Archive for Sunday, November 8, 2009

Baldwin City resident finds his voice through karaoke ‘hobby’

Baldwin City resident Joe Bathke, atop the bar at Hickory Creek Barbecue, belts out his version of ACDC’s “Highway to Hell” during a recent karaoke night performance.

Baldwin City resident Joe Bathke, atop the bar at Hickory Creek Barbecue, belts out his version of ACDC’s “Highway to Hell” during a recent karaoke night performance.

November 8, 2009


On the street

Do you like to Karaoke?

I do. It’s a good experience to spend with friends.

More responses

— “Joe! Joe! Joe!” The crowd goes wild and yells Joe Bathke’s name in rhythmic chants.

Bathke strolls up to the front of the bar and grabs the microphone. The music starts and he walks into the crowd. Seconds later, he is belting out a rock song. He dances. Sometimes on top of the bar.

“It’s fun. It’s my name,” Bathke said. “I don’t mind being called ‘Karaoke Joe.’ It’s fun. I like when they chant my name before I sing. I like hearing ‘Joe, Joe, Joe.’ It’s the first time I’ve had a nickname.”

As the song winds down, Bathke receives thunderous applause from everyone at Hickory Creek Barbecue. An hour later, Bathke is again in front of the local crowd.

It’s become his entertainment ritual every other Friday night.

“I guess you could say it’s a hobby,” the 41-year-old Baldwin City resident said. “Some people like to collect stamps, other people like to race cars and I like to sing karaoke. It’s something I do in my spare time. It’s a hobby I enjoy very much.”

Since Hickory Creek began hosting karaoke last spring, Bathke has become a fan favorite.

“He really brings the electricity and fun atmosphere to downtown Baldwin City on Friday nights,” Coy Weege said. “His taste of music is entertaining for all ages. He’s fun to listen to and watch.”

Bathke’s wife, Leigh Anne, and her friends talked him into entering a karaoke contest for the Oprah Winfrey show. Unfortunately, his rendition of Guns ’n’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” wasn’t a winner.

Hey, Joe — try this

About three years ago, the Bathkes attended a birthday party at a Kansas City, Mo., bar, where karaoke was center stage. He sang two songs — “Hard to Handle” by the Black Crowes and “Dirty White Boy” by Foreigner — giving karaoke a try for the first time.

“I sort of stepped it up from there and started doing it at more places,” Bathke said. “There was nobody there that I knew, except the people from the party, but I got a couple of high fives and ‘dude, you rock’ comments.”

Not only did he impress himself, but Bathke also surprised his wife.

“I had no idea that he had that in him,” she said. “It was amazing. I knew he had been in a band in high school and I had recordings of his band. I knew he could sing, but I had no idea he could perform like he does.”

During the past six months, Bathke has typically sung three songs, most of which are classic rock hits. Some of his favorites include ACDC’s “Highway to Hell” and Jet’s “Are you Gonna be my Girl.” If he had it his way, he’d enjoy belting out some Led Zeppelin tunes. “Welcome to the Jungle,” the song he might be best known for, began on a cruise ship. He chose it because nothing else caught his interest.

Not all of his songs are classic rock hits. Occasionally he will have fun with The Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” or Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.”

“I love it when he does ‘Ballroom Blitz,’” his wife said. “I don’t know why, but I love it when he sings that song. I would like him to sing some slow, romantic ballad to his wife, but I know that won’t happen. I also like it when he sings ‘I Kissed a Girl,’ because I think that’s hilarious.”

Most karaoke singers use the screen to read the lyrics, but Bathke never does.

“The first time, I did use the screen,” Bathke said. “I knew the words, but it was the first time I ever tried it, so I did get away from the screen, but not as much as I would have liked. I enjoy songs that are up-tempo and aggressive. I like something with a good guitar solo that isn’t too long.”

Born to be wild

Bathke, the marketing communications manager at Burns and McDonnell, doesn’t fit the role of a typical karaoke rocker.

“He is a low-key, mellow guy,” his wife said. “He is the last person you expect to get up and perform. … It all changes when you put him behind the microphone.”

When he was a teen, he sang and occasionally played bass for White Lie, a Southern California rock band.

“I actually am a little crazier now than I was back then, because when you’re 20 years old, you have your youth going for you,” Bathke said. “You’re always trying to avoid not looking cool. Now I’m overweight, married and a father of two kids. There’s no possible way I can look cool.

“I’m certainly not going to dazzle people with my voice,” he said. “I can at least be entertaining for the crowd.”


hip_gma 8 years, 5 months ago

garyr & hillbilly_jim: would you rather read another story about another shooting or hit-and-run fatality?

givingisfun 8 years, 5 months ago

Defender, you are so right. garyr and the hillbilly are totally ignorant and they certainly don't appreciate fun things in life. Their lives must be so boring and dull.

Matthew Herbert 8 years, 5 months ago

I'm glad his wife now knows he can perform.

Matthew Herbert 8 years, 5 months ago

but you will be watching American Idol, which in all seriousness is more embarrassing than whatever Joe might be doing that night.

garyr 8 years, 5 months ago

"Some of his favorites include ACDC’s “Highway to Hell” ". Anyone can sing that, all you have to do is scream. I've been there a couple of times on karaoke night, but have not seen him sing yet. The way some of those people sound, they need to put up chicken wire, like in Roadhouse. That will keep the beer bottles from hitting the stage if this continues.

lounger 8 years, 5 months ago

This is a lead story?? LJW needs to spend more $$ on writers...

MrsKaraokeJoe 8 years, 5 months ago

As you can tell from my log-on name, I'm Joe Bathke's wife. I just wanted to thank all the people saying positive things about my husband, not only here but also at Hickory Creek. It is greatly appreciated.

Joe doesn't do this for fame or fortune. He does it because he loves to sing and perform. Karaoke gives him that chance and lots of people appreciate it.

Leigh Anne Bathke

akcb 8 years, 5 months ago

Oy and god bless. harryr, honey, if you don't like karaoke then you now know the perfect nights not to go to Hickory Creek Barbecue. File that away, order carry-out, whatever you need to do to assure your delicate sensibilities aren't offended. To garyr and the hillbilly, really? No, but really?

Joe, m'love, one of these days very soon the ladies and I shall brave the wilds of deepest darkest Kansas and make our way to Baldwin on an every-other-Friday night to see you rock out with your ahem out. After that night at the Brick when crowd went bonkers...well, it's been too long.

cannondance 8 years, 5 months ago

Joe doesn't sing because he's trying to become the next American Idol or impress people like garyr and hillbilly. He sings because it makes him happy. It has the side benefit of making the people around him happy too. I'm privileged to be a part of it and feel sorry for people who are too self conscious to be able to feel pure, unadulturated joy in something as simple and wonderful as watching someone do what they love.

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