Michael Becker/PictureGroup
May 15, 2010 12:00 AM

American Idol finalist and Texas native Casey James, 27, had time for everything in his schedule but sleep.

At 6:40 a.m. Friday, James hopped into his stretch SUV limo and waved at the gathering crowd before heading off to the first of 10 scheduled appearances.

“I love everything about Texas,” he said, as he waved at fans in cars with cameras chasing his limo despite a massive police escort. “It is good to be home.”

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Starting out at a local television station, the Idol finalist was met with a red carpet of screaming students from his alma mater, Millsap High School, and fans of all ages holding signs and screaming at his arrival.

“I’ve gotten several marriage proposals today,” he said, laughing.

But the singer was thrilled to reunite with his mother, Debra, brother Billy and his dogs, Daisy and Buster. “He started humming in perfect key at the age of one,” his mother said. “It’s obvious that playing music is what Casey is meant to do.”

With a day packed with emotion, perhaps one of the most intense visits took place at Texas Health Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital, where James treated six years ago after a life-threatening motorcycle accident where he suffered a broken wrist and femur.

“Thank you for saving my life,” said a teary-eyed James to his former orthopedic surgeon Dr. Cory Collinge, as his weeping mother looked on. He presented the doctor with a black electric guitar and personally thanked all the staff. “I am hugging everyone in this room today because I wouldn’t be here,” he said, “and I certainly wouldn’t be playing the guitar if it wasn’t for all of you.”

And there was music, too.

James pulled out his guitar at Keys Lounge, a packed Fort Worth club, filled with more screaming fans. “I used to play here all the time and no one came,” he said afterward. “And now, the place is filled to capacity … This is completely surreal.”

James and his family were reunited at his house … – which he built himself … – and enjoyed a Texas-sized picnic. Then it was time to face the public again -… this time at the Fort Worth Stockyard, where he was given a key to the city and other souvenirs.

The next day, James headed home to Cool, Texas, the only of the top 3 finalists to have two full days of public appearances, which included a concert at the town’s tiny community center. But the day culminated in a bigger concert at his high school stadium, where 4,000 fans were eager for his performance.

Choking back emotion, James looked at the screaming crowd. “Thanks to each and every one of you,” he told them, beaming. “I can’t explain how this makes me feel. Things will never be the same and it’s all because of ya’ll.” –Alicia Dennis

Tell us: Who do you think will win American Idol?

Michael Becker/PictureGroup

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