Alabama Idol: Looking back on Alabama’s ‘American Idol’ triumphs
As American Idol closes its 15th and final season this week, let’s look back on the impact Alabama has had on the reality singing competition.
Over the past 15 years, Alabamians have fared well on Idol. The Yellowhammer State has produced two winners, two runners-up, and four other finalists, giving Alabama the 5th highest number of finalists in all 50 states over 15 seasons. California has had the most finalists (27), followed by Florida (16), Texas (15), and Tennessee (14).
Only two states in the show’s entire run have produced more than one winner – Alabama and North Carolina. Two of Idol’s 15 winners have come from Alabama and three have come from North Carolina.
After Alabama’s second Idol winner, the show came to Birmingham for one of its season 6 audition cities.
As the reality show juggernaut comes to a close, let’s look back at the Alabamians that found success on American Idol.
Ruben Studdard (season 2) – Ruben was Alabama’s first Idol. Nicknamed the “Velvet Teddy Bear,” Ruben stole America’s heart with his humble demeanor and incredible voice. Ruben made the central Alabama area code famous by wearing shirts with “205” across the chest. Since Idol, Ruben has released 6 albums and appeared on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” where he lost 119 pounds.
Taylor Hicks (season 5) – Taylor was another Birmingham-area native who lived in Hoover. Taylor became a household name because of his premature grey hair and his fanbase, the “Soul Patrol.” Taylor beat a number of impressive contestants during his run, including rocker Chris Daughtry and runner-up Katharine McPhee. Taylor’s post-Idol career has been rocky, but he has released 3 albums and made appearances on several television shows.
Diana DeGarmo (season 3) – Diana was Alabama’s first runner-up. She grew up in Snellville, Georgia, but she proudly claimed on the show that she was born in Birmingham. Diana lost to Fantasia in season 3, but since the show, she has released one album, two EPs, and has had a successful Broadway career. She married fellow Idol alum Ace Young in 2013.
Bo Bice (season 4) – Bo is one of the most memorable Idol contestants and arguably the show’s first real rocker. Born in Huntsville, Bo called Helena home during his time on Idol. Bo came in second to the incredible Carrie Underwood, and since leaving Idol he has released 3 albums.
Paul McDonald (season 10) – Opelika native Paul McDonald came in 8th during his Idol run, but he was already well known to many in Alabama before the show. He formed the band Hightide Blues as a student at Auburn and played in clubs around the state. Since Idol, Paul has focused on his solo career.
Jess Meuse, C.J. Harris, and Dexter Roberts (season 13) – This season had a triple threat of Alabama natives in the top 13. Jess Meuse, from Slapout, came in 4th; C.J. Harris from Jasper finished 6th; and Dexter Roberts, from Fayette, finished 7th. All three finalists garnered huge fanbases. Jess was the first finalist to perform an original song on the show.