I did it. I have officially sung karaoke in the 48 continental states. Being a researcher, of course, I feel the need to provide you with some data about my trip. Well, here it is:
Miles traveled: 17,774
States visited: 48
Provinces visited: 2 (Ontario and Quebec; I only sang in the former)
Number of days on the road: 99
Number of nights alone in a hotel: 17
Number of friends who let me crash at their place: 17
Number of karaoke venues: 53 (the 48 states, plus an extra in ID, LA and IL, plus Toronto and DC).
Number of times I sang: 129
Most common artist: Blondie (11 times, 5 different songs), followed by Fleetwood Mac (8 times, 4 different songs)
Most common song: Dreams (Fleetwood Mac) and Heart of Glass (Blondie) each done 4 times.
Number of different songs sung: 104
I sang in dive bars, strip mall bars, college bars, dedicated karaoke bars (but never in a private room, gay bars, an Eagle’s Lodge, an American Legion, and outdoors twice. I sang to a live band (Utah) and a church organ (Georgia). I sang in cities, rural areas, tourist towns, and suburbs.
As time goes on, I’m going to gather my thoughts about my experiences singing, driving across the country, and life in general. Since I spent most of the journey avoiding interstates, and spent most of my time in local hangouts, drinking local beer where possible, I feel like I’ve gained a larger understanding of this country. It’s by no means complete, nor could it ever be. But this trip has taught me a lot about a lot. I look forward to processing it and sharing it with you.
If you have any questions about the trip or want to hear about anything, leave me a comment or message me! Thanks for sharing my journey with me so far.
Karaoke started at 7:30 on a Friday night, which made sense given that the average age of the patrons was 72. We arrived on time, and the room was already full, so we took a seat in the back, at a high bar table (the low, cafeteria-style places were all taken). The popularity of the place shouldn’t have surprised us, for all the spaces at the entrance to SOB’s (the lounge portion of Sweet Old Bob’s) were all full-up with American cars, including a Buick with a license plate that read “Hot Mamma” and a van declaring itself the “Lil Love Shack.”
I put a song in right away, placing me in an already-deep rotation. My friend goes up and tells the KJs (who it turns out are the owners of the Love Shack) about my journey. The female half immediately sits down at the largest table of regulars and spreads the news. They look in my direction – some clap, others nod and smile.
Crooners dominate the stage, singing mostly old-school country. Though I didn’t know many of the songs, I recognized Anne Murray, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Willie Nelson among the selections. Among the more contemporary were Chris Issac and America’s “Sister Golden Hair.” The rotation scrolled along the bottom of the prompter. After the list of weekly venues the KJ duo works, and after advertising that they sell fresh eggs for $3 a dozen. My Kokane arrives and I enjoy the music.
I sing the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” and with that, the first step of the MelOdyssey is complete. A woman with a little plastic surgery and a lot of rhinestones comes up to thank me for bringing back memories. Everyone is very nice here, welcoming both friends and strangers into the room. A woman who goes by “Mom” (is she the one with the vanity plate?) comes up to us every so often make sure we are having fun because, “That’s what this night’s for – having fun.” She’s 88. Her daughter drinks coffee all night so that Mom can enjoy her time in the spotlight.
My friend’s mom is evidence of the fun we’re having by being the most enthusiastic dancer in the room, though she is far from alone in her desire to move. Many couples and singles moved across the dance floor throughout the night. The line dancers came out a few times, too. I’m moved to tears when a man sings as the microphone shakes in his hands during “Take These Chains from My Heart” by Hank Williams. The inconsistency of the microphone’s distance from his voice creates an unintended warbling effect that makes the song that much more beautiful. For me, it’s a sign that people will come out and sing until they can’t anymore.
Location: Spokane, WA
Miles traveled: 355
Songs sung: Be My Baby: The Ronettes; Let Me Be There: Olivia Newton-John; Long Train Runnin’: The Doobie Brothers.