An article from 1998

So he's got High Hopes,

hear him out!

BYLINE: JOHN KELSO   
DATE: February 27, 1998
PUBLICATION: Austin American-Statesman (TX)
EDITION: Final
SECTION: Metro/State
PAGE: B1

 

Ken Kruse is doing it his way. Actually, he's doing it Frank Sinatra's way, too. Here in the Live Music Capital of the World, Kruse may be the only karaoke singer trying to make money by impersonating "the Chairman of the Board.'' Kruse, who lives in Round Rock and installs car stereos for a living, even has business cards made up that say "Frankly' singing'' on the top. The Sinatra bit is a new venture for him, but he's already landed a few gigs. `"I got a call, and I did a New Year's Eve gig at the Continental,'' Kruse said. "That's not the Continental Club. It's the Continental Retirement Home on South Lamar.''

 

He also has appeared at Frank & Angie's Pizzeria in downtown Austin. And he's a regular performer at several clubs around here on karaoke night.

 

When making appearances, Kruse wears a Sinatra-style fedora, black shirt, white tie. "I do the `Guys and Dolls' look,'' he said.

 

At 5-11, 240 pounds, he doesn't look like Sinatra. But he sounds just like him. OK. So maybe he sounds like his slightly flat cousin. But it's eerie. It's almost as if he had Sinatra digitally encoded into his vocal cords.

 

"I have little old ladies who come up to me and say, `I wish there was somewhere I could go to see just you,'' he said. "And when people come up and call me Frank, that's the ultimate compliment.''

 

Kruse figures when Sinatra passes away, business will turn hot for him because he'll have the corner on the Sinatra impersonator market. He's probably right. There's occasionally a need for this kind of music -- like when Vinny the Lobster shows up at your house and you want to entertain him.

 

This fledgling venture got its roots a couple of years ago when Kruse, 44, surprised himself by getting up and singing the Sinatra classic "The Lady Is a Tramp'' in a Round Rock club. At the time, he didn't know he could sing much beyond "The Star Spangled Banner.''

 

"I was going through a divorce; I got sick of sitting home alone,'' explained Kruse, who at the time was the Chairman of the Bored, as opposed to the Chairman of the Board. "So I'd go out to this place called Mike's Place. They started having karaoke night. And this woman I know pushed me up there. She said, "Get up there and sing something.''

 

It was the first time Kruse, a Chicago native, had sung anything in quite some time, outside of in his car. "In eighth grade I was in a band for two months,'' he said.
We won a talent show. Our best song was `Gloria.' G-L-O-R-I-A, you know?''

 

After several successful karaoke appearances, people told Kruse he sounded just like Frank, and that he ought to make the most of it. "All these people have come up to me and said, "Man, you ought to be in Vegas,'' he said. So he went out and bought himself a used karaoke machine and a microphone for $300.

 

Then he began practicing Sinatra tunes at home nearly every day in his living room.

 

Practice sessions can be lengthy. "If I'm working on a new song, as much as three or four hours,'' said Kruse, who has built a repertoire of about 50 Sinatra tunes. "When I'm working on some new material, I get obsessed with it.''

 

He says Kiki, his cat, doesn't mind the living room entertainment.
She plays with the mike cord when the mike's moving.''

 

Kruse would do even more Sinatra tunes if he could find more of them available on karaoke discs.

 

"Boy, there are so many of his songs that aren't on karaoke that I'm dying for,'' he said. ``But I just got what I consider the ultimate torch song.'' Then he burst into tune. "It's quarter to 3, there's no one in the plaaace, except you and me.' God, I love that song.''

 

John Kelso writes a humor column on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He can be reached at 445-3606. Illustration: Renay Bowles/AA-S

This was written by John Kelso, an Austin Icon, who writes articles that are both interesting and entertaining, and has for many, many years. This was from a time when my play list was only 40-50 songs long, so if my gig was more than 1 to 1 1/2 hours, I'd have to start over from the beginning of my show and repeat the songs. I now perform for 3  to 4 hours, and never repeat a song. His article gave me some much needed exposure, and gave my career a little boost. I am Honored and Thankful, that he chose to feature me. MANY, MANY, THANKS, MR  KELSO, SIR! I always enjoy your wit!

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