I usually don't get into "American Idol" until the top 12 or so. I have this sympathetic embarrassment problem that makes it impossible for me to watch the bad contestants perform without running to the kitchen for a glass of water every two minutes to spare myself and stem the blushing.
But this year, I'm getting into it a little early because there are plenty of hometown heroes for me to root for. You see, "American Idol" held an audition in Greensboro, N.C. this year. It's not as big a town as where most of the auditions are held, but it is smack dab in the middle of a state that has bred a handful of top "Idol" contestants in the past(Fantasia Barrino and Clay Aiken being the most notable). And that state is, of course, my home state.
This year, there are four contestants in the top 20 from the Tar Heel State.
First, Bucky Covington, who I heart with a great, great intensity. He's from the small North Carolina town where I used to work, and when he's not performing on "American Idol," he performs with a local band called Caddy Wampus, with his twin brother Rocky on drums and vocals. That's right-- Caddy Wampus, which regularly performs at the Gold Dust out on Hwy. 74. Just try to say that without sounding six kinds of country. Here he is on last week's "Idol," singing "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
I'm really surprised I don't know him, since he's around my age, and there are few enough places to hang out in Rockingham that telling someone to "meet me at the bar" isn't likely to cause all that much confusion.
Folks have Bucky Fever in Rockingham, and are all gathering at a local restaurant to watch him perform. Sigh. Wish I could be there. Obviously, the country mechanic is my sentimental favorite. I listened to his interview on the "American Idol" webpage before I heard him sing and I was hooked. He sounds like home to me.
Last year, I loved Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice, but I was rooting for Bo, so I'd like to see a Southern rocker come up big again this year. So far, he's sung Southern rock ("Simple Man") and country ("The Thunder Rolls") on the big stage, which I imagined he could do. It remains to be seen if he can be as versatile as Bice was, but the gravel in his voice makes me think he could make some other things sound good. At least he doesn't just appeal to just a Southern audience-- Ann Althouse likes his Bo-like vibe, and even Simon Cowell finds him sincere.
Having an American Idol is a beautiful thing for a small town-- especially a small town that just lost a large part of its tax revenue and its only national recognition when NASCAR took two races away from North Carolina Speedway. I just hope Rockingham's population combined with Bucky's new fans can keep him in the game.
My second-favorite N.C. idol is Kellie Pickler, from Albemarle, N.C., which is just a little ways North of Rockingham (singing "Something to Talk About" by Bonnie Raitt). Some excerpts from her entirely un-self-concious interview about her L.A. experience:
Iâ€™ve tried some new things. I had my first spinach salad. It was ok. It kinda tasted like pickin' a leaf off a bush.
I tried my first squid. They call that...calamari. And, uh, that wasâ€¦I can live without ever eating that again.
Iâ€™ve never seen so many dogs with clothesâ€”-they have like little hats and booties and jackets. Thet definitely have more clothes than I do. L.A.â€™s been fun, but Iâ€™m definitely not in Albemarle, North Carolina anymore.
Both Bucky and Kellie are talented and adorable. I'm not sure they're likely to end up in the late rounds together since that would basically be a replay of last year's final-- long-haired Southern rock boy vs. sweet, blonde country girl. But I'd sure like it if they did.