John Russell/NBC
People Staff
July 29, 2008 12:00 AM

It’s down to the wire after the final night of voting Monday on Nashville Star. And the it wasn’t just the contestants showing their stuff. Co-host Katie Cook opened the hour painted into an eye-popping fuschia sheath, judge Jewel showed off a wavy new bob, John Rich wore a flashy red sport coat with satin lapels, and Jeffrey Steele tested the bleep button when he said that anyone who questioned the talent of the remaining contestants vying for a recording contract “can kiss my country BLEEP!”

It was actually the panel of judges themselves who frequently questioned the levels of talent and country cred of the original cast of twelve. Most notably, model Justin Gastin and teenage duo Laura & Sophie, who managed to cling to the stage through six episodes. But the final four — Gabe Garcia, Melissa Lawson, Shawn Mayer and Coffey — may be a different story. After triumphant returns to their hometowns, where crowds of thousands were rounded up from miles around to welcome their heroes back at concerts in a church, a high school and a couple flatbed pickup trucks, the contestants performed the first of two live songs in front of the judges and the voting viewers at home.

Then it was time to reveal the bottom two: Coffey and fellow Texan Garcia faced the painfully drawn-out elimination music, standing anxiously alongside stoic host Billy Ray Cyrus. In the end, it was Coffey who got the boot. But the blow was softened somewhat by the judges’ assurances that while he may not be a Nashville Star, the African-American who moved from Texas to L.A. to make it big and support his 4-year-old daughter Savannah, is a still a star in the making. Plus, he’ll be on the Nashville Star concert tour criss-crossing the country in the fall.

For his parting words, Coffey assured the trio of finalist that he’d be voting after the show and in the audience for next week’s finale, when one of them will take the title. The live broadcast airs Monday at a new time (10 p.m. ET, on NBC). — Kay WestJohn Russell/NBC

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