After years of trying to make it in the music biz as a harmonica-playing singer-songwriter, the 29-year-old Hicks took a chance and auditioned for Season 5 of American Idol. Although he didn't fit the previously established Idol image, this personable (and polarizing) performer won over viewers — and ultimately won the 2006 competition — with his stellar musicality and spastic, Joe Cocker-esque dancing. Judge Simon Cowell initially balked at the baby-faced, gray-haired soul singer (and Saturday Night Live constantly goofed on him), but by the end, Hicks had joined an elite group of Idol contestants who never appear in the bottom three. Dubbed Gray Charles by his fans (who in turn were nicknamed the Soul Patrol), he released his self-titled album in December 2006. However, he was dropped by J Records, the company that signs American Idol winners, in early 2008. But Hicks didn't let this setback stop him. Later that year, he began releasing albums on his own label, Modern Whomp Records. He also made his Broadway debut as Teen Angel in Grease, and he reprised the role for the show's national tour.
- As a teenager, played harmonica at local bars.
- His hair started turning gray in his teens.
- Released two independent albums, In Your Time in 1997 and Under the Radar in 2005.
- Received a key to the city of Birmingham, AL, on May 12, 2006.
- Winner of Season 5 of American Idol (2006); runner-up was Katharine McPhee.
- Wrote an autobiography titled Heart Full of Soul: An Inspirational Memoir About Finding Your Voice and Finding Your Way in 2007.
- Was dropped from J Records, the label that signs the American Idol winners, in January 2008.
- Made his Broadway debut as Teen Angel in Grease in 2008; he then reprised that role for the show's national tour.
- Began releasing albums on his own label, Modern Whomp Records, in 2008.
- Ranked No. 10 on Forbes' 2009 list of American Idol top earners.
- Linda Hicks — Stepmother
- Pam Dickinson — Mother
- Sean Hicks — Half Brother
- Brad Hicks — Father
- Attended Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, United States; Attended University of Alabama-Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, United States
- Birth Place: Birmingham, Alabama, United States
- Profession: Singer, Reality-show contestant
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