Rose Marie Mayer and her daughter, Linda Marie Greenburg, belt out a tune. They operate Duet Productions and are one of the country’s only mother-daughter duets.
ASHLAND, OR — Rose Marie Mayer grew up around music. She was a child Latin singing sensation. At the age of 9, she held the title on the Mexican Hit Parade. Then she moved to Ashland, Oregon, got married and was a part-time lounge singer when, at a local Japanese restaurant, she stumbled upon an electronic box that brushed aside her musical shortcomings and changed her life.
The box not only played music to accompany her voice but also provided the lyrics to thousands of songs not in Mayer’s 125-song repertoire — and all available on the restaurant stage for just $1 per song.
“When was the last time you walked up to an orchestra, handed them a dollar and said, ‘Accompany me’?” she says.
The karaoke machine guided her through hundreds of songs. Now, eight years later, the quirky sing-along machine that broke Mayer’s musical shackles now binds her and her daughter, Linda Marie, into a harmonic twosome with something to sing about.
Rose Marie, 52, and Linda Marie, 29, are a duet who have taken what many see as a let’s-hear-you-do-it bar dare and spun it into a musical net they cast farther with each new song disc they buy.
These two performers known as “Duet Right,” belt out more than 4,000 songs from big band to classic rock to Latin to jazz.
“There’s so much expression and passion in music,” Linda Marie says. “It’s my life.”
And it’s their business.
The duo operates Duet Right Productions, playing regular gigs at Ashland’s Wild Goose Bar, special events at local service lodges and private parties.
Rose Marie sings lead; Linda Marie sings harmony. Together they are “musical mood strategists” who select songs that tune up the audience.
“They’re really fun people, good entertainers,” Wild Goose owner, Dal Carver, says. “They do an amazing variety of stuff. They really get a reaction out of the crowd.”
They also have garnered some recognition within America’s karaoke subculture, gaining a feature in a national karaoke magazine that touts them as one of the country’s few professional mother-daughter karaoke duets.
The pair is scheduled to open a karaoke disc-jockey trade show next February at Las Vegas’ Tropicana Hotel. It will be a high point to date in their karaoke careers.
Imported from Japan, where it is a staple of businessmen’s after-hours entertainment, karaoke — which means “empty orchestra” — has found a niche as interactive nightclub entertainment in America. Patrons pick songs they will sing, with the karaoke machine providing the music and lyrics.
For the duo, it’s a god-send. They grew up musical, with Rose Marie singing in bands and later turning to her lounge act as a side-job to help ends meet after her husband, Allen, died in 1987, leaving the mother and daughter to run their small Ashland coffeehouse.
Six months after discovering karaoke at Ashland’s Gen Kai restaurant in 1992, they plunked down $7,000 for their own machine.
“You don’t know how much oatmeal I ate,” Rose Marie says, “to pay for that.”
As they learned more and more songs, they began to offer karaoke as KJs, or the sing-along version of disc jockeys. It’s a task they take very seriously, creating song lists that keep a party moving while helping each singer extract a talent many never knew they had.
“We know what makes a room click,” the mother says. “And nobody applauds louder than we do.”
The pair see the karaoke as their stepping stone. Now they have a back up band and the new group hope to one day sweep them off to a cruise ship as regular dinnertime entertainment, or possibly their own Reno venue.
If not, they know karaoke has taken them to musical areas they could never reach alone.