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Forest Parkers love live music. When rock bands play in town, I always see uninhibited souls willing to dance, or sing along. “Mighty Joe” Beatty enjoys playing our bars so much that he titled his latest CD No Kids in the Beer Garden. There won’t be any children at the singer-songwriter’s upcoming gig at Molly Malone’s on Jan. 24, but there should be plenty of adults rocking out.

Molly’s general manager Sandra O’Connor remembers Mighty Joe brought out a great crowd at his first appearance at the Irish pub. “He’s a born entertainer,” O’Connor said. “He can sell himself on stage. He really knows how to work a crowd.”

Molly Malone’s provides the perfect training ground and showcase for local talent: Poetry – first Monday of the month – to learn songwriting; Karaoke on Fridays to show off the voice. And on Sundays, the pub hosts an open mic night where local musicians can audition for a club booking.

Mighty Joe did so well at his audition he was invited to play on a Saturday night. Like many Forest Park bars, Molly’s has no cover charge. “The locals keep us going,” O’Connor said. “A cover charge would be the last thing we’d want.”

Besides Mollys, Mighty Joe has played at the Pioneer Tap, the Circle Inn and other down home venues.

“I started doing acoustic sets at the Pioneer in the ’90s,” MJ said. “And it spread to other Forest Park bars.”

Mighty Joe plays 250 gigs a year, which supports his modest lifestyle in an Oak Park condo. He’s a gifted guitarist who sings in a baritone growl. But MJ is much more than a wandering minstrel. His sharp banter with the audience and success in getting them to sing along makes for a warm, witty performance.

Joe started playing guitar when he was 16 but didn’t pursue a music career. Instead, he majored in political science and theology at Concordia College. After he graduated, he taught high school English for five years. Ten years ago, Joe followed a fork in the road and left the classroom for the stage.

Since then he’s played more than 2,000 shows. He also put his English studies to work, crafting some 500 original songs, of which “eight or 10 are pretty good,” he says. Mostly, he plays covers and parodies. Some of his selections, like “STDs” and “Girlfriend in a Coma” are refreshingly politically incorrect.

“I can’t play these songs in the western suburbs,” Mighty Joe proclaimed. “But I can sing them here in Forest Park.”

Come see Joe and his percussionist partner, Jim Landeck, this Saturday. Mighty Joe will be happy to see you.