Karaoke showcases local talent


The fact that Jimmy Buffett recorded a song about karaoke with country legend Toby Keith on his latest CD, “Songs from St. Somewhere,” is proof to the uninitiated that karaoke is hugely popular in bars everywhere. The Buffett song bemoans the fact that there are so many wannabe singers lined up that if you aren’t careful while waiting your turn, you just might end up “Too Drunk to Karaoke.”

That’s not a problem at the River View, at least not often. The popular Three Rivers venue features karaoke a couple times a month. According to Dorletta Hildebrand, who with her husband, Rex, owns and operates the popular restaurant, bar, and entertainment venue on the Kaweah River, the local karaoke success story can be attributed to its master of ceremonies and talented songstress Joelle Morris.

“My motto is YOU CAN DO IT!” said Joelle. “It’s not about me. We have so many great singers out there that people don’t get to experience. ”

Joelle knows good singers because she is one. Her first solo was in the fifth grade in Southern California. She also sang in her church choir and, in her eighth grade year, she was in a singing group with three girls and four boys. 

In 1972, Joelle brought her talents to Three Rivers. She moved away for college but returned to Three Rivers in 1978. From 1979 to 1982, she sang and played guitar regularly in the Three Rivers School classroom of Dottie Bantz (Stokes).

Several years ago, Joelle was with a three-piece band and decided to try her hand at being a “KJ.” A Karaoke Jockey (KJ) operates the equipment that plays the music, usually from a popular song, minus the lead vocals. 

The software or karaoke machine displays the lyrics and the singer adds the vocals. Karaoke took off in the 1970s when an influx of Filipino vocalists burst on the pop music scene in Japan. 

Karaoke, to the aspiring artist or amateur in the bar scene, essentially levels the playing field for performers in any language. Sometimes the results are hilarious,  often astonishing, and almost always entertaining.

Joelle has been the KJ at the River View for almost four years. 

“Some of my original singers are still coming out to sing,” Joelle said. “I love seeing how each singer has improved and now has tremendous self-confidence.”

So if you want to hear some accomplished singers perform come out tonight (August 15) to the River View. 

“This Friday will be our third annual Karaoke Contest,” Joelle said. “Karaoke starts at 8 p.m. and a past first-place winner Cheri Powell will sing two songs. The contest will start at 9 p.m. We will have seven finalists and three judges. First place will win a trophy and $100 cash. Second and third place singers will be awarded a trophy.” 

Joelle says some people shy away from karaoke because they think the singers they will hear might sound like “fingernails on a chalk board.”

“Not so,” she promises. “My singers sing better than some of the original recording artists. It’s amazing entertainment.”       

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