Three regulars at the Big Walnut Grill have won the Karaoke World Championships USA Ohio Finals, earning $500 and are moving to the next level.
Tamela Knight, Jennifer Frye and Michael Thompson have been selected to represent Ohio at the 2015 KWC National Karaoke Championships Grande Finale this weekend at Juanita’s in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Big Walnut Grill sweetened the pot with an additional $250 to cover travel expenses; the KWC Nationals picks up the hotel tab.
The rise to stardom might not end in Little Rock. Competitors at Juanita’s will compete for a spot on Team USA to test their karaoke skills against teams from over 40 countries during World Finals in November in Singapore.
Knight, a Galena resident, said she has been singing since she was a little girl.
“I used to stand in front of a mirror holding a hairbrush like a microphone,” said Knight, who favors country and gospel music. “But I never sang at a karaoke until I started singing here at the Grill.”
Frye, from Delaware, who favors country music, said she has been singing karaoke for 10 years.
“I started in Mount Vernon, where I’m originally from, and sang in our high school choir,” Frye said. “I love to sing. I do karaoke at least one time a week. It’s like a family, we all support each other, we’re each other’s fans, we keep each other going.”
Thompson, who is a ballroom dance teacher from Worthington in his day job, said he has been doing karaoke since the days of cassette tapes and printed pages to read the words from – unlike today’s digital karaoke.
Asked what his favorite style of music is, Thompson said, “a little bit of everything.”
“I listened to my mom’s music — her favorites were George Jones, Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty,” Thompson said. “My older brother listened to Kiss, Bon Jovi and AC/DC; my grandma and grandpa were bluegrass and gospel fans, so my music tastes are very eclectic.”
Knight, Frye and Thompson each had to submit four songs they would perform at Juanita’s.
Three days of competition at Juanita’s starts this Friday with Round 1 of four rounds; Saturday is Round 2. After Round 2, there are cuts, with semi-finals Sunday afternoon, and finals that will stream live online beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday evening.
“It was great to be selected to represent Ohio at the nationals,” Thompson said. “Win or lose, we’re all looking forward to meeting people that have the same interests as we do.”
For more information about the 2015 KWC National Karaoke Championships Grande Finale go to kwcusa.com.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093