Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

October 6, 2009

My karaoke kids and singalong family...

Was chatting with my youngest, Conn, 26, till 2am this morning, mostly listening to his evening's antics in a karaoke bar. He says he tried not to sing, but his buddies made him get up...says he gets self-conscious singing, because he's a serious singer and he doesn't want to intimidate those for whom karaoke is just good fun, forget the actual singing part of it. But of course he got up anyway and sang "New York, New York" ala "old blue eyes" and got the usual plaudits and swoons. It's fun for him too, of course, especially the applause!

But when he mentioned how he doesn't like to sing to show off or show up anyone, because he doesn't want people not to get up after he sings because they might not feel they are as good, he wasn't being boastful. But he did reveal what karaoke has always been for most people, a chance to sing with a recorded band, get a moment of stardom, feel the high of the stage and the audience, sing with friends, usually sing badly but not care that much - unless they have serious social or mental issues, and then everything comes wailing out for all the world to hear.

But we Currans have taken it pretty seriously ever since we discovered it way back in the late eighties here in Utah, when we had just moved here without work from Hawaii in 1986. Our mom Colleen valiantly set up a singing studio to try to bring in some money, teaching voice students with her music degree, while I papered our walls with rejection letters from not being able to find work with my two masters degrees. We found that a local music store had just gotten a Singing Machine line to sell and after Colleen talked to them, they were willing to let her use one in our family room studio for free and we would refer students to them for a possible purchase.

It didn't take long to realize, however, that maybe we should be selling these singalong machines ourselves, so Colleen got us in touch with the wholesaler of the machines in LA, a Phillippine group called Zenasia. Their president, Albert Nini, came and met us once he heard that I had sung with The Lettermen(famous in his country), and set us up as retailers at home, and singing demonstrators of his line, Denonet, at Consumer Electronic Shows in Chicago and Las Vegas. Soon after that, he hired me to wholesale to music stores all over the West, to set up new accounts, traveling at first in a Dodge van and then eventually in my own Karaoke van.

After many a long and weary road trip, setting up new dealers from Washington to New Mexico, I got to stay home more and do phone follow ups with my own 800 number, 225-SING, which happened to also be our same number for our local Utah market. We struggled trying to make it work though, all the while enjoying the personal uses ourselves and especially watching all of our kids singing and gaining so much poise and repertoire with the many different popular songs available on tapes and eventually cd-rs. They were musical anyway, but this just enhanced their learning so much, gave them so much confidence and increased their singing abilities, that we felt it had been a boon to try this as a business, a great investment in their musical futures. I too love to sing with a good band arrangement that sounds like the original hit - and Colleen and I did many a gig ourselves with just a portable system to back us up.

But alas, we weren't very good with the bookkeeping and we were driving Albert and Max Villarin(the VP) crazy with bad accounting and money management on the business end of things. And the market was changing all the time too, with the Chinese developing little $100 units that were constantly undercutting our higher end units from Denon and Panasonic that sold for $500-700. So were losing money and finding it harder and harder to market what we had retail as well as continue wholesaling to the music store accounts I had set up before.

So Colleen kept doing the vocal teaching for a little while, trying different names like Singing Unlimited and Vocalife. But she finally got a teaching job in Special Ed and Music when teaching at home became too hard to do for much longer. I found odd jobs over the years in sales and telemarketing, market research, ESL/English teaching and doing some editing for a phone directory company. But still nothing steady and stable to date.

We don't do karaoke much anymore either, unless we have a wedding or anniversary, and then we rent out a full blown system with the mikes, monitors and big speakers, that have thousands of songs available to sing. Of course, Sean put his own studio in his old bedroom downstairs, and has recorded some pretty nice stuff from there, including two cds of his own, and vocal demos for Conn and Erin. Those guys and Shane have done the most continual singing and music as an extension of the karaoke we started with 20 years ago.

So now Conn has his own website, www.conncurran.com to market himself as a jazz singer. And Erin sings with a band that has demos online at www.fiveonthefly.com. Sean sells his cds but I'm not sure where - maybe on Google or YouTube? Shane has his own website too at www.singingbirthdaycard.com, where he has demos of his various written and recorded musical versions of original birthday songs you can give to loved ones. Check them out! They are all awesome - and so is karaoke for what it did for us financially and musically, and still does whenever we get a chance to do our sing thing.

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