LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "American Idol" champion Scotty McCreery became the most successful winner in eight years on Wednesday when his debut country album went straight to the top of the Billboard charts.
McCreery, who turned 18 years-old this week, was also the youngest male artist to see a debut release open in the No.1 spot, and "Clear As Day" notched the highest first week album sales of any solo country artist this year, Billboard said.
McCreery took the "American Idol" crown in an all-country music finale of the TV singing contest in May. "Clear As Day" , released on a Universal Music Group label, sold 197,000 copies in the first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan figures.
"My hopes were just to go out there and have fun...Everybody hopes for the number one, but you never really expect it. To see it up there is pretty incredible," the poised teen with the distinctive deep voice said in a statement.
McCreery, a former grocery clerk from North Carolina, was the first "American Idol" winner since soul singer Ruben Studdard in 2003 to start a career at the top of the Billboard 200 chart.
"Idol" Runner-up Lauren Alaina, 16, releases her first album next week.
McCreery's "Idol" win followed a judge's revamp and efforts to attract younger contestants that helped the May final on Fox television see a 21 percent increase in viewers.
He was the first country musician to win the "Idol" title since Carrie Underwood in 2005, who went on to become one of the talent contest's biggest stars.
Commercial success has not been as easy for other recent "Idol" champions. 2010 winner Lee DeWyze was dropped by his record label last week after poor sales and 2009 winner Kris Allen has largely failed to translate his victory into a mainstream music career.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)