Trying to find the history of where, how and when karaoke originated is a lot like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It is generally agreed that karaoke originated in Japan somewhere around the 1970s, and quietly entered the American entertainment scene sometime in the 80's. For the most part, detailed and consistent information seems to be non-existent.
According to many accounts, Daisuke Inouse, a Japanese singer, was the inspiration for karaoke's early beginnings. He was asked to record his songs and release copies so that others could sing along. He made a tape recorder that would play songs, thereby, making the first "sing-along" machine. The name karaoke is derived from two Japanese words: kara (empty) and oke (orchestra).
Another version is the "fad" originated in America when a restaurant owner booked a singer who did not show. The restaurateur asked the patrons if they wanted to sing. And so it began, karaoke moved across America taking over one bar or bowling alley at a time.
However it started, karaoke was not a highly regarded form of entertainment for many years. Karaoke was viewed as allowing bad singers an opportunity to belt out their version of Meatloaf's Paradise by the Dashboard to an audience of uninterested listeners. Somewhere along the way, that changed. People started enjoying karaoke even if it was labeled something else.
Shows such as American Idol, a highly sophisticated form of karaoke, became a popular national show by having amateur singers sing well-known songs while vying for votes and prizes. Worldwide Championships, such as the one being held in Ireland in the fall, play host to karaoke singers from more than 32 countries.
Even ABC has jumped on the grandstand with a new summer series called Karaoke Battle. Interviews are scheduled for September and will include karaoke singers gathered nationally by talent scouts to stock the show. Whether or not karaoke gains a solid place in history is not yet known. What is known is that it's not going away anytime soon. No matter where you live, there is probably a karaoke venue nearby.
Locally, there are several bars where, if you sing, you can find camaraderie with other karaoke singers. The Log Cabin, for example, in Copley features DJ Kevin Schlichting of Crazy K's as the Master of Ceremony for the night. A table fills with singers who come to take turns singing their favorite song. Schlichting said some karaoke singers are so good he encourages them to pursue a career. "A lot of people relieve their stress and it makes them feel good. People have fun with it."
Charlie, who simply goes by "Charlie," has been singing for 25 years. "I sing," Charlie said, "because I love to sing. That's basically it." He adds that most people will tell you the same thing.
For those who just like to listen, it's a great way to get a smattering of music. Unlike going to the local bar that features only Rap, Rock or Oldies at a Karaoke event you will hear a mixture of tunes like Twilight Time, Harper Valley PTA, Sweet Home Alabama or Sinatra's Fly Me to the Moon. Anything goes when it's Karaoke.