Follow the Bouncing Ball

Did you ever Sing Along With Mitch?

Could you imagine a modern-day family or a theater audience gathering together to sing along with a movie or TV program as the lyrics streamed across the screen, preferably with a bouncing ball to keep the proper tempo? No? Neither can I. We’ve become so jaded.

But people used to love to do this. From what I can determine by from my lazy Google search, the bouncing ball was first invented and employed in theaters in 1924. You can see a clip of the Roswell Sisters making great use of it in 1932 while singing the disturbingly racist song, Sleepy Time Down South, here.

There was also a well-known TV program in the 60’s called Sing Along With Mitch, and for the longest time, I could swear I had a vague memory of this show. But I thought it included the bouncing ball, and in fact, it only had the lyrics. Besides, NBC stopped showing reruns by 1966, so I’d have been less than two years old.

There are a few Youtube videos of Sing Along With Mitch, so I decided to check them out, to see if they rang any bells. And if I’m honest, to my modern eyes, this show kind of gives me the creeps. I don’t know. It’s something about the earnestness of it all, and his 25 man chorus, all dressed identically, like automatons. They also employed some really weird camera angles, and I don’t know if they had a very low budget or what, but they stood in a big, featureless room.

So there you have it: the bouncing ball as a precursor to karaoke. Karaoke is still popular, but it, too, makes me want to run screaming for the exit. And if you heard my singing voice, you’d probably thank me for that.

Mitch Miller


Drunken Karaoke

It’s funny, unless you live next door and are trying to sleep.

I don’t drink, myself. And I’ve written about the havoc alcoholics can wreak. It’s actually one of my most popular posts.

But I don’t begrudge you your right to partake. Unless you get mean when you overdo it. There’s nothing worse than a mean drunk. If drinking lowers your inhibitions, and that was the only thing standing between you and being violent or destructive or cruel, then there’s something fundamentally wrong with you. I have zero tolerance for that.

People frequently use drinking as an excuse. “I was drunk. I’d never do that, normally.”

Well, I don’t think alcohol invades your body and turns you into someone else. I think it strips you down to your bare essence. Drinking lowers your mask. It’s kind of sad when what’s underneath isn’t pretty. (That, and nobody held your nose and poured the vodka down your throat. You chose to drink, so you need to take responsibility for your actions.)

I must admit that I do find happy drunks kind of amusing, within reason. I know some who like to have a party once a week in which everyone gets drunk and sings karaoke. They don’t drive. They don’t mean anybody any harm. They appear to be relatively functional the rest of the week. It’s funny, unless you live next door and are trying to sleep.

I know others who get all romantic when those inhibitions take a hike. Not that they can follow through, but at least it’s positive energy. That counts for something.

But when all is said and done, you need to make very sure your behavior isn’t negatively impacting others before you indulge. If you aren’t capable of doing that, then you should take a good, hard look at your life. Because it’s not only about how much fun you have, it’s about the legacy you leave behind.

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Hey! Look what I wrote!