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The Journey; Taylor Hicks makes his voice heard...
Topic Started: Dec 30 2008, 06:18 PM (458 Views)
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The Journey Begins...

“The first thing I ever stole was an Otis Redding LP from my friend’s house,” says singer/songwriter and 2006 American Idol, Taylor Hicks. “I think I was in third grade.”

And though he was born years after the heyday of the great soul and blues performers, Hicks spent his childhood immersed in a steady stream of music by artists such as Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Van Morrison. At 16, he bought a $2 harmonica from a flea market in Bessemer, AL and spent most of his time practicing while other kids were more concerned with driving cars.

Today, Hicks’ own brand of soul-and-blue-influenced music reflects the same sort of raw emotion and sensibilities so apparent in the songs he grew up on: pain, loss, love and the confusion inherent in them all.

He says his passionate writing and singing style is just a natural progression of a life that has been a little different than those of his peers. “Some people grew up in close-knit families,” he explains, “they could identify with the sugar-coated, new-wave music that was popular in the ’80s and even now. My home life wasn’t very supportive or comfortable - with divorce (among other misfortunes). I had to make life-changing choices at an early age. And the whole time, I was listening to soul music - music where you can actually hear a man’s heart break. So it just really made sense to me - even at such a young age.”

Hicks said he found the comfort he was looking for on stage. “I just made it my home. It’s where my heart is.” And watching his intensity on stage, it’s apparent that he holds nothing back. Even the slowest songs are sung with such energy, sweat and grit it would make his predecessors proud. The addition of his growling harmonica style is explosive at least.

On his debut album, “In Your Time“, Hicks demonstrates that, although he has a reverence for those artists he learned from, he’s far from a stuck-in-the-past purist. The title track, written by Hicks, from this live CD could be identified as modern soul music, but it is tinged with swinging horns and jazzy guitar licks. The acoustic ballad “The Fall” brings the listener along on Hicks’ sentimental thoughts of a relationship on its last leg. He leaves behind the bigger band sound, opting for sparse accompaniment that drives home the nakedness of emotion in the song. The recording also features classics including “Georgia” and the Archie Bell & the Drells song “Tighten Up”.

Backed by several bands and such musicians as Nashville veteran Billy Earl McClelland, Hicks has entertained audiences at festivals, clubs and fraternities while sharing the bill with some of his idols such as Percy Sledge along the way. ( 2006)

The Hoover, Alabama, native, born October 7, 1976, first stepped onto the entertainment stage at Corey’s Sports Bar in Birmingham. The audience numbered only a few more than his age. It was just the beginning of a long-running love affair with music and the stage for the 15-year-old blues singer.

Early on Hicks learned to “just be me.” “I hired a sideman when I was 17 years old. A guitar player named Billy Earl McClelland who was Delbert (Mc)Clinton’s old guitar player. We worked together when I was at Auburn, he told him that I was a natural entertainer and I shouldn’t worry about putting on a show. I should just be the person I was and that was entertainment enough. I had never thought about it that way until he told me that. I was able to loosen up and just be me." Billy Earl McClelland was in his mid-40’s when he worked with Hicks way back in those early Auburn days.

Hicks first tasted success during his days at Auburn University when he was joined by David Schrimcher, Patrick Lunceford, Philip McGowan, Steven Jackson and Michael Douglas and formed “Passing Through” a pretty decent jam band playing gigs on college campuses throughout the South and at clubs along the Gulf Coast.

When Passing Through members went separate ways, Hicks formed a short-lived Fletch Lives band, including Quinn Borland and 8-10 members with only about an eight-song repertoire. The Florabama Club on the Gulf Coast where Hicks says he cut his musical teeth, was a favorite gig for Fletch Lives.

For his own questionable reasons, Hicks became a college dropout in 1997. He was at a turning point and, as it always would, music guided his decision. From his autobiography, Heart Full of Soul: “For a million probably lousy reasons, I just couldn’t take even another moment to do the right thing. As I saw it, the time had finally come to try to do the only thing I ever wanted to do.”

Hicks left college and committed to his music and to entertaining as his life’s work. With band members Jon Cook on lead guitar and vocal, Jay Knorr, drums and vocal, Ian Correy, bass, Eddie Ayers, percussion, Brandon Kidd, alto sax, and Wade Johnson, trombone, Hicks released his first independent CD, “In Your Time,” recorded live to save on production costs. He was 19 years old. The fledging entertainer and his band hit the road to promote the new CD. On the not-so-glamorous “chitlin’ circuit” through the South, Hicks learned much about performing before a live audience and building a show. What he took away, he still lives by--”either you entertain people, or you go home.”

In 2000, Hicks took his dreams to Nashville. He realized quickly that he was not the next Johnny Cash. He describes his year in Music City as one of the darkest and loneliest in his life. He knocked on every door but could not score a gig for him and his band, The EZ Widerz. He did, however write some of his best music, and many of the songs would later appear in his second independent CD, "Under the Radar." After a year of frustration and rejection, Hicks returned to Birmingham and recommitted to his own kind of blues and soul music.

Undeterred in following the only dream he had ever had, Hicks and his own Taylor Hicks Band played wherever an audience would gather from the local VFW to opening for some top A-listers performing in the South. He shared the stage with entertainment greats like James Brown, Percy Sledge, Tom Petty, Jackson Browne and Keb Mo. “I’m a working musician. That’s how I make my living.”

Hicks went back to the studio in 2005 with a few borrowed dollars from his family and recorded his second independent album, “Under the Radar.” It showcased exclusively the early works of the struggling musician. He was backed by his own Taylor Hicks Band, a talented group of musicians, some of whom had been with him at Auburn: Jon Cook on guitars; Wynn Christian, electric guitars; Patrick Lunceford, drums; Mitch Jones, bass; Jay Smith, percussions; and Brian Less, Piano and B3 organ.

Life on the road was taking its toll. In “Soul Thing,” one of the tracks from “Under the Radar,” Hicks knowingly wrote, “The road can be your friend, or the devil in disguise,” and a place to get lost. He had been there and experienced the pitfalls. “We all get lost sometimes—that’s part of being on a journey and being human…For me, the real measure of a man isn’t whether he gets lost, but whether he can still manage to find his way back somehow.” The road back took him to New Orleans and face to face with opportunity in the wake of disaster.

A New Journey

In a twist of fate that would reshape his life, Taylor Hicks was in New Orleans for a friend’s wedding on the weekend that Hurricane Katrina struck with devastating fury. In the early Sunday morning hours, he managed to take a taxi out of the imperiled city. From the airlines that cancelled his flight out of New Orleans, he received a voucher that became his ticket to American Idol tryouts in Las Vegas and to a new life in the bright lights of stardom.

Originally encouraged by his half brother, Sean, to audition for American Idol in Memphis, Hicks missed this opportunity when tryouts were cancelled because of Katrina relief efforts. He had never been to Las Vegas and tryouts there were still scheduled. The American Idol competition would test his resolve to never walk away, even in the audition lines outside the huge convention center in Las Vegas.

Hicks recounted three years later his vision that shaped that resolve: "I remember standing outside in Las Vegas at American Idol [auditions], and kids were coming up to me asking me where my kid was that was auditioning. If that doesn't make you want to walk away, I don't know what does. But I never walked away. I knew I had a vision, and that was to entertain people—and here I am." At age 13, his hair had begun to turn prematurely gray. He did not fit the image of the young, pop music hopefuls.

On May 24, 2006, Taylor Hicks became the unlikely American Idol Season 5 winner with over 63.4 million votes--more votes than the President received in the last election. He was one of only three winning Idols who had never placed in the bottom two or three. Kelly Clarkston and Carrie Underwood share this distinction. When Idol judge, Simon Cowell asked in auditions why he wanted to be American Idol, Hicks said, “I want my voice heard.” Cowell insisted, “Why?” “Because I think I have one,” Hicks proclaimed.

Life in the spotlight as 2006 American Idol, began with a non-stop media blitz and sharing the stage with stars like Willie Nelson, Widespread Panic and Snoop Dog. He appeared on every early morning news show and twice visited with Jay Leno on the late night talk show. His first major concert appearance was at the huge Stadium of Fire Fourth of July Celebration in Salt Lake City Utah, July 1, 2006.

After signing a recording contract with Arista Records his American Idol single, “Do I Make You Proud” and the Michael McDonald classic, blue-eyed soul number, “Takin’ it to the Streets” hit the streets. The front side debuted at No. 1 and stayed there for nine weeks. “Do I Make You Proud” quickly sold gold and was the No. 1 selling single in 2006. It has become a modern classic for memorable occasions like graduations. Hicks began a tradition of dedicating this song to the American troops.

As headliner for the American Idol Summer Tour that was launched on July 5, 2006, Hicks and Idol finalists boarded their busses and crisscrossed the country from New England to the West Coast welcomed by record-setting crowds. At the time of Season Five, American Idol had not allowed competitors to play instruments on the show. On the Idol tour, however, Hicks played harmonica and guitar for every scheduled concert and he never missed a performance on the killer schedule. Hicks also performed in a “shadow tour” at many stops meeting up with his former band mates, the Little Memphis Blues Orchestra. After the Idol concert, at historic clubs like Smith’s Bar in Atlanta, he and the band jammed into the early morning hours. He said that it kept him grounded.

When the Idol tour was completed, Hicks entered the recording studio for his post-Idol debut album that was released December 12, 2006. The self-titled release debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 charts. With his own descriptive genre tag of “modern whomp,” the album “Taylor Hicks” was certified platinum by RIAA a month later. “Just to Feel That Way” was the first single released to radio play, and “Heaven Knows” hit radio play in May, 2008.

With “Taylor Hicks” on the music shelves, the next stop for Hicks was his own Modern Whomp Solo Tour that kicked off in Jacksonville, FL on February 21, 2007. He was back on the road, and at home in his luxurious tour bus that took him to more than 50 cities for 55 concerts in many sold-out venues from February to May. Touring with him was Music Director and keyboardist, Loren Gold, backup singer Melanie Nyema, and an outstanding band playing a unique blend of modern blues, soul and rock in historic theatres and modern clubs and venues.

The new life wasn’t all about music. In collaboration with David Wild, renowned Rolling Stone writer, Hicks took time to write his autobiography, Heart Full of Soul, “an Inspirational Memoir about Finding Your Voice and Finding Your Way.” Published by Random House, it hit bookshelves in July, 2007. It told the story of a child finding solace in music, and a young man struggling to find his way in the difficult, and sometimes dark, life of an unknown musician on the road looking for that one elusive break—the elusive break which finally came, looking like fate and named Katrina.

In the summer of 2007, Hicks re-released his original album, “In Your Time” which enjoyed new popularity with fans on the concert circuit. Copies of the original “In Your Time” release are rarely available and highly sought after by music collectors.

A Summer Tour of festivals and special events lasted into November with a final concert at Pearl River Resort in Philadelphia, MS. From Jacksonville, FL in February to Pearl River in November, Hicks appeared in 111 concerts in 98 different cities. The Hicks fanbase, fondly dubbed the Soul Patrol, turned out in mass, in their local towns and crisscrossing the country to see their Idol. With the same intensity on stage that was there from the beginning, every always-on performance was passionately and uniquely Hicks. He set a new standard for touring entertainers: Give it all you’ve got; never phone it in!

Modern whomp music went global when Hicks launched an Asian tour in the Philippines in December, 2007. He appeared as a special guest performer on Asian Idol and entertained thousands of enthusiastic fans in Manila.

The New Year brought special recognition back home in Alabama for the native son who emotionally sings, “My home’s in Alabama.” The Alabama Music Hall of Fame recognized Hicks with its America’s Music Award at its 2008 Annual Music Hall of Fame Induction Gala in February. The Alabama music community annually recognizes the rich musical heritage of its musicians, songwriters and music industry achievers. With this award Hicks was given an exhibit in the Music Hall of Fame Museum in Tuscumera, Alabama. A brick was placed on the I Believe in Music Walkway at the Museum, a gift from fans and The Soul Connection, the professionally published Taylor Hicks online e’zine.

Birmingham to Broadway

In summer, 2008, Taylor Hicks celebrated another milestone on a different stage—the Broadway stage. On June 6, he debuted on The Great White Way starring as Teen Angel in the revival production of Grease. In an Elvis-style pompadour and a rhinestone-encrusted midnight blue suit reminiscent of the 1950s’ flashy designs by Nudie Cohn, Hicks brought a new blues-inspired Teen Angel to Broadway. He said that he was channeling a little Elvis as he sang a soulful “Beauty School Dropout” to Frenchy. “We’re packing the place out. It’s sold out every night, and I get to play a little harmonica, which is cool.”

In August, Hicks revisited the roots music from years before with the release of “Early Works,” the first offering on his own label, Modern Whomp Records. “Early Works” compiles remastered tracks from his two previous independent releases, “In Your Time” and “Under the Radar.” “In Your Time,” featured Hicks originals—“Son of a Carpenter,” “The Fall,” “In Your Time,” and “Somehow.” He covered two classic tunes, “Tighten Up” and “Georgia.”

“Under The Radar” from 2005 is exclusively the works of Hicks. “Early Works” includes his most often performed song and what he has called his personal anthem, “Soul Thing,” about life on the road and getting by. Other tracks are lyrical messages about love and friends: “The Deal,” “Hold on to Your Love,” “Heart and Soul” (originally entitled Blues and Soul), “West Texas Sky” and “My Friend.”

“…these two albums represent who I am and who I am trying to represent as a songwriter.” [They were] “songs that were hitting home with me at the time. …the songwriting was getting better and my direction as an artist was getting clearer,” Hicks wrote in the liner notes for “Early Works.”

After closing a very successful summer run in Grease on September 7, Hicks is returning to the recording studio to work on a new album expected out in early 2009. He has reportedly collaborated with songwriters, such as Tom Hambridge, a highly acclaimed Nashville musician. He describes this work as “…some of the best music I’ve ever written, and from an artistic standpoint, this album, being in my control has allowed me to really breathe as a songwriter. …As an artist, you kind of understand the times and what your surroundings are and write from them. So there’s some political undertones on the album. It’s a serious time for us.”

Believe to your Soul

“As a kid, I knew I was supposed to entertain and perform for folks. When you have that self-belief and inner-determination, you understand there are peaks and valleys in this business, and you just keep working at it. …If you keep working, and you’re good to people, you’ll be blessed.”

In his autobiography, Hicks shares his passion for the music that saved him as a young man: “Singing from your soul isn’t about how many notes you can hit or how long you can hold them. It’s all about intimacy and honesty. It’s about sharing your story in a song—whether is happens to be a song you wrote or one you decided to make your own.

“The only job I ever really wanted comes down to looking somebody in the eyes and telling them the truth—telling them my truth…”

The truth is that Taylor Hicks has always wanted to just be who he is—at home on the stage living in his music.

Author and musician Gene Santoro wrote about Tom Waits, the staunchly unconventional songwriter and musician:

“It’s hard not to be yourself when you are as much who you are as Waits is.”

In the Waits tradition, Taylor Hicks defends being who you are:

“…I don’t think you should ever run away from who you are. Rather, I think you should run toward whomever you want to be. It’s like they say—wherever you go, there you are.”

(Sources: 2006, Heart Full of Soul by Taylor Hicks,, Highway 61 by Gene Santoro,, Music Maven)

For our complete Biography of Taylor Hicks, visit TTHC website:
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The detail in this article is might think a soul patroller had written it! :-)
Was this yours, San? Really nice...truly!
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I've been on this sweet journey ,and this reminds me of all the memorys
thank you
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Amazing~isn't it! I'm stoked just thinking of all the goodies that lie ahead ;wh The Element of Surprise :thumbsup
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