CEDAR RAPIDS — He sounds like Dean Martin one minute, Frank Sinatra the next.
He holds a glass of light brown liquid (not always whiskey) in one hand.
He banters with the audience as if everyone is his best friend.
At this Sunday’s Melodies d’ Amore Sweetheart Ball at the Ponderosa Ballroom in Walford, he is Craig Boche of Marion. He’s fronting The Rod Pierson Big Band for KMRY radio’s annual February event. He’s tall, dark-haired and intentionally mysterious.
“I like to keep a line between my private life and my public life,” says Craig, 43. “I love the fact that people are curious and they don’t know.”
But, let’s say you see someone resembling Craig driving a silver Honda Civic. Or maybe at the mall with a wife and two children. Or working in human resources for a non-profit organization in Waterloo. Assume that’s Craig and you’re probably right.
And, as a classics crooner who’s crafted an image, Craig’s got a point.
“You can never be famous in your own hometown. They know you. ‘He’s just a regular Joe from around the corner.’”
Born in Muscatine, Craig grew up listening to his father, Kurt, yodel. Having been born in Bavaria, Germany, Kurt has become famous in Iowa for his talent.
“He is an amazing man, probably the best entertainer I’ve ever seen,” Craig says. “I’ve listened to music my whole life because of dad.”
Polkas and romantic ballads. Marty Robbins and Roger Whittaker. Bobby Darin and The Rat Pack.
“I had a plan,” Craig says. “My plan was, I want to sing for a living.”
After earning a business degree from the University of Iowa in 1990, he joined an accounting firm in Des Moines. One night at Billy Joe’s Pitcher Show he saw a newfangled music machine that let audience members sing to recorded music.
Craig was hooked. In 1991 he leased a machine to bring karaoke to Zazoos in Cedar Rapids.
“I did a four-hour show with only one other singer and they only sang one song,” he laughs.
Craig performed as Karaoke International for a while, quit, then restarted in 1999 after partnering with Quality Chef co-worker Chuck Cavanaugh. A year later Craig walked into the Red Lion Lounge.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” he says, having talked owner “Boston Bill” McLaughlin into letting him set up for a night. Craig belted out a Frank Sinatra tune and the rest is history — his Singin’ N Swingin’ Entertainment has been featured there Friday and Saturday nights since.
Soon, however, Craig took a hiatus for another Quality Chef friend, Shannon Ashby, who needed a liver transplant. That July 7 (Craig’s 32nd birthday), he gave Shannon 60 percent of his liver at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. (After Shannon bought into the Sip ‘N’ Stir a few years ago, Craig’s karaoke group became a mainstay Thursday and Friday nights.)
After cutting a CD five years ago, Craig connected with KMRY radio and hooked up with Rod Pierson’s band. He’s since performed and recorded all around Eastern Iowa including the Iowa Band Association and his Copa Amana show in Amana.
This year, Craig moves the show to Theatre Cedar Rapids, renaming it “Craig Boche’s Flight to the Copa.” Scheduled for June 9, it’ll be a modern-day version of Dean Martin’s TV variety show featuring singers, dancers and the big band, all now Craig’s friends.
Even though singing isn’t his only job, it’s Craig’s dream fulfilled, combining the nuances of childhood idols into his own image.
“I want swagger, I want in your face, I want to sing like Craig Boche,” he says with a smile. “I want to be me.”
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SWEETHEART BALL TICKETS:
Craig Boche will sing with The Rod Pierson Big Band from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday for KMRY radio’s Melodies d’ Amore Sweetheart Ball at the Ponderosa Ballroom in Walford. Admission is free but tickets must be picked up in advance at one of KMRY’s sponsors for the event.
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