I remember the first time I picked up the microphone. It was 1991 at the Winking Lizard Tavern in Twinsburg, Ohio. I was young and brash. Chicken wings had just become popular and they were my food of choice. I was in my early twenties, too foolhardy to understand how many WeightWatchers points were in two dozen of the cholesteral-infused poultry pieces. And, I drank cheap draft beer by the pitcherful. That's when drinking was fun, not just a way to avoid giving the kids baths.
Something in that beer, possibly the alcohol, triggered a desire to jump up onto a tiny stage, and read a teleprompter set to music in front of a roomful of strangers. It was "follow the bouncing ball" for grown-ups and I loved it. Finally, there was a place for young drunks with bad voices to go and to feel like they truly belonged.
In those days, the list of songs available to choose from was sparse. I think you could either go with Louis Armstrong's Mac the Knife or Funky Cold Medina by Tone Loc. Because of my natually hip and cool personality, I chose the Mr. Loc standard for my karaoke debut. I was a bundle of nerves as I drank and ate and waited for the karaoke DJ to call my name. Amazingly, as soon as I was handed the microphone and the music started to play, my nervousness melted away. I was in another world. A world where you were accepted, even if you couldn't sing, or had a permed mullet, or drove your mom's Chevy Cavalier, or...okay, you get the picture.
As other establishments in and around northeast Ohio started to offer Karaoke, playlists expanded...and so did my personal karaoke repertoire. In fact, I had quite the karaoke following, even if they were my brother and three or four of our friends. I took my talents to places like Gatsby's in Mentor and Tommy's in Rocky River. I even played the Clarion Hotel lounge in Eastlake. I was two cities away from being a regional act.
Then, one night in 1993, I decided to shake things up. Tone Loc was getting stale. I stepped out of my hip hop confort zone and turned my name in for a little Loretta Lynn. "Coal Miner's Daughter" to be exact.
And, when I began..."Well, I was born a coal miner's daughter...," I knew there was no going back. Some found it humerous. Some appalling. Some didn't care. Others thought I was some kind of fruit loop.
I suppose it served its purpose - it generated a reaction from the crowd. Funky Cold Medina was dead. Coal Miner's Daughter was now my signature song on karaoke nights. Sure, I'd mix in some Johnny Cash or Led Zeppelin or The Doors...but, one thing hasn't changed for me over the many years. My first song of the night is always CMD.
Well a lot of things have changes since way back then. I got married, had kids and decided to start taking my career seriously. Not my karaoke career, the other one. It's been almost four years since my last karaoke night.
Some day I'll get back out there on that tiny stage. I don't know when. But, I've been preparing for it for a few years now. In my car I carry a list - I keep it hidden in my glove box.. Its a karaoke song list. Of songs I haven't tried before. If I hear something on the radio that requires limited to no vocal ability to pull off, I write it down. I'm currently at 18 songs and counting.
Some day I'll find a nice bar. I'll order some wings and a pitcher or two of cheap beer. Then I'll turn my song request in. It's what I do. And when I do, I hope you're there. You can't keep this coal miner's daughter away from the microphone forever.