Karaoke Craze

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

Tuesday is karaoke night at Alston's Pub in Harrisonburg. Some come just to sing for fun. Others are singing to win.

Karaoke singer Kelly Willis points to a crowd of amateur performers at the pub and says, "These guys are very good. Very tough competition. Makes me scared to even go up there and sing for fun."

The place is packed because the stakes are high. The 10 most talented performers will be given the chance to open for national recording country artist, Blake Shelton, when he comes to town Thursday.

Dennis Hughes, Program Director for Country KCY Radio, says the small-town acts give Shelton's show a local feel.

"It's just a great opportunity to expose local music. There's a lot of talent in the Valley," he says.

Hughes is the brains behind this local karaoke craze.

"We saw American Idol and Nashville Star and all the other reality shows that have been so successful and given normal, everyday people the chance to chase a dream. We thought, hey, this would be kinda cool to bring it here to Harrisonburg and do the same thing with the same result hopefully," he explains.

It seems the popularity of those national shows have made karaoke on a local level more popular, as well. Kevin Duncan - who's been singing karaoke for more than seven years - agrees.

"Now I'd say it's at least four to five times more popular than it was back then," he says.

Karaoke - which in Japanese literally means "empty orchestra" - was invented more than twenty years ago. But it's hotter than ever now, especially in Harrisonburg.

Hughes says he's surprised about 30 contestants came out to compete each week.

"You never know where they're gonna get their start. Who knows? We might get somebody out here down in Nashville before it's all said and done," he says.

Tickets are $20 to see Blake Shelton and his karaoke accompaniment Thursday, May 8 at Alston's Pub. Proceeds will go to the Toys for Kids charity.


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