Should You Sing “Tennessee Whiskey”? I Don’t Know. But I Do Know Dawne is the Best!

Look, I’m no expert on karaoke or the hardworking Houston emcees who host the fun (and, dare I say, essential) karaoke gatherings at our local bars and restaurants. Although I’ve subjected actual thousands (sorry, y’all) to my best vocal attempts over the years – and, yes, I did once do extensive research to report on the city’s “karaoke superstars” for Houston Press – I’m still mostly a fan and not an authority on H-town’s “best” karaoke jockeys. So, you’ll just have to take my very subjective word when I say the best KJ I’ve met in my various karaoke pursuits is Dawne Brickwedel Ferris. So you don’t see this as pure bias (because look how cool we look together in this photo I took recently), here are my reasons.

First off, Dawne is a brilliant singer, which obviously isn’t a prerequisite for running a karaoke night. I only bring it up because my wife, my brother, sister-in-law and I once took our singing selves on a karaoke road trip to Bourbon Street’s “world famous” (read: lone) karaoke bar, The Cat’s Meow. The KJ there was like a Chicago Bulls opponent trying to defend Jordan in the ’90s – he just grabbed and would not let go of the mike. This fellow allowed himself a whole-ass song between each patron. Besides being an unchecked egomaniac, his voice was thinner than gas station 1-ply. Dawne is a skilled vocalist (her rendition of Rita Coolidge’s “We’re All Alone” dropped my jaw like a crisp left hook) but you practically have to beg her to sing, which I do frequently because I enjoy real talent. She understands she could be the singing star, but she always allows the crowd to shine.

In fact, Dawne’s family includes others who also have beautiful voices. That might be the good luck of genetics but most likely it’s because Dawne encouraged them along the way, something she does quite well with her karaoke faithful. She cheers on singers like every other KJ, but it feels genuine and that emboldens us to try new things, which is never a bad thing in karaoke or in life. She knows her clientele and puts them in comfortable places when that’s required. A friendly word, or a reminder that they slayed the last time they sang “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Tennessee Whiskey” (just kiddin’ – no one slays that song, y’all please stop trying already), or getting the room to respond positively no matter how good, bad or drunken the effort – she’s got lots of ways to support singers. All that encouragement makes for a good experience for performers which in turn makes for a good experience for the audience.

Like anyone else on the job, Dawne lives a whole world outside of karaoke, a real life with real life problems sometimes. Since I’ve known her, she’s never let those matters get in the way of her patrons’ good times. And there have surely been times when she’s leaned into the friendships she’s made from the job, too, for her own support. We count on her being there and she reliably makes her gigs, which are easy to find via her social media pages. In other words, for lots of us she’s a lot more than just someone who calls up the song you wanna sing (yes, even “Tennessee Whiskey”).

Best of all, she keeps the evening fun wherever she’s emceeing. That’s the main component of a night at karaoke, after all. Because she loves music and people, the most important part of the gig also seems to be the part that comes easiest to her. I know I’m no expert, but if I only had one vote to cast for the area’s top KJ, I’d cast mine twice for Dawne.

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