Before Dave Staff started singing Peggy Lee and Bing Crosby in front of an audience, he sang to light fixtures. A former electrician, the seventy-year-old karaoke king has wanted to sing for people for as long as he can remember. When his brother brought him out to Denver a few years ago, his dream became a reality. "Music is the only way to tell someone you love them," he says on a song break at Armida's, his regular karaoke haunt.
And Staff's got a following. When he approaches the stage at Armida's, people cheer him on by name. What's more, he has a personalized plaque next to his favorite seat at the bar. According to Darlene, one of his best friends, people stop him on the street to tell him how good his rendition of "Purple Rain" is; that song is one of the most contemporary songs he sings. "My song range stops at the 1980s," he says. "Because after that, things started to get spooky."
Even so, Staff's repertoire spans the greater part of the twentieth century, through a complete historical evolution of music. On any given night, he'll perform songs by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Neil Diamond to Ray Charles and Bob Seger. After performing a particularly sentimental interpretation of Seger's "Night Moves," Staff talks about how that particular song embodies everything he felt when he started exploring girls for the first time -- the excitement, and the underlying lack of knowledge when it came to women or sex.
In a lot of ways, it seems like every song Staff takes on is part of a curated chronological set list, touching on many of his varying life experiences. It's easy to imagine "Unchain My Heart" as a jab at an ex-wife, or "Purple Rain" as a woeful apology back to her.
Armida's isn't Staff's only spot. He also makes frequent rounds to Denver's other karaoke hot spots. When he's not at Armida's, there's a good chance you'll find him at Blondie's or Tavern 13. In the last few year's he's won several karaoke competitions, including a second-place finish in a competition at Gennaro's.
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Along with a growing number of admirers, Staff has also made some pretty good friends along the way. In fact, he's been known to get people singing on stage who just a few hours earlier would never have suspected that singing karaoke would be on their itinerary. Staff has even coaxed his hesitant roommate Clark up on stage with him before, and sings over him to drown out his voice when necessary.
Music means everything to Staff, and he wants everyone around him to experience the happiness that singing on stage has brought him. "When you start to sing songs," he concludes, "you start to understand them right to their core."
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