Casey's Big Break?

Posted: January 17, 2013

WHEN WAS the exact moment you knew the Birds season was done? Was it Michael Vick's Week 10 concussion, or LeSean McCoy's in Week 11? Was it back in October, when coach Andy Reid canned Juan Castillo? Or December, when making the playoffs became statistically impossible?

For lots of fans, it was mid-November. That's when we turned on our computers/tablets/smartphones and watched a 22-year-old Drexel student walk around FDR Park singing, "We Are Never Ever Gonna Win With Andy" to the tune of Taylor Swift's hit "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."

There we sat, rapt, watching a petite, pretty, ponytailed blonde belting out clear-as-a-bell lyrics: "I'm really gonna miss our Monday talks/and your funny way of managing the clock/your stupid play-calling in the red zone/and all the fourth- quarter leads that you've blown" - while shoving a Reid look-alike into a Porta-Potty.

You saw that video. And you knew. You just knew. It was over for the Eagles.

But for Casey Conklin, the singer in the video, things were just beginning. The parody went viral, quickly hitting 100,000, 200,000 and

now, nearly three months after it went up, even with

Reid shipped off to Kansas City, Mo., nearly half a million views on YouTube.

"It's really crazy," said the Marlton native, who lives in Old City. "It blew up."

Suddenly, guys in Center City bars like Drinker's and the Irish Pub were recognizing her. Colleagues at Janney Montgomery Scott, the investment firm where she had a six-month internship, (and where she now works part time, while finishing her last semester of a five-year program to earn a degree in business administration with a concentration in finance) were sending her clip around the office.

And, also somewhat suddenly, she was appearing alongside her dad, Joe Conklin, the comedian and 94 WIP regular, in the "Two Funny Philly Guys" stand-up act he performs with Big Daddy Graham.

After one such show in November in Media, Conklin was stunned that "a few people wanted my autograph, and were saying how great [the performance] was. . . . That's the only time I experienced that."

The first. Probably not the last.

A wing and a song

Conklin's next big public performance takes place the morning of Feb. 1, the day before her 23rd birthday. She'll sing the national anthem for an expected crowd of 20,000 at Wing Bowl 21. Wing Bowl co-creator and WIP host Angelo Cataldi invited her.

Cataldi, never one for understatement, had Conklin on his radio show Tuesday morning. On the air, he gushed, "You are the most talented person I have ever, ever encountered."

Later that morning, he added, "What she is going to do with the anthem at Wing Bowl 21, people will speak about for years . . . This is the next big singing talent in all of America."

Now, Cataldi's no Simon Cowell. But he's been in showbiz for quite some time (nearly 24 years at WIP). He also knows the Conklin family inside and out. He knows, for example, that Conklin's mom, grandparents, aunts and uncles, "they all have great singing voices." Casey, he added, is "just better than all of them."

Joe Conklin said he was "never totally aware" that the youngest of his three daughters dreamed of a showbiz career, though she'd been "involved in plays, chorus, things like that." (His son, Casey's older brother, died when she was 14. Just 23, he'd been addicted to prescription drugs. The sad event, she said, "makes you more accepting of people in a lot of ways. It definitely makes you cherish your family, cherish your friends, people close to you.")

"She's always been a really levelheaded kid," her dad said, "always straight A's, never the dreamy type that would think, 'Hey, I wanna be a star.' "

On the other hand, the funnydad isn't completely surprised at this turn of events. After all, he'd brought a much younger Casey and some of her 46 first cousins to the studio to be the kids voices on parodies of "Jingle Bells" and "Father Christmas," holiday songs that were often "about how bad the Philly sports teams were."

And it was Joe Conklin who texted his daughter last April to ask her to come to Polygon Music Studio in Cherry Hill to record a version of Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger," with lyrics saying the Phils were poised for a comeback.

Said the proud dad, "She knocked it out of the park. Angelo [Cataldi] fell in love with her."

Encore, encore

At Cataldi's behest, the father-daughter duo returned to the studio to record five parodies over the next 10 months. Conklin or her sister Kelly would choose the song. Dad Joe would write the words.

Together, they turned Carly Rae Jepsen's smash "Call Me Maybe" into "Gonna Win It Baby," about the Flyers' run for the Stanley Cup. Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" became "Hits Don't Lie," to praise the stellar batting average of Phils catcher Carlos Ruiz. They lauded Flyer Claude Giroux, lambasted former Sixer Andre Iguodala and lamented a string of Eagles losses, before most famously blasting Coach Reid. (Find their work on Casey Conklin's YouTube channel.)

Listen to the songs, and it's easy to get caught up in the lyrics. But take a second listen, and it's all about Conklin's voice.

Polygon owner Rob Federico has produced pop hits such as Rockell's "In a Dream" and Collage's "I'll Be Loving You." He said, "You knew when [Conklin] walked in, she could sing."

Federico said most of his artists post videos to YouTube, but it's rare for one to go viral. That happened for Conklin. And it may happen again.

For the past few weeks, she and Federico - also a musician who goes by the name Robert Eric - have been collaborating on a handful of covers and original songs to create a set list she could perform at clubs and coffeehouses.

They've redone the Ronettes' 1966 single "I Can Hear Music," which the Beach Boys reworked in 1969. Conklin thinks the song will work best as a dance-club remix.

Saturday, she was back in front of the cameras turning the tune into a video. This is "a bigger risk," she said. "People liked the Andy Reid video because it was funny."

The video won't be released until it's completely ready and polished. She'll take her time, keep rehearsing in the shower, keep going to work and school.

"Maybe something great will happen," she allowed. "My dad reminds me all the time that the No. 1 thing is to graduate and get a job, which is what I want to do as well. But there's always the idea in the back of my mind."

" @LaMcCutch

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