05/12/2006 AT 3:00 PM ET
With less than two weeks to go until the new American Idol is picked, finalist Taylor Hicks already received a hero’s welcome in his native Alabama on Friday – replete with a scheduled parade, meeting with the Gov. Bob Riley and some down-home Southern cooking that he just can’t find in Hollywood.
“You take grits for granted,” the 29-year-old said on local FOX affiliate WBRC-TV. Afterward, he and his bandmates played a few songs on a patio atop Red Mountain overlooking Birmingham – where Idols are no strangers. Both winner Ruben Studdard and runner-up Bo Bice hail from there.
Planned for Hicks is a parade through downtown, a performance at a local park, a show at Alabama’s largest shopping mall and a trip to Montgomery for an meeting with the governor, who is up for re-election, reports the Associated Press.
Said Hicks of all the hoopla: “I’m doing great. It’s a dream come true.”
Hugh Mitchell, a longtime friend of Hicks’s father, said the singer seems to be holding up despite his newfound fame. “I’m just so excited for him,” said Mitchell.
Before Idol, Hicks served as frontman for a band bearing his name. The group, which played mainly in area nightclubs, now calls itself “The Little Memphis Blues Orchestra.” Its guitar player, Sam Gunderson, said he’s not surprised by Hicks’s TV success, though it does sort of leave the band in limbo.
“We’d be excited to play with Taylor at any time,” said Gunderson.