Mar 30



About 25 years ago when i started playing music professionally, I was working with a duo called “Who’s Who?” with my friend, Zac Hilon on vocals, and myself on guitar. It was quite common for people to come up and ask us would they mind if they sat in and sang a song with us. It was always good. Anybody who had the courage to ask to sing with us usually was a pro.

If Zac and I had a night off we would go round town (Pretoria) and listen to the other bands. Usually as soon as we walked through the door the band would say “Pat and Zac have just arrived, come and join us on stage.” I would have a guitar put in my hand and Zac would be given a mic, and we would do a few numbers with the band.

Then everything changed………….Some famous cricketer (who will remain nameless) introduced Karaoke to South Africa. As soon as the pros got up to sing with us, then every idiot who thought he could sing wanted to get up and sing, expecting us to provide the lyrics of the song for them as well. Unfortunately Karaoke (Among other evils created by Karaoke) killed the spontaneity of of the guest artist.

So what do you do? Just have a hard and fast rule that you dont have any guests singing with you? That is incredibly sad as you would miss out all those beautiful spontaneous moments.

Just this last week I had a Dutch woman in her 70’s ask to sing with me. She sang Summertime. Amazing. She was an awesome jazz singer. The next day a Belgian woman asked to sing with me. She did a really special Edith Piaf tribute. Then this whole week there has been a German couple who do opera. They are reapeat visitors, so I knew my audience would love them. Then, last night as soon as the German couple had finished singing, a man came up and asked if he could do a song as well. My thoughts were “Here we go again. Now the Karaoke singers want their action.” How wrong I was. He did a great version of a mining song from the N.E. of England.

Just imagine how my audience would have missed out this last week if I had a hard and fast rule about guest singers.

I suppose it helps if you know the person singing with you. And then you can say as tactfully as you can to the next person, that you only have guests that you know. You have to go with your gut instinct.

If you have any doubts, you could always use the line of my friend Marc
“You can sing anything you like on my microphone, but I’m just recovering from a cold sore that I had last week.”

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