'American Idol' Fever Hits Birmingham

Thousands of hopefuls audition in the hometown of past winners Taylor Hicks & Ruben Studdard

There may be something in the water down in Birmingham. The Alabama city has produced two American Idol winners so far – Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard – and as the talent show came to town Monday, would-be stars flocked to auditions with big dreams of their own.

“Maybe I’ll get the fever and the magic will rub off on me,” Roberto Adams of Atlanta, Ga., one of more than 8,000 hopefuls on hand, told Reuters.

Monday’s try-out was part of a series of nationwide events. But no other state in the union has quite the Idol history that Alabama does, as home to reigning champ Hicks as well as 2003 ‘s season winner, Studdard.

Also, Bo Bice, runner-up to Carrie Underwood in the fourth season, was born in Huntsville, Ala. The state’s tourism department is even running billboards with Hicks, Studdard and Bice along with the line, “Alabama. Where America finds its voice.”

Hicks continues to visit Birmingham regularly. He was in town for Father’s Day in June, performing the song “Gin and Juice” with Snoop Dogg at the City Stages festival.

In May, when Hicks was one of three Idol finalists left, he visited Birmingham for a lavish performance and pre-victory tour, where he shouted to the crowd, “I’m going back to Hollywood and win American Idol for Alabama!”

After keeping that promise, Hicks also got a remarkable shout-out from a high-ranking fellow Alabamian – none other than U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

“There’s no mystery to this – he’s a ‘Bama boy,” Rice said. “We Alabamians have to stick together.”

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