Taylor Hicks is best known for his rise to fame on the hit television show American Idol. He was the fifth season winner of the singing competition, but his journey as a professional musician began much earlier than that.
Taylor Hicks’ life began in Birmingham, Alabama when he was born on October 7th, 1976. His parents, Bradley Hicks and Pamela Dickinson, were later divorced, and Hicks has cited his childhood as the reason he turned to and relates so well to soul and blues music.
When Taylor was just fourteen years old his hair began to go gray, becoming one of his most recognizable traits. He bought his first harmonica from a flea market at the age of sixteen, and it reportedly cost him $2. He taught himself to play which lead to the discovery that he had absolute pitch, an ability to recognize the pitches of everyday noises and then mimic them using the harmonica. He wrote his first song, In Your Time, at the age of eighteen and then taught himself to play the electric guitar at nineteen.
Hicks graduated from Hoover High School in 1995 where he had played varsity baseball, soccer and basketball. He went on to study business and journalism at Auburn University, but dropped out after three years due to lack of interest.
It was in college where Taylor joined his first band, Passing Through, although he later quit to start a band of his own. He spent a majority of this time touring in the Southeastern United States. In 1997 Taylor independently recorded an album, In Your Time, including both live and studio recordings.
Taylor moved to Nashville, Tennessee to try to further his music career. While there he recorded a three song demo with Billy Earl McClelland and Percy Sledge, Nashville veterans on the music scene. However, he was still unable to find a record label that would sign him.
After a year of having no luck in Nashville, Taylor returned to Alabama where he continued to work on furthering his professional music career, performing at several parties and venues. During this time Taylor had the pleasure of performing with the likes of James Brown, Tom Petty, Snoop Dogg and many more. He also had a very notable gig performing during a Nascar weekend event at the Talladega Superspeedway in 2004.
In 2005, Hicks recorded and released a second independent record, Under the Radar. The fact that he had released two albums did not violate the American Idol requirements for contestants, because he had never actually had a recording contract. Taylor took advantage of that when he auditioned for the show on October 10th 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada. He went through to the next round with the approval of Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, but not Simon Cowell.
Taylor Hicks was named the new American Idol on May 24th 2006, winning the title over runner-up Katharine McPhee, with over 63.4 million votes cast in total. Prior to his win he was named a spokesperson for Ford and the hottest bachelor of 2006 by People magazine. He has released three studio albums – Taylor Hicks, Early Works and The Distance. He has also written a book about his life and performed with the Broadway musical Grease.