February 05, 2020

Article at Graham on Authory

The hills are alive with the sound of my voice

OPINION

By GRAHAM OSTEEN

Image Caption

For someone who loves music as much as I do, you’d think I’d be able to sing.

But I can’t. Not even a little.

Once upon a time on a newspaper trip to Houston, Texas, I was the next contestant in line to sing karaoke at a rowdy cowboy bar. My wife looked at me and said these words: “If you do this, I swear I will leave you.” 

I didn’t do it. That was probably 25 years ago, and we’ve been married 31 years, so discretion that night obviously bought me some more time. 

Last weekend we were out with another couple in beautiful historic downtown Georgetown, and the failed Texas karaoke story came up. The wife is a rabble-rouser from the hills of North Carolina. She’s from Wilkes County, where legendary race car driver and moonshiner Junior Johnson is from, so she gets it honestly. 

She said it was a shame I hadn’t realized my dream of singing in public, and that I should be brave and follow my dreams.

Turns out it was karaoke night at a local bar, so the four of us set out to see what was going on.

There was a small crowd, and when we arrived there was a black guy singing Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” to a group of women, one of whom was clearly the birthday girl. He was so bad that it actually gave me confidence to try out my pipes in public. Plus I didn’t see anyone I knew.

Since the great musician and songwriter J.J. Cale died recently, I decided to perform a song that he wrote and Eric Clapton made famous – “After Midnight.”

The lyrics, as all musical aficionados know, are pretty straightforward, and there are long instrumental stretches where you can just stalk around the stage like a serious rock ‘n roll front man. It goes like this:

After midnight, we're gonna let it all hang out

After midnight, we're gonna chug-a-lug and shout

We're gonna cause talk and suspicion

Give an exhibition

Find out what it is all about

After midnight, we're gonna let it all hang out

After midnight, gonna shake your tambourine

After midnight, it's gonna be peaches and cream

We're gonna cause talk and suspicion

Give an exhibition

Find out what it is all about

After midnight, we're gonna let it all hang out

After midnight, we're gonna let it all hang out

So the music begins and the lyrics pop up on the big monitor, and I start doing my thing. My wife and my buddy were trying to crawl under the table, but my buddy’s rowdy wife was standing on her chair, whistling and screaming encouragement. It all happened so fast that I’ve already blocked it out. 

I was so naturally exhilarated that I made up for my horrible singing/yelling with pure, unbridled enthusiasm. The crowd seemed appreciative of the efforts, and the DJ kept me up there for a couple more numbers with some other would-be singers. Like a real musical group.

My wife didn’t leave me, I realized my dream of singing in public, and now I should be cured. It should never happen again, and pity the total strangers who were subjected to such a torturous spectacle.

Despite knowing all that in my logical mind, I simply can’t guarantee it. 

The truth is – it was fun.

Graham Osteen is Editor-At-Large of The Item. He can be reached at graham@theitem.com. Follow him on Twitter @GrahamOsteen, or visit www.grahamosteen.com.

© Authory 2022. All rights reserved.