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Taylor Hicks

Taylor Reuben Hicks (born October 7, 1976) is an American soul singer, songwriter, and musician. Hicks was an independent artist for the span of a decade before rising to prominence as the winner of the fifth season of American Idol. Upon winning American Idol, he was immediately signed to Arista Records, under which his major-label debut, called Taylor Hicks, was released on December 12, 2006. His energetic stage performances and influences derived from classic soul, blues, and R&B music have earned him a following of devout fans, who have dubbed themselves the "Soul Patrol".

Early life

Taylor Hicks was born at Saint Vincent's Hospital at 3:30am Central Daylight Time in Birmingham, Alabama on October 7, 1976, to Bradley Hicks and Pamela Dickinson Hicks. As an infant, he had blond hair. His hair color turned dark brown/black as an adolescent and started turning gray by the time he was 13. He and his family moved to suburban Hoover when he was eight years old. His parents divorced when he was eight, and his father Brad, a dentist, and stepmother Linda shared custody until he became of age. Hicks attributed his difficult childhood as the reason for him to find solace in soul and blues music. He has a younger half-brother, Sean, who would later convince him to audition for American Idol.

According to his father, when he was five years old he sang to random strangers the music of Kenny Rogers or Michael Jackson. He bought his first harmonica when he was 16, for $2 at a flea market in Bessemer, Alabama, and taught himself to play blues harp. He discovered that he possessed absolute pitch when he realized that he was able to recognize the pitches of ordinary noises and mimic them on the harmonica. He wrote his first song, "In Your Time", at the age of 18, and later taught himself to play guitar when he was 19 years old.

Hicks was a former student of Berry High School and graduated from its successor Hoover High School in 1995. He played varsity baseball, soccer, and basketball while studying in Hoover; and even for a while considered a career in professional basketball. He attended Auburn University, majoring in business and journalism, but lost interest and dropped out after three years, despite being only 40 hours short of earning his degree.

Early career

While in college, Hicks was part of a band called Passing Through, which he later quit to start his own band. He recorded In Your Time independently in 1997 at age 19, and he moved to Nashville, Tennessee in 2000 to pursue a music career. There, he worked with Nashville veterans Billy Earl McClelland and Percy Sledge and recorded a three-track demo but was unable to find a label that would sign him. He left Nashville after a year due to what he called the "oversaturation of the market". Hicks returned to Alabama to start the Taylor Hicks Band and launched a professional music career with performances at various venues and parties mostly around the Southeastern United States, including The War Eagle Supper Club (a popular college bar) in Auburn, Alabama, and at the Playboy Mansion.Hicks has performed with James Brown, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne, Drive-By Truckers, Robert Randolph, and contemporary blues legend Keb Mo. He also performed in the huge infield of Talladega Superspeedway in 2004 during a NASCAR race weekend. After Hicks won Idol, driver David Stremme said that he hoped Hicks would come back for the October race weekend there.

He recorded, produced, and released a second album, Under the Radar, in 2005. Despite releasing two albums prior to appearing on American Idol, he did not violate their requirements for contestants, as he had never held a recording contract.

Hicks has allowed audience members to record his concerts for personal, non-commercial use, and went so far as to authorize the Internet Archive to create a section for fans to upload and share their recordings, but it was unclear whether his American Idol contract would allow this to continue, so the Archive will not accept the upload of concerts recorded after January 1, 2006.

American Idol

Hicks auditioned for American Idol in Las Vegas, Nevada in September 2005. He had originally wanted to try out in Memphis, Tennessee, but auditions in that city were canceled to accommodate relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina. He had been in New Orleans, Louisiana attending a wedding of a good friend he met while at Auburn University on the night before Hurricane Katrina hit. His Southwest Airlines flight out of New Orleans had been canceled, and he had been offered a travel voucher to use at a later date. He used the ticket voucher to fly to Las Vegas.[15] Hicks passed the audition by the approval of judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, but not Simon Cowell, who said that Hicks would never make it to the final round. On Hicks's first performance for the voting public, Cowell called back to this quote, admitting he was wrong.

On the May 10, 2006 results show, Hicks along with Katharine McPhee and Elliott Yamin, were announced as the Top 3 finalists. On May 12, Idol producers brought Hicks to Birmingham for a weekend of promotional events including television interviews for the local FOX affiliate, a downtown parade, concerts, and an audience with Governor Bob Riley. May 12 was proclaimed "Taylor Hicks Day" and Hicks was given the key to the city. Also on May 12, Gov. Riley issued a proclamation making May 16 "Taylor Hicks Day".

Hicks was named the new American Idol on May 24, 2006 winning the title over McPhee, with over 63.4 million votes cast in total. With his win, Hicks (at 29) became the oldest person to win American Idol, only the second male to win the contest (after Ruben Studdard), and is, to date, the only man to win the contest against a woman in the finale. He is also the first and only white man and the fifth Southerner to win American Idol. He is the second American Idol from Birmingham, Alabama after season 2 winner Ruben Studdard, as well as the fourth finalist with Birmingham ties. He is the third winner to have never landed in the bottom two or three, after Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.

In June 2006, Ford Motor Company, the show's major sponsor, signed Hicks to promote Ford's "Drive on Us" year-end sales event. He was also named Hottest Bachelor by People magazine for 2006, appearing on the magazine's cover.

Life after Idol

Hicks signed a recording contract with Arista Records in conjunction with 19 Recordings Unlimited, the label managed by AI creator Simon Fuller, in May 2006. Hicks's debut single "Do I Make You Proud" debuted on the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and was subsequently certified gold by the RIAA.

Hicks made guest appearances in concerts by Snoop Dogg, the Allman Brothers, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Widespread Panic, and Willie Nelson. Hicks also joined his fellow Top 10 Idol finalists on the American Idols LIVE! Tour which ran from July to September. The members of the former Taylor Hicks Band regrouped as the Little Memphis Blues Orchestra and shadowed the Idols' tour route. Hicks occasionally appeared as a "special guest" when circumstances permitted, and was even accompanied at times by the other Idols, such as Yamin, McPhee, Chris Daughtry, Ace Young, and Bucky Covington.

In August, it was announced that Hicks received a $750,000 (USD) deal to write a memoir of his life, which is expected to be released in spring 2007 by Random House. The book will be ghostwritten by Rolling Stone writer David Wild. In the same month, Hicks's lawyers sued a producer with whom he worked in Nashville, for redistributing songs, which were copyrighted in 1997, without permission. The charges were dropped when the masters were handed over to Hicks.

2006-2007: Taylor Hicks

Studio recording sessions ran in Los Angeles between October and November 2006, taking six weeks in total. The eponymous major label debut Taylor Hicks suffered release date delays until the December 12 date was set. Hicks is to embark on a US tour to promote his album starting February 2007.

Hicks has been selected to be the newest "King of Endymion"; Endymion is the largest Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans in February 2007. Endymion features a celebrity as its "king" or grand marshal of the parade every year.

Hicks continued to rely on the Internet for significant marketing and promotion. In late October, Rehearsals.com started launching weekly videos from Hicks's rehearsals dated October 4, 2006, coinciding with the relaunch of Hicks's official website, which was shut down during his Idol run. In November, fan blog Gray Charles signed a contract with Hicks and his management team, making Gray Charles the Official Taylor Hicks Weblog. Hicks posted weekly audio blogs and offered pre-Idol live tracks on Gray Charles. On December 14, 2006, Hicks became the first ever artist to be featured on the Artist Voices program on the online video network GoFish, launching a two-month online video series. This show will feature ten weekly installments that offer Hicks' fans an opportunity to interact directly with him through the GoFish user-generated video platform. The series will also feature footage of Hicks as he promotes his new album.

Soul Patrol

Fans of Hicks have been dubbed the "Soul Patrol." The phrase started among his Internet fan base after the episode of Hicks's Idol audition aired, but it is difficult to trace its exact origin, as relevant Web pages have since been deleted. Hicks frequently mentioned the Soul Patrol after performances on Idol, which was best shown after winning competition

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