By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
By Pete Kotz
By Monica Alonzo
By New Times
"The environment is really cool," says Michelle when Jett inquires as to why they come to GCS.
"Yes, they have everything here from '80s to country music," explains Raymond in his island accent.
"I love the way you talk," says the sometimes het Jett, getting frisky.
"Ha-ha, thank you, I love it, too," joshes Raymond. "I've been in the U.S. 10 years. Right now I'm in New York. This is my girlfriend, so I hope to be moving here [to Phoenix] soon."
While we're standing there, some dood walks up to Raymond like he's gonna ask for his autograph. The guy goes away disappointed when he learns Raymond isn't famous.
"That's because you look like a rock star," oozes the Jettster.
"I do my best," laughs Raymond. "Actually, I work as a cash manager, and my girlfriend is a nurse. I dress like this for her. She picked out these glasses for me."
"A hella-fine nurse with a passion for fashion," I remark. "You better move on out here, Ray, before I take her from you."
Ray laughs and promises to do just that. Jett spots a cute girlie in a white wedding gown who's making her way toward the exit, apparently looking for her groom. So we follow her out to the hallway and sideline her. She's Angela Hewitt from Chandler, and she just got married to her beau Rick Hewitt today at a church in Gilbert.
"We went to the reception dinner, and we were still partying afterward when it ended, so we decided to come here," parlays the booful bride, longneck in one hand. "Everybody wanted to go here, because there's something for everyone. My favorite's the Rockin Rodeo."
"So where's hubby?" queries Jett.
"I don't know where he's at right now," she replies, grinning and looking around.
"Was it a big wedding?" I wonder.
"Over 100 people."
"And are you two going on a honeymoon?"
"No, we decided to buy furniture instead," Hewitt tells us. "We furnished the whole house with brand-new everything."
"Sweet," I drawl, just like my hero Cartman on South Park. We congratulate Hewitt, and make our way to the last club on our list, the karaoke bar Alley Cats, which has a stage on one end, a bar on the other, and tables and chairs in the middle. Alley Cats sits in the center of GCS, with all the other clubs situated around it. The stage features paid performers and amateurs, and when we enter, it's American Idol time, with amateur Herbert Giddens belting out the George Strait tune "Blue Clear Sky." Usually, karaoke singers suck donkey. But Giddens' voice is exceptional, mellifluous, with a perfect country twang to it. I mean, y'all know, I'm no big fan of country, but Giddens is the Charley Pride of the Zona. If there's ever a person who should be reppin' us in Nashville, Mr. Giddens is that man.
"I'm 31 and I've been singing country music since I was 11 years old," explains the genial, African-American gent, who's a transportation officer at the Florence Correctional Center. "No matter how big the crowd, when I start singing, everyone stops and listens to what I have to say. That's respect."
"How did you become so passionate about country music?" asks Jett.
"I'm the baby boy of five kids," he divulges. "And for some reason, my sister fell in love with country music. My mom had cable, with a country channel, and she had a rule that whoever had the TV, you had to watch what they watched in the living room until they changed it. My sister would sit there for hours, never leaving the room. I hated country at the time, but once I started listening to the words, I started to understand them, even at a young age.
"That's how I got into it. Then when I turned 21, I went to a karaoke bar, and my sister kept saying, 'Sing, sing!' Even though I loved it, I didn't want to sing in front of anyone else. But I didn't know them, and they didn't know me. So I sung the song, and everyone went crazy."
"Have you ever thought of going to Nashville?" I inquire.
"No," he shakes his head, thoughtfully. "I don't mind working for a living. Everybody has to. But I would love to sing country music for a living. Actually, I can't even sing R&B good."