyz — the name and legend
Greazy Keyz is known by his parents as Jason Atkins. He was born in Greenville, South Carolina, and he’s always had a passion for music. His dad brought home a 1920s piano when Jason was a kid, and it wasn’t long before he was playing it. He started by copying his mom, quickly learning piano and picking up other keyboard instruments along the way. He went to Mauldin High School in South Carolina and attended the Fine Arts Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Greazy Keyz has come a long way since that broken-down piano, which “was forever a half-step out of tune.” Today, he gets to play a Hammond C3 in front of thousands, which is Atkins’s favorite instrument. “It’s the pinnacle of keyboard instruments, and the cornerstone keyboard used on every genre of American music since it was invented in the 1940s,” said Atkins.
Atkins took on the Greazy Keyz name almost by accident, having used it as his email address for many years. It became his nickname and then his stage name, representing his favorite instrument family and unique style of music. In a city where sports stars get all the love, the Greazy Keyz name is well and truly in the spotlight.
Now aged 44, Atkins continues to live his dream as a full-time professional keyboardist. Greazy Keyz was hired by the Charlotte Checkers in 2015 and the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers in 2019, and he also plays music for the Charlotte Knights.
Life outside the stadium
When he’s not entertaining thousands of screaming sports fans, Atkins hosts Charlotte’s longest-running open mic night at Smokey Joe’s Café. He also plays other gigs across the city, and even does weddings and private events from time to time. After moving to sports-mad Charlotte in 1997, he’s played keys in over 100 local bands and recorded more than 1,000 songs. Atkins is not limited to the organ, with his talent stretching much further. He also plays the guitar, bass, harmonica, and accordion, often playing multiple instruments in a single show.
The famous Greazy Keytar
You can’t talk about Greazy Keyz without mentioning the keytar. This strap-on keyboard instrument is worn across the shoulders, giving the player complete freedom to prance around and strut their stuff. The Greazy Keyz keytar story was never supposed to happen, with Atkins supposed to have the night off when a game went into triple overtime. Feeling the city buzz from his lounge room, he grabbed his keytar and drove to the Coliseum.
As you can imagine, the crowd went absolutely nuts when Greazy Keyz performed his magic on the run. “During one of the whistles, I strapped it on and started running around the Coliseum and the crowd went crazy,” said Atkins, adding, “It was a unique and eclectic way to pump up a crowd in what turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime game.” The Checkers fans went crazy, and the keytar is now brought out at special moments.
Jason Atkins loves his role, which lies somewhere between chief musician and chief team ambassador. Greazy Keyz sits above the ice rink in an accessible location, interacting with fans and taking on requests. Whether he’s performing the national anthem, playing old-school R&B, or laying down some classic rock, Greazy Keyz is loved by sports fans and music lovers from Charlotte and beyond.
You can check out our recent interview with Greazy Keyz right here at rBeatz.com/watch.