12:16pm

Sat August 13, 2011
Around the Nation

No Judges In The "Karaoke Cab," Just Good Times

Some cab drivers might stay silent with customers in their cars. Others can talk your ear off. Joel Laguidao just wants to sing with you.

Laguidao has become known as the "karaoke cab driver." While driving for Red Top Cab Co. on weekend nights around Arlington, Va., he sings favorites like Journey's "Faithfully" and Bon Jovi's "Bed of Roses."

It started about three years ago. Laguidao grew tired of the FM radio offerings and bought a karaoke machine. He has two small monitors for reading lyrics, a large silver microphone and a thick song catalog.

The karaoke setup also helps him get passengers on weekend nights. Sometimes, he'll roll down the window and start singing to potential customers.

"They're shocked," Laguidao says. "They say, 'Really? Run the meter, let's go sing.'"

Others might book him for a later trip. "They get my number, and then, after like 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock in the morning, they shout in my car singing," Laguidao says. They "need more liquid in the belly first," he laughs.

Near the Courthouse Metro station in Washington, D.C., Laguidao rolls down his window and calls out to a guy leaving a bar. Before Laguidao can even explain his unique cab, the man's face lights up.

"Are you guys the karaoke cab?" Tim Jacobs shouts. He and a friend, Brian McKeever, climb in.

After some back and forth about song choice — should it be "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" or "Don't Stop Believing"? — the pair settles on "Summer of '69."

The two clap while singing passionately — and off-key. Laguidao joins in. "Those were the best days of my life!" booms the car's speaker system.

After the song ends, Jacobs and McKeever arrive at their destination and wish Laguadao the best.

"That's a good customer," Laguidao smiles widely.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, host: Well, if Aziz likes to sing so much, I've got some advice for the comedian. He should hitch a ride some time with Joel Laguidao. Joel's a cab driver in Arlington, Virginia. Jump in his backseat and he'll ask you two questions: where you're going and do you want the mike? Joel is known as the karaoke cabbie. He's got two small monitors for reading the lyrics and a big silver microphone in his cab. I had to check it out, and so Joel agreed to pick me up outside our studios here in Washington.

Here's our ride. Are you Joel?

JOEL LAGUIDAO: Yeah. I'm Joel.

GREENE: I'm David. Nice to meet you.

LAGUIDAO: David, nice to meet you.

GREENE: You're the karaoke cab.

LAGUIDAO: Yeah. It's me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BED OF ROSES")

LAGUIDAO: (Singing) I want to lay you down on a bed of roses. For tonight I'll sleep on a bed of nails.

GREENE: Why did you want to do this?

LAGUIDAO: Because I have a microphone, I sing in the house and then I try to put in the car.

GREENE: For you. So it started out - you wanted to...

LAGUIDAO: For me. Yeah, for me. Yeah, for me.

GREENE: You sing karaoke at home and you were like, I should do this while I'm driving.

LAGUIDAO: Yeah, yeah.

GREENE: And did a passenger sort of see and say, hey...

LAGUIDAO: Yeah.

GREENE: ...my turn.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAGUIDAO: The passenger said, oh, I want to sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: Not everyone likes to sing, and so I was curious to see what happens when Joel picks up passengers. We rolled up to a bar.

LAGUIDAO: You want to ride and sing?

TIM JACOBS: Hey, hey, hey. Karaoke cab. Do you want to get in? We're going, like, literally two blocks.

LAGUIDAO: Two blocks? No problem.

GREENE: That's great. You got to sing. Here's the microphone.

JACOBS: Okay.

GREENE: Whoever's - it's all you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SUMMER OF '69")

JACOBS: (Singing) The summer of '69, me and some guys from school...

GREENE: You're the expert. Do you think people who have had some drinks sing, they sing better?

LAGUIDAO: Yeah. Some people, when I pick up and I ask them, OK, do you like to sing? And then they get my number, and then after like, 1 o'clock in the morning, 2 o'clock, they call me. And then after that, they shout in the car and sing. Need more liquid in the belly first. Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SUMMER OF '69")

JACOBS: (Singing) Those were the best days of my life. Oh, yeah.

GREENE: After those crooners got out of the cab, Joel and I did one final number together.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET IT BE")

GREENE: (Singing) Here we go. When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

LAGUIDAO: (Singing) When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be. Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be. Whisper words of wisdom, let it be, yeah.

GREENE: The Potomac River has never looked so pretty as tonight. I have to say that, Joel.

LAGUIDAO: Thank you, everybody. See you next year.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.