At 33, Bear Bailey thought his dream of becoming a singer was dead. Then TikTok and his local gas station helped bring it back to life.
Bailey has gained over a million followers on TikTok in less than two weeks since he started posting videos from the Super Serve station near his home in Houma, Louisiana. In the viral clips, cashiers make song requests and Bailey serenades them at the checkout, eliciting heartwarming (and often hilarious) reactions from surprised shoppers at the store.
“Bear! I’ve been waiting for you,” shouts cashier Melissa McGee, known to locals as Mama, in a clip as Bailey walks in and does a cover of “All of Me” by John Legend.
Bailey, whose real name is James but has been called Bear since he was a child, told HuffPost that becoming a professional singer is his lifelong dream.
He started posting his work on TikTok in October 2020 and had just under 140,000 subscribers before the gas station serenades took off. As of Wednesday night, he had 1.4 million followers.
It all started when McGee’s daughters, Renee Hayes and Ashley McGee, who also work at the Super Serve, asked her for a song.
“They found out that I could sing, you know, just because I lived here, and so on the days that I was going over there for a snack or whatever, they were like, ‘Hey, Bear, you gotta sing, you gotta sing for me, ”Bailey said.
When he first did it, the women filmed him behind the counter and Bailey decided to post the clip online.
“It’s a very humbling feeling,” said Bailey, whose day job is to work in construction as a welder. “I’ve been singing my whole life and, you know, I’m 33 and you’ve just come to an age where you kind of give up on your dream because you’re like, ‘It’s never going to happen. “”
“And then it happens and it kind of reaffirms, like, hey, I don’t have to give up,” he continued. “I love what it shows my 5 year old daughter, like, daddy hasn’t stopped.”
Melissa McGee, who Bailey described as “the mom of the local neighborhood,” said she sees Bailey as a son and is thrilled her videos exploded.
“We love him to death,” she said. “He has an amazing voice, and someone has to sign him.”
As for his background hype team, Bailey said they were mostly strangers but liked their reactions.
“I really walk and people have no idea,” he said. “But, I mean, now people literally go out there and wait and see if I’m going to come in, and it’s really crazy.”
Many TikTok fans have said that they love Bailey’s tunes and the way they bring people together.
“Thank you for this wellness video. It’s nice to see people love each other. Americans are awesome, ”commented one person under a video of Bailey singing“ ‘Til Summer Comes Around ”by Keith Urban.
While most of Bailey’s posts are currently cover versions, the singer has said he also writes original music – although his focus for now is to keep doing what he does.
“The dream now is just to keep pushing positive vibes to continue to bring unity as our community,” Bailey said. “And the dream now is to write songs that can just maybe help one or two people get out of a bad situation or a bad mood or brighten up someone’s day.”
And that’s already what he’s doing. In one of his most recent videos, he gave it to McGee and her daughters after receiving donations online.
“They’re a big part of that too. I mean, they hold the camera, they talk in songs and stuff, and they really helped me out so I just wanted to give back, ”he said.
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