Tuesday, March 28, 2006
News staff writer
You already know the basics. Taylor Hicks, a Birmingham soul singer, has become a salt-and-pepper sensation on "American Idol."
All three judges on the Fox TV reality series are in his corner, more or less, and Hicks, 29, has evolved into one of the most popular contestants among viewers this season.
We've told you about the shabby couch that's sitting in his Southside apartment, and the two goldfish, Lamont and Ray, who are waiting for him to return home.
But there's plenty more trivia to share about the top 10 finalist, based on our interviews with Hicks, and conversations with his friends and loved ones.
Number he wore for "American Idol" cattle call in Las Vegas: 74094.
Encouraged him to audition: Sean Hicks, his half-brother, who studies computer engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology.
Katrina tale: Hicks was in New Orleans for a wedding on the Saturday before Hurricane Katrina hit the city. His flight home was canceled, but he found a cab driver who drove him to West Monroe, La., for $400. A voucher from Southwest Airlines provided his fare to "Idol" auditions in Las Vegas.
Years he lived in Nashville, hoping for a record deal: 1999-2001.
Why he left Nashville: "Oversaturation of the market." Too many musicians meant breaks were hard to come by.
Church he attends: "You know where my church is? My stage."
Five favorite places to eat: Golden Rule, Hoover. Niki's West. Fox Valley. Pete's Famous Hot Dogs. Taziki's, Cahaba Heights.
Five favorite places to play in Birmingham: WorkPlay. The Oasis. Zydeco. Marty's. Ona's Music Room.
Five things you'll always find in his refrigerator: Dr Pepper Garlic. Salsa (from 1999). Nestle's Quik. Pear relish.
Parents: Bradley Hicks, Hoover resident and dentist (Same Day Dentures in East Jasper), and Linda Hicks, Taylor's stepmother. He was raised by them, and by his grandmother, Joni Hicks.
Music roots: Probably come from his maternal line. Hicks says his mother, Pam Dickinson, had great aunts who performed in a bluegrass duo in Oak Ridge, Tenn. "I didn't get to see that side of the family that much," he says.
Another talent: Played basketball at Hoover High School.
His grandmother, Joni Hicks, says: "I don't know how far he'll go, but here's one thing I can guarantee you: He'll never say anything rude or unkind to anybody. He's going to put on a very good, clean image."
Celebrity gigs: Opened for Jackson Browne, Keb' Mo' and Steve Earle in Nashville. Opened for Jonny Lang at the Alabama Theatre. Played harmonica with Keb' Mo' at the Alabama Theatre.
Any smoking guns in his past? "Marijuana possession when I was in college. The charges were dismissed."
Club dates here: Two shows per week, on average.
Band members (currently performing without Hicks as the Little Memphis Blues Orchestra): Sam Gunderson, guitar. Brian Less, keyboards. Mitch Jones, bass. Zippy Dieterich, drums.
Covers on a typical set list included: "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," Temptations. "Alabama Rain," Jim Croce. "Brick House," Commodores. "Crazy Love," Van Morrison. "Hey Pocky Way," the Meters. "New York State of Mind," Billy Joel. "9 to 5," Dolly Parton. "People Get Ready," Curtis Mayfield. "What's Going On?," Marvin Gaye.
Sure-fire crowd pleaser: "What I Say," by Ray Charles. According to guitarist Sam Gunderson, "That's a classic Taylor tune. He kills every time he touches it."
Some Taylor Hicks originals: "The Fall." "In Your Time." "My Friend." "Son of a Carpenter." "Soul Thing." "West Texas Sky."
On being an "Idol" finalist: "I'm having the time of my life and living the dream. I'm in a pretty good groove and feel confident. But I'm taking it week to week, and I know that I can't let the music slip. I have to be on top of it."
How he's spending his time in Hollywood: "Sleep, eat, work, do press."
On walking the red carpet at a party: "It was mind boggling, with so many different cameras and flash bulbs."
What he thinks of the "American Idol" judges: "In some form or fashion, they've all paid their dues. Randy toured with Journey. Paula, you can definitely tell she worked her tail off. Simon started in the mail room."
On Randy Jackson: "I like him because he's a touring musician."
On Paula Abdul: "I like Paula's looks."
On Simon Cowell: "Simon's your run-of-the-mill Brit. Just kidding."
Web sites: www.taylorhicks.com (shut down while he's on "Idol") www.taylorhicksfan.com www.taylorhicksblues.blogspot.com www.theofficialsoulpatrol.com www.graycharles.com
Elvis or the Beatles? "Elvis."
Boxers or briefs? "Boxer briefs."
Vinyl or iTunes? "When I get a new couch, I'll get iTunes."
The Nick or Zydeco? "Marty's."
Grits or mashed potatoes? "Grits."
Courteney Cox or Jennifer Aniston? "Courteney Cox."
Bo or Ruben? "Aw, don't ask me that."