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Karaoke still thrives in Marysville
The microphone is always there.
In nearly all of Marysville establishments where alcohol is the chief item of sale, a microphone is employed for entertainment.
And occasionally, as a means of torture.
"If I hear 'Picture' by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow one more time, I'm gonna shoot myself in the face," says Alison Faulkner, 33, waitress and bartender at the Silver Dollar Saloon in Marysville.
For a while, karaoke was the big thing everywhere. Like other trends, it seems it would have reached a saturation point and faded away into novelty status.
Not necessarily so. Certainly not in Marysville.
The Silver Dollar's love affair with karaoke through the years has been on-again, off-again, and currently features singing on Saturdays only.
But there are numerous other venues where karaoke dominates, including the Cortez Room, Field & Stream, Gary's Place and the Wood Butcher.
"This is an extreme amount of karaoke for such a small town," says Faulkner, who has been known to belt out tunes from the repertoire of Amy Winehouse, Bonnie Raitt and other blues and rock singers.
For fans of the communal bar activity, Marysville's historic downtown is ideal because of the cluster of karaoke bars.
"People migrate," Faulkner says of Marysville's faithful and their habits.
Nicole Maral, 33, a singer who favors country music with a little soul, describes her own Marysville migration pattern:
"Saturday we go from here to the Silver Dollar and then to Field & Stream," she says during a break between singing stints at the Wood Butcher last Thursday.
At 10 p.m., the small bar is packed with patrons, and karaoke competes with television screens.
No matter. Karaoke regulars don't expect the full attention of a crowd, and they rarely get it. And some are grateful for this fact.
Nick Maral, 29, Nicole's brother, had been too shy to take the microphone at all, until Air Force duty took him to Oklahoma, and a night of group singing.
His sister teases him about finally finding the fortitude to take the microphone.
Now that he is back in town, he takes his turn like a champ, she says.
CONTACT Nancy Pasternack at email@example.com or 749-4781. Find her on Facebook at /ADnpasternack or on Twitter at @ADnpasternack.
Karaoke appeared in Marysville in 1990s
Craig Ogino, 42, karaoke jockey at the Cortez Room, remembers when karaoke came to town in the early 1990s. At first, the activity was dominated by a single, popular karaoke host.
"He had a big following, and they went everywhere he went," Ogino said. Ogino believes the location now occupied by Mountain Mike's Pizza on J Street had been the area's first karaoke bar.
In those days, Ogino said, "everything was centered around country music."
But musical tastes expanded, as did the opportunities for karaoke entrepreneurs. Soon, nearly every bar had its own karaoke host.
From 1998 to 2001, bars put up their best singers to compete in a karaoke championship at the Yuba-Sutter Fair. But competition resulted in bruised egos, Ogino said, and led to a slight waning of karaoke's popularity for a few years.
Mary Lou Brown, 60, now a singer with the Yuba College Jazz Band, sang in public for the first time at the Cortez Room during that time. The tune was "Fever" by Peggy Lee.
"My daughter talked me into it," she said.
Brown met her husband through her new hobby, and when they married in 2007, the wedding reception was one big karaoke party.
The Browns now frequent Dower's and 21 Club — two popular karaoke bars in Yuba City. But they are no strangers to the various other Marysville karaoke venues.
River's Edge, in east Marysville, is in the process of moving to a bigger location a few doors away on 12th Street, where karaoke is expected to flourish. This, in spite of the fact it's the only karaoke venue out of walking/staggering distance from the others.
The lounge at Casino Marysville also recently applied to the city's planning commission to add karaoke to a list of featured activities.
Did you know?
• Karaoke was popular in Japanese drinking establishments for a generation prior to its import. It has since advanced through several technological iterations and recording formats.
• Karaoke means "empty orchestra" in Japanese.
• Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not a necessary component of Marysville's persistent pastime, according to singer Mary Lou Brown.
"You can have a lot of fun, and just have a Pepsi," she says.