Childhood: Taylor Reuben Hicks was born in Saint Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama on October 7th, 1976. He and his family moved to suburban Hoover when he was 8 years old. His parents divorced when he was a small child. As of most children of divorce, life was sometimes difficult and unstable, and Taylor often took solace in music. His interest in music began at age 12 with his first taste of the classic songs of the American soul music era, in particular the music of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, and Ray Charles. The genre, he has said, interested him much more than the popular music of the day. Never having formal music lessons, he taught himself guitar and harmonica. Soon he began writing original songs and immersing himself into the rich history of classic soul, rock, blues, and pop music. In School, Hicks initially appeared more the jock than musician, playing Little League baseball, golf, and varsity basketball, but his growing passion for music soon took over. Taylor’s first talent show win occurred in High School, where he won the competition with his version of “Sweet Home Alabama”.
At age 15, the trademark gray hair began to appear. Taylor has said his prematurely gray hair did not bother him, in his characteristic brand of humor, he claims “It literally grew on me.”
Early Career: After graduating from Hoover High School in 1995, he attended Auburn University, majoring in business, communications and marketing , but eventually left to pursue his musical ambitions. Hicks hooked up with several bands, including “Passing Through”, which specialized mostly in jam band covers and eventually gained a fairly good local following. After the band broke up, Taylor briefly moved to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue a music career with little or no success. He soon moved back to Birmingham where gig offers were more plentiful and his local reputation was more established.
In Birmingham, Taylor hooked up with a group of talented local musicians, which eventually evolved into the Taylor Hicks Band. The band built a small following in the local area through performances at bars, nightclubs and any other event that would book them.
Taylor continued to play with the band in small venues in the Alabama area. Trying to break himself nationally, he encountered many rejections, but kept going. He financed, produced, and released two independent albums, In Your Time (1997) and Under the Radar (2005), prior to appearing on Idol; the latter was made available at local music outlets. His reputation was growing with occasional opportunities to open for major acts as they swung through the Birmingham area.
American Idol: As his career seemed to be at a crossroads, and he was receiving urging from the family to “settle down and get a job at the bank” He decided to fly out to Las Vegas to audition for American Idol. His father responded with the now famous line.. “Why don’t you just buy a lottery ticket?.” This was not an entirely unreasonable reaction from Dad; after all, at the time it seemed like a long shot, especially since Taylor’s look and music did not exactly fit into the American Idol mold.
In Vegas Taylor received immediate attention resulting from his unusual audition. He moved on to Hollywood week by the approval of judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, but not Simon Cowell, who said that Hicks did not have enough of an Idol image for any of the judges to put him through the Hollywood rounds. Cowell of course, was eventually proven wrong, which to his credit, he subsequently acknowledged.
Taylor’s fanbase grew exponentially as he was featured as a top 24 finalist on the show, which week after week was the number one show on American television. Fans of Taylor Hicks were quickly dubbed the “Soul Patrol” a group that quickly grew into an active and loyal online fanbase. Taylor shrewdly grabbed the opportunity to define his distinctive fanbase by giving frequent shout outs to the Soul Patrol during his American Idol appearances. To this day, he continues to shout out to the “Soul Patrol”. His hope, he has said, is to have the Soul Patrol become a group as active as Jimmy Buffett’s “Parrotheads”.
Week after week, Taylor won the hearts and votes of American Idol viewers with his energetic and soulful performances. He breezed through the competition handily, being the only contestant in that season never to land in the bottom three. Taylor Hicks was named the new American Idol on May 24th, 2006.
Post “Idol”: Taylor was awarded a Ford Mustang, and a “million dollar record contract”. He landed a lucrative commercial contract with Ford, in which he was featured prominently in their commercials until the end of 2006. He began the American Idol tour in the late summer/ fall of 2006, and frequently slipped in several “special guest appearances” with Little Memphis Blues Orchestra (formerly The Taylor Hicks Band) after the Idols tour in several cities, which has become known as the “shadow tour”. His first CD single Do I Make You Proud / Takin’ It To The Streets” was released on June 13th, 2006 and was certified Gold exactly one month later on July 13th, 2006
After the Idols Live tour wrapped, Taylor went into the studio to record his major label debut album. With famed producer Matt Serletic, the album was completed in six weeks, to allow for a pre-Christmas release. The result was the self-titled Taylor Hicks album. A diverse blend of pop, soul and rock, the album received good reviews and shipped platinum. Despite the absence of a pre-released single, video, or radio play, the album to date has sold over 700,000 copies worldwide. Taylor launched a series of television and personal appearances to promote the album, and in February, embarked on his first major solo concert tour with a seven piece band assembled by himself and musical director, Loren Gold. The 2007 tour proved to be a success, with Taylor solidifying his reputation as a top-notch live performer. He received many favorable reviews from fans and critics alike. The official tour wrapped up in late September 2007, although he continued to play sporadic dates after that. Touring and performing, he has said, will be the main emphasis of his career.
In June 2007, “Heart Full of Soul, An Inspirational Memoir About Finding Your Voice, and Finding Your Way.” was published. The memoir was written with help from David Wild, a former writer from Rolling Stone Magazine. The book recounts his early personal and musical struggles, all the way up through his triumphant run on “American Idol”, his headlining American Idol tour and major label record release.
In late 2007, Taylor performed on the finale of “Asian Idol” and did a mini tour in the Phillipines. He returned to the States to begin writing songs for his next album.
Indie Career & “Grease”: To the surprise of many, the announcement was made in January 2008 that Taylor would no longer be recording for Arista records. Taylor and the record company confirmed the split was a mutual decision, although it was widely and incorrectly reported that he had been unilaterally dropped from the roster.
In June 2008, a rather surprising announcement was made that he would be joining the Broadway cast of Grease for a summer 2008 run in the featured role of “Teen Angel”. His debut and 3 month summer run on Broadway was met with universally good reviews and packed houses. He was subsequently asked to reprise his starring role of “Teen Angel” in the 2008-2009 national tour of Grease.
In an innovative cross-promotional tactic, he performed as “Teen Angel” and also sings one of his own songs after the regular “Grease” show. Due to popular demand, he renewed his contract with the Grease touring company into the 2009-2010 season.
An album of Taylor’s pre-American Idol music was released on Taylor’s newly formed label, Modern Whomp Records. “Early Works” was a compilation of songs from his two pre-idol independent albums: In Your Time” and “Under The Radar” and was released in August 2008.
After considering various record deal offers, Taylor made the decision to go indie, and release his next album under a hybrid deal with Artist to Market (A2M) in conjunction with his fledgling label Modern Whomp Records. The album was recorded in fall 2009 with producer Simon Climie, and an impressive list of studio musicians culled from members of Eric Clapton’s and Paul McCartney’s touring bands. The album was titled “The Distance” and released on March 10th, 2009. Quickly following up this release was a live DVD, “Whomp At The Warfield” of which he was the executive producer.
Taylor wrapped up his highly successful “Grease run in May 2010, reportedly earning $3.5 million in performance fees and merchandising over the 18 month period. Neither under “idol” management or the afilliated Sony record label, he became the most financially successful totally independent music artist to emerge from the American Idol franchise.
Taylor Hicks continues to build on his own personal brand of music, a mix of old school soul, classic rock, pop, blues, and jam under his “Modern Whomp” brand. His reputation as a premiere live performer continues to grow. As an artist in a non-mainstream genre, his road will be more difficult than most others who have won the “American Idol” crown. To this day, his fanbase, dubbed the “Soul Patrol” remains one of the largest, most active, and most loyal of any artist to come out of the Idol juggernaut. With their support, Taylor Hicks continues to move forward as a career artist on his own path.