Well, this week marks 10th year as a full time karaoke host and DJ. I started at Finnegan's and Mothers back then, working 2 nights a week. I quit my full time sales position at that time, and switched to the warehouse. As I picked up more nights, I had to cut my hours during the day back more and more, until I eventually had to give up my day job. I have not looked back since then!
I had given thought to becoming a host at the encouragement of my coworkers. We used to go visit the Stormin Norman show at the Ocean Deck and had befriended Norman. Norman was going thru some exceptional life circumstances, and I offered to host his show for him if he needed to take some days off. He didn't take me up on my offer, but, this planted the seed to my friends that I should be doing this for a living anyway. I looked into the cost of start up, and the high cost of startup, combined with the inability to clearly comprehend how to make money at karaoke to pay for the upstart, dissuaded me from perusing the venture. It always seemed to me to be a part time venture that would have to be associated with a day job. I informed my co workers that this venture was too cost prohibitive, and the very same day I opened the paper and the universe placed a classified ad under my nose...karaoke show for sale. The call put me in touch with Beth and Oliver, who were doing shows in Flagler. I knew nothing about the biz, so I absorbed every word they offered, and watched Beth at work, and then began a study of visiting every karaoke show I could get to as a customer...making note of what I liked and what I did not like, to hone my eventual show style and policies. I was soooo naive back then. I talked to Beth about buying the show in March of 99 and told her if she would hold it for me , I would pay her in cash, no haggling, in May, after I made my Mothers Day money (I was in the flower business then). She reluctantly agreed, on good faith, with frequent nervous calls to me to make sure we were still good. Beth then realized that her good friend and neighbor was a VERY close friend of mine, Anna, who assured her that I was trustworthy and a man of my word. Anna was having a party in May, so we made the plan...I would do Anna's party for free, in exchange she would not bitch about me not being professional, LOL...and Beth and Oliver would accompany me to the party...across the street. They would bring the gear, I would set it up and they would train me at the party, and after the party, if everything worked, after all was packed, I would pay them cash. That is how it went down, and 5 hours later I was a professional host, LOL. My final day as a full time sales person at FCI was May 14, 1999. I worked part time at FCI until around August of 2000 I think.
I started out as CenterStage Entertainment. I then realized that John was doing karaoke as Center Stage Karaoke in the Flagler/Ormond area, so I started billing myself as Harry's CenterStage Karaoke. This naturally shortened to Harryoke. As everyone enthusiastically began using this name, I added the exclamation point to become Harryoke! LOL.
A lot of my progress and success at the start involved a lot of serendipity. After getting all the KJ gear, it never dawned on me to DJ as well, even though I had a good CD collection, but when my horse trading neighbor came over with a complete DJ set in binders and asked if I could use it, I assured him I could, and my DJ life was born. I would literally go borrow it from him each time I got a job. He said he would sell it to me but never gave me a price. Then he just told me to hang onto it since I used it more than he looked at it... He then passed away in an untimely manner. I still think of him when I pull that binder out. He would be proud to see me today, he was a big cheerleader for me at the start.
Looking over the dates, it is incredible to think of all the people I have met, the business alliances I have made and the friends I have made. I could write a book about all of the characters I have met, and experiences I have had...I should have kept a journal, LOL.
May 17 1999 - First Show at Mothers
May 18 1999 - First Show at Finnegan's
June 6 1999 - First Orlando show at Red Baron. Was thinking I wanted to work in Orlando, so I was learning in Flagler, but looking for venues in Orlando. Just played there for the month of June, they changed management, and the building was eventually sold and torn down in the name of progress.
June 12 1999 - Started at Holly Hill Eagles. Was a twice a month show, which does not catch on, so it did not last long.
June 18 1999 - Started working for Jack Vedder at Glen Abbey in DeBary. Never really picked up there, and that is where I met Ed who owned Peggy's Place, soo.....
July 9 1999 - Started at Peggy's Place. Some of the best memories there ever. Reluctant to start, but hated to leave...stayed until it closed. It is now JTs Seafood in the Hammock.
Nov 18 1999 - Started working for George at what was then the Damn Yankee (Now Fisherman's Net). When it was just the bar and restaurant, they used to stay open till 2 with entertainment, and I played there on Thursdays. After the remodeling in May of 2000, they stopped having entertainment. I still work for George doing his employee and private parties.
Dec 30 1999 - My first wedding!
August 3 2000 - Finnegan's Ladies Night Thursday is Born!
Jan 30, 2000 - Took Super Bowl Sunday off...driving my 66 Galaxie blew a tire on the Broadway bridge and wiped it out, and put my head thru the windshield. First example of other KJs coming out to help me until I got better...but I did not miss a day of work, although I did come to work with my head wrapped for a few days!
Sept 16 2000 - Working for Jack Vedder again at the hotel on Old Kings and 95 across from Plantation Bay...called the Duffers Lounge. Bar closed in Dec.
March 11 2001 - Last show at Peggys..closed.
April 13 2001 - Started long run at Ocean Deck Café, now known as Iron Boot. Went thru 3 or 4 owners and numerous remodels, and infinite personnel changes, but I was there every Fri at 8, rain or shine, LOL. I quit on Jan 16 2004.
June 14 2003 - First ballroom show at Halifax Plantation. Got into the habit of working there about every other month, selling advance tickets and serving appetizers the first hour...did this until the bar was built.
Jan 27 2004 - Started working Finnegan's Daytona.
Sept 9 2004 - Started at Harborside - Henrys at Palm Coast Golf Resort
Sept 23/24 2004 - Life changing accident...broke my neck and unable to work for the rest of the year. Lucky to be alive
July 22 2005 - Harborside closes to begin it's new future as a construction site. LOL.
Sept 11 2005 - Started at Smiles...nuff said...only stayed till Jan 29.
Dec 23 2005 - Halifax Plantation converts the pro shop into sports bar, and I begin my Friday nights there!
Jan 5 2006 - New owners of Finnegan's wonder why Ladies Nights have been sucking, attendees say because I am not there, and I return to reawaken my creation, LOL.
Feb 12 2006 - Hello Shark House Sundays!!
Dec 11 2006 - Shark House Burns to ground
Feb 2007 - Black Cloud - First show Super Bowl Sunday.
Proud to say I was never fired from a job...either left because the business closed, or changed direction or sold. I have been at Finney's and Mothers since day one! So off I go to start the 10th year...tonight will be show 2507! Thanks to you all for the years of support, and friendship. Here's to all of you...and here's to the new friends I will meet in the next 10 years!
ALL THE BEST, and keep getting your sing on!