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On The Senior Circuit, A Call To Sing Along

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Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for ACM

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for ACM

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By BETHANY RODGERS
The Frederick News-Post

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — If the entries in Arthur “Pete” Baugher Sr.’s worn pocket calendar hold true, very few days in July will end before he’s sung some gospel music.

For most dates in the month, the 80-year-old Frederick resident plans to set up his karaoke equipment at a local nursing home or church and belt out some melodies with his singing partner, Betty Ridgely.

He’s in high demand at the elder care facilities, drawing crowds of more than 30 or 40 people at some places, in part because he said he sticks to the music people know.

“Old people like old songs,” the retired reverend said.

Baugher said he’s been blending folk tunes with karaoke for about 10 to 12 years, ever since he had to put down the guitar because playing the chords became too difficult for his fingers.

Though he could no longer accompany his singing with the guitar, he wasn’t about to give up music, so he bought his own PA system to start leading karaoke. Then he started making rounds at local nursing homes.

Now, his bookings stretch from Glade Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Walkersville to Golden Living Center in Hagerstown. He’s even christening the new Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center building with a karaoke event.

His performances last for about an hour, but residents are always ready for more, he said.

“The people can enter into it, with the words on the screen. Some of them really get into it,” he said.

Baugher’s repertoire is heavy on church music — “‘Cause that’s what I am: Born again” — but he also adds some Elvis to the mix, he said.

He knows hundreds of the songs by heart; he’s been playing them since he was about 20 years old and first picked up a guitar, and he doesn’t just wait for performances to enjoy them.

“He’s always singing a different song,” Ridgely said.

Ordained in 1958, Baugher spent about 15 years as a leader at Bartholows Pentecostal Church and then for about seven years preached every Sunday at a West Virginia campsite while still living in Frederick on weekdays.

Much of his life, Baugher said he’s led singing at churches and nursing homes, and since his experience spans decades, he said he never gets nervous.

Ridgely was a little different; she never felt comfortable singing in public until Baugher helped her gain confidence.

But Baugher seems to be a pretty confident person all-around. For example, try wishing him good luck on a performance.

“Luck has nothing to do with it,” he said with a half-smile. “It’s all skill.”

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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