He's an old guy with a dream.
Dump E. Hatter was sitting around one Sunday flipping through the newspaper when he spotted an ad for the "Star-Spangled Banner" singing contest, sponsored by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. It said that whomever sings the best version of the National Anthem would get to sing it at the museum and at a Baltimore Orioles baseball game on Flag Day in mid-June.
This more than piqued the 76-year-old's interest. After all, he had just beaten 40 other singers in a similar contest at a racetrack in Shreveport.
But this was not your average singing competition. The winner would be decided not only by the quality of the performance, but also by which singer's version received the most hits on YouTube. So, Hatter, a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, put on his Sunday-best and alongside a color guard, gave it his all in front of the camera.
Hatter grew up wanting to be a concert pianist, but by his own admission, lacked the talent to go all the way. So one day, at 13-years-old, his piano teacher taught him a song to sing at Sunday school.
"I sang it," Hatter tells Hair Balls, "and it literally turned out the church. Everyone got happy and was shouting, and my teacher said, 'You'll sing another one next Sunday.' And it just continued from there."
Hatter never turned pro, opting instead to be an educator and eventually a high-school principal, but never gave up singing, even if it was only in church. So when the chance to enter a national competition reared its head, he had to go for it.
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SHOW ME HOW
Hatter's rendition is one of more than 860 entries to the competition. So far, he's received more than 260 hits on his YouTube site.
While that's not a ton, Hatter admits, he is banking on the judges appreciating the more technical aspects of his performance, such as diction, phrasing and tonal quality.
"If they take all that into consideration, which I believe they will, I think I have a chance," he says.
Hatter currently lives in Haynesville, Louisiana, but has roughly 75 or so relatives living in Houston.