Roughly 2920 days ago, I met a most talented Karaoke performer whose song repertoire consisted mostly of Niel Diamond. To be clear, this is not a guy who prides himself on shouting “Sweet Caroline” while staggering around the stage. No, Tony Knoblock is a refreshing reproduction of the real deal, singing lost and found songs like “Coming to America, “Solitary Man”, and, my personal favorite, “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show”.
Back then, I looked forward to hosting Tony each and every Saturday. I could count on him to get a crowd off their feet, even in a bar with no dance floor. I clearly remember the ladies; all ages coming to me and asking if I would get “that guy who sang Neil Diamond” back to the microphone soon. I remember thinking then, “this man is a real karaoke sensation.”
I find Tony now on the launch of a new journey. On any given Sunday, you can find him in an over-sized garage in Gardner, KS, practicing with some close pals for a different kind of performance. It seems this once karaoke sensation has traded in his CDG’s for a 5-piece band, complete with back up singers and shiny new costumes, to become the lead singer of “The Feel of Neil”.
The good fortune was mine on a Sunday some months ago, to attend a chilly Sunday morning rehearsal. My father and I made the drive south to a little farm house just miles outside of suburbia, where I found 8 dedicated individuals hammering out a set list in a building that housed a boat and some resting vehicles. Breakfast was served in the form of doughnuts and several pots of coffee amidst the twinkles of holiday lights and warmth provided by small space heaters. I didn’t know what to expect from the group but was gracious to be a spectator.
They performed an array of Neil songs in a well produced order of importance. As they played, I began to imagine a stage-plus-dance-floor setting with drinks flowing and ladies making their way toward the music. Had it not been for the cold and being early part of the day, I might have danced right there in that shed. The sound was good and ‘Neil’ was steadily on cue with a familiar sound.
The group worked work well together, defying any generalization that bands tend to squabble rather than compromise. After all, the majority of these folks had become acquainted through karaoke, and karaoke is commonly not a team sport. A few hours and some do-overs later, I was left feeling proud; proud these friends had created such a group, and grown it into a band that has great potential for achievement.
Which leads me to the point of my raving: It’s been years now that I have filled my evenings with long nights of karaoke and seen many great (and let’s confess- bad) singers come through the doors of my shows. In all, karaoke can be a lot of things to a lot of people; It’s an excuse to party, a form of interactive entertainment, (and a great way to meet chicks) but it’s also like a gateway for all of us who wish to entertain. Tony has taken his experience to the next level, and good for him.
I asked Tony for some of his thoughts. Please see the interview below:
What are your goals for the group?
What are you currently working on?
Who/what type of audience do you think would enjoy your music most?
I expected our audience to be middle age or older and middle class..What I am finding on things like facebook and visiting the various venues is that we also get a lot of attention from much younger crowds that really get into the music. It is a very rewarding and humbling experience at times.
Where would you most like to play?
I think a tour of state fairs would be my personal favorite. I love playing outdoors…Always have always will….It is just more personal and usually less “canned”
What attracted you to Neil Diamond and his music?
I think that Neil Diamond writes some really deep music. He has his playful side also but consistently puts out stuff that relates to regular people’s everyday life and feelings. The important stuff.
Anything you would like to promote or add?
I am just so thankful to get one more chance to perform with a band and to in some small way affect the careers of the young artists that we are helping. Once The Feel Of Neil has run it’s course, I have promised the band that they will have become one of the best groups in the area and hope they continue on in whatever directions they choose. I hope the fans listen to them during the shows and appreciate the talent and devotion it took to get where they are. I also want to thank all the folks that have stood behind me and encouraged me to do this. I never would have begun this fantastic trip if it weren’t for them.
“The feel of Neil” will perform it’s first official gig at Winslow’s Barbecue in the Rivermarket on June 5th. For more information, please join me in adding them to your Facebook family via the link below:
Band members include:
Richard – lead guitar
Mike – rhythm guitar
Bryant – Bass guitar
Lee – keyboards
Ryan – drums
Beth and Corey – back up vocals
Most of the members also play other instruments or also do vocals.