Thursday, March 23, 2006
By MIKE BRANTLEY TV & Media Editor
In South Alabama, grandmother Joni Hicks of Gulf Shores has rallied the troops -- the "Soul Patrol," as fans of Alabama singer Taylor Hicks refer to themselves -- at "American Idol" viewing parties every week since her grandson first appeared on the Fox TV program.
Her 29-year-old, gray-haired grandson is a Birmingham native who has entertained Gulf Coast music lovers during frequent engagements here in recent years. On Wednesday night he became a member of the exclusive "American Idol" Top 10 for 2006.
Hicks received on-air praise from "Idol" judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul after singing and dancing over seemingly every inch of the stage, although judge Simon Cowell didn't care for his performance this time. Abdul commended Hicks, calling him "one of a kind" and saying that, "They broke the mold after you," whereas Cowell called Hicks' performance "a complete mess."
"Taylor has one of the great voices that I've ever heard," Manilow said on the show. "He's a tenor, a whiskey tenor -- way up higher than I can sing, but it doesn't sound very high when he's singing. It's so natural."
"To be honest with you, he was born for this," said Taylor's uncle, Sam Hicks of Birmingham, sporting a "Soul Patrol" T-shirt at the Lulu's event. "He has always been a performer. When he was 3 years old, he was doing what I call the (Mick) Jagger strut. He's never had a voice lesson a day of his life, but he has worked hard at it."
"We all knew he was good," Sam Hicks said. "When we went to see him in bars and chicken coops or wherever he played, we could see he had a passion for what he wanted to do. Now everyone can see that passion."
Besides Hicks, those still in the contest are: Paris Bennett, 17, of Fayetteville, Ga.; Mandisa, 29, of Antioch, Tenn.; Katharine McPhee, 21, of Sherman Oaks, Calif.; Kellie Pickler, 19, of Albemarle, N.C.; Lisa Tucker, 16, of Anaheim, Calif.; Bucky Covington, 28, of Rockingham, N.C.; Chris Daughtry, 26, of McLeansville, N.C.; Elliott Yamin, 27, of Richmond, Va.; and Ace Young, 25, of Los Angeles.
To read Mike's article in its entirety, click the title link.
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