Meadville Tribune

January 26, 2006

American idol discovers singer's talents

Even Simon is impressed

By Jim Lisk

ALBEMARLE, N.C. — There was no doubt. It was as obvious as her long blonde hair.

Kellie Pickler was the darling of American Idol’s Greensboro auditions.

The October auditions aired this past Tuesday night, and while many nervous hopefuls drew the sarcastic razor of Simon Cowell, Pickler’s impact resulted in a polar opposite reaction.

Following her singing of “Since U Been Gone” and a follow-up of “Broken Wing,” Cowell had just one suggestion, “I don’t think you need to belt them out quite so much.”

But, there were no razor cuts coming her way, just the opposite.

“That’s a nice girl. That’s someone I’d like to see do well,” said Cowell.

As with Cowell, Paula Abdul expressed sincere regard for Pickler’s soulful performance.

“You’re adorable. I like the conviction in your voice,” Abdul said. “You’re really special. Go and have a good time now.”

Overwhelmed by the positive feedback, the Albemarle 19-year-old blurted out, “I can’t wait to call my grandpa.”

Then, Miss Stanly County 2004 walked off stage, through the doors, and broke down as she was greeted by her adopted big sister, Summer Miller, and grandfather, Ken Norton.

As she crouched down and buried her face in her hands, the realization of the moment flowed through her tears. She had conquered the first hurdle, won the judges’ respect, and now it was off to Hollywood.

On Tuesday night, Jerry and Carolyn Holt hosted a Kellie Party for her extended family of friends.

“We’re all like family,” said Summer Holt Miller, that adopted big sister. “We’re so excited and proud of her.”

While she’s found love with friends and adopted family, that was not always the environment Pickler knew.

Her mother left when Pickler was two and her dad was an alcoholic and drug abuser.

With her mother’s departure, it was her grandparents, Clyde and Faye Pickler, who stepped in and took her under their wing.

Two and a half years ago, Grandmother Faye died.

So in the middle of her teen years and with no mother, Pickler was left with Grandpa Clyde.

Fittingly, she chose as her talent presentation in the 2004 Miss Stanly County Pageant the song Broken Wing and went on to win the title, advancing to the Miss North Carolina Pageant where, at 17, she was its youngest competitor.

A year later as she rehearsed for her farewell as Miss Stanly County, Pickler spoke of her signature song and its message of “overcoming obstacles” and her “looking at me now” approach to life.

“You’ve got to be happy with what you see when you look in the mirror. A good attitude and being positive can make a huge difference in one’s life,” said Pickler.

As her positive, adoptive family were glued to the big screen TV Tuesday night, cherishing every moment, Summer Miller reflected on the young woman she has come to love and respect.

“Tonight, America got just a glimpse of what this girl can do. There was so much focus on her story,” Miller said. “As she moves ahead, America will get a chance to see what Kellie can really do.

“The girl can sing anything.”

Jim Lisk writes for Stanly News and Press, Albemarle, N.C.