"Sir Charles" & the Florence Karaoke Experience

Sing Along With Mitch

A seminar speaker for many years in the '90s, one post-gig evening we found ourselves in a Coconut Grove bar after dinner at the local Hard Rock Cafe. Nothing was going on when—all of a sudden—the shadow of a huge hulk of a guy blew past me. I know him from somewhere, I thought. Then it hit me...why, that has to be Sir Charles Barkley, then-star of the Phoenix Suns.

The next thing I knew, Sir Charles was onstage—with a sizable contingent of female, uh, backup singers—belting out several karaoke numbers. The show was immediately likable and quite impressive: if only I had the nerve to give karaoke a try. Frank Gartland, one of my seminar cohorts, did, and I have to admit to being jealous of his uninhibited performance. (Yet I did all-day standup speaking engagements before hundreds!)

Driving in my car, smoking my cigar...
Many of us sing in the shower, around the house, wherever. For me, it's the car, where Detroit should have just mounted a gooseneck mic to my Mustang's dash—just like the one that hung over Bing Swanson's bed back in 10th grade! Beating out the rhythm on the steering wheel, singing George Harrison's harmony parts...well, I think I sound alright. Lord knows I've had years of practice getting the vocal nuances just right...

Many years after Miami I was touring Florence, Italy, with my wife, cousin Richard, his wife, and their two friends. The gals wanted to go dancing one evening after dinner, so we guys relunctantly agreed to go "discoing." Being the first ones there, the place was empty, but it had a really good (read: LOUD) sound system and I noticed two young women operating (what appeared to be) some high-end karaoke gear. Bored just sitting around with the guys while our women strutted their stuff, I was soon looking through the song list, found some Beatles tracks to which I thought I could do justice, and signaled the KJs (karaoke jocks) I was ready to "Twist & Shout."

Cmon, cmon, cmon, cmon, baby, now...
Well, it was a riot. Grabbing another wireless mic, Richard soon joined in on harmony for another Fab Four song and, before long, he was belting out his own cover of Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild. All told, I knocked out six songs that night, including a favorite Dire Straits number and, of course, Satisfaction. (The last time I had sang that in public was in an airport lobby one apres morning on our way to yet another seminar engagement.)

The next day my voice was totally gone: only then did I recall why Lennon always left Twist & Shout for the group's last number. Like a fool, I had knocked it off first and, of course, completely strained what vocal chords I have. But, like many others before me, my first karaoke experience hooked me!