AIKEN - Wanted: Karaoke expert. Must be able to work Sunday nights until the wee hours. Experience in goofball antics preferred. Singing talent a plus.
"Karaoke" Mike Gibson, 37, the entertainment mainstay on alternating Sunday nights at the Whiskey Junction for the past seven years, is packing up his karaoke machine and leaving town soon.
His last night as host was Sunday.
"One of the problems right now is going to be how to replace him," said Bobby Burch, the Junction's manager. "He's a good singer, but he also has a good rapport with the crowd. He makes people laugh."
The former Savannah River Site employee is moving to Sanford, Fla., to pursue a career in commercial aviation.
Although Mr. Burch said he's just looking for someone to "fill in" for a year - Mr. Gibson hopes to return to work in Augusta - karaoke loyalists say singing their favorite tunes won't be the same without his humor and moral support.
"If you're really good, he'll ridicule you with an insult," said longtime karaoke participant Robbie Purvis. "It's the utmost form of a compliment."
Mr. Gibson's part-time job began a decade ago when, encouraged by his wife, Debra, he entered and won a karaoke contest in Augusta. A week later, he was buying his own equipment and forming a partnership with friend Jamie Bodie.
The two men worked together as disc jockey and karaoke host throughout the area before amicably dividing their equipment in 1997. By that time, Mr. Gibson already had settled into his steady gig at the Junction.
It didn't take long before he had regulars on Sunday nights - a night many people don't go out.
"Mike is a performer," Mr. Purvis said. "He's not going to admit he is. He just says he's having fun. I've been to karaoke in different states, and I've not seen anyone with as much energy and stage presence."
Mr. Purvis said Mr. Gibson's idiosyncrasies made the show.
"He can't keep his shoes on," he said. "He takes off other garments from time to time. He's a wild man, but a great guy."
And all types of people showed up for Mr. Gibson's karaoke nights. Some had professional-quality voices, Mr. Gibson said. Others were decent singers, or at least could be endured.
Then there were the yowlers.
"I treat (the worst singers) the same way as the people who could be up there professionally," Mr. Gibson said. "It puts them a step ahead of anyone who won't come up on stage.
"I've really only gonged two people. And one was so drunk he didn't know I had stopped the music."
Reach Eric Williamson at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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