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HE'S NO. 1!
Does he make you proud? American Idol winner Taylor Hicks celebrates his win with runner-up Katharine McPhee and collects his prize, a Ford Mustang convertible, in addition to a $1 million recording contract.
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SWEET HOME ALABAMA
Hicks had said that if he won Idol, his first thanks would go to God. But when he returned home to Birmingham, Ala., on May 12 to sing for more than 12,000 fans, Hicks made another allegiance clear: "I'm going back to Hollywood and win American Idol for Alabama!"
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As the Idol competition progressed, Hicks, 29, traded in his down-home denim (left) for swank suits (on May 9). But the soul man has remained true to his roots – keeping his trademark salt-and-pepper mop top.
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The usually effusive Hicks revealed a rare shy side when Extra correspondent Terri Seymour asked him to demonstrate his signature dance moves at an L.A. party (on March 9). Hicks later said of his freestyle form, "If the song allows you to really move and get down, then you do it."
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When Hicks got down – way down – to sing "Play that Funky Music," judge Simon Cowell likened it to a "horrible wedding performance." Still, Hicks stands by his style. "My vision as an artist, when I first heard Ray Charles at 12 years old, was to try to inject some more feeling and soul and depth into my music," he says.
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HE'S DA MAN!
There are no hard feelings between Hicks and booted singer Elliott Yamin, who narrowly missed out on being in the finale by the smallest margin in Idol history. "I'm really close with Taylor," Yamin says, "and that's my dog, man. We're going to be friends for life."
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Turns out, father doesn't always know best: When Hicks told dad Brad (right) that he was trying out for Idol, he says the response was, "Why don't you just go buy a lottery ticket?" But Dad became one of his biggest supporters at home, where he cheered on Hicks (with brother Sean, far left) at the Hoover, Ala., hangout Buffalo Wild Wings.
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Cowell had predicted that Hicks would edge out Katherine in the finale, telling Jay Leno, "I'm going to say he's the favorite." And Hicks already had designs on his post-show touring life. "My home has been the road since even before American Idol," he says. " A tour bus with some good, cold iceberg lettuce is probably where I'm going to stay."