es Taylor Reuben Hicks (1976- ) of Birmingham, Jefferson County, is a singer, actor, author, and restaurateur who is best known for winning season five of the American Idol talent show. Hicks began his music career at an early age and had been performing for almost a decade before winning the popular television show in 2006 and then recording the platinum-selling album Taylor Hicks. Hicks performs a variety of musical genres, including rock, country, rhythm and blues (R&B), and pop, but he is mainly known for his raspy renditions of soul, as well as his trademark salt and pepper hair. His avid fans are known as the “Soul Patrol.” Fellow Birmingham native Ruben Studdard won season 2 of American Idol in 2003.
Hicks was born on October 7, 1976, in Birmingham to Bradley Hicks and Pamela Dickinson. The family later moved to Hoover when Taylor was eight. His parents divorced when he was a teenager, and he developed an interest in music as a form of self-therapy to help cope with a difficult childhood. He taught himself to play the harmonica and wrote his first song, “In Your Time,” when he was only 18. He attended Berry High School until it closed and graduated from Hoover High School in 1995. He continued to practice other instruments, learning to play the electric guitar and organ without any formal training. By the time he was 19, Hicks was an accomplished self-taught musician and was already sporting salt and pepper hair.
Hicks pursued a major in business and journalism at Auburn University in Auburn, Lee County, but did not graduate. While at Auburn, he continued to perform in a band known as Passing Through. He later formed his own self-titled band and released an independently produced album titled In Your Time in 1997. He moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2000 to pursue a recording contract but was unsuccessful. He returned to Alabama and performed at various venues including a local Auburn favorite, the now-defunct War Eagle Supper Club, and the Talladega Superspeedway, and with the Drive-by Truckers, among other acts. During this time Hicks released a second independent album, Under the Radar, in 2005.
With encouragement from his younger half-brother Sean Hicks, Taylor auditioned for season five of the talent competition American Idol television show on October 10, 2005, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hicks advanced through the tryouts with the positive votes of judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson but not creator Simon Cowell, who doubted whether Hicks would remain in the competition. He continued to advance through the rounds of the competition, performing a variety of songs, including Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” and Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” During the finale, Hicks performed songs by Stevie Wonder and Elton John and his own song, “Do I Make You Proud.” He won season five of American Idol handily on May 24, 2006. He is the oldest competitor to have won as of 2021, at 29 years of age. He recorded and released “Do I Make You Proud” as a single in June 2006. It was the number one record on the Billboard Hot 100 for a week and later achieved certified gold status (500,000 sales). He signed a recording contract with Arista Records, a major perk of winning American Idol.
Hicks’s musical career gained momentum with the release of Taylor Hicks (2006), which reached platinum status (one million sales) in 2007, though he was later dropped by Arista. He signed a contract with Random House in 2007 for his memoir, Heart Full of Soul: An Inspirational Memoir About Finding Your Voice and Finding Your Way, which documents Hicks’s long struggle to make a place for himself within the music industry. He also starred in a theatrical tour of the musical Grease in 2008. He released his fourth overall album, The Distance (2009), under his own record label, Modern Whomp. Hicks has been listed as one of the top-earning Idol stars from album sales and tours. As of 2021, Hicks has been the only Idol winner to secure a long-term contract in Las Vegas, at Bally’s Casino and later at the much larger Paris Las Vegas.
In 2011, Hicks opened the Ore Drink and Dine restaurant in Birmingham. It was renamed Saw’s Juke Joint in 2012 in partnership with restauranteur Mike “Saw” Wilson and became part of a small chain of barbecue restaurants in Birmingham. Hicks later combined his interest in good food and acting as the host of the 2016-2018 television series State Plate, in which he highlighted famous dishes from each state in the Union. Hicks continued to perform music and released the single “Six Strings and Diamond Rings” in 2017. He later starred in a 2019 production of Shenandoah in Georgia and co-hosted the December 14, 2019, Alabama Bicentennial Celebration in Montgomery, Montgomery County. His acting career continued, and he played himself in the January 2021 romantic comedy Stars Fell on Alabama. Hicks currently resides in Nashville.