In the premiere of the reality singing competition’s third season on ABC, an Alabama garbage man and father named Douglas Kiker — who had never sung in front of an audience before — had Perry wiping back tears with his powerful pipes and heartbreaking backstory.
“That was not garbage. It was greatness,” a tearful Perry told Kiker, who shed cries of his own as he held on to his golden ticket to Hollywood. “You just stay who you are and you’re going to go so far. And you’re going to take your daughter to all the highest heights.”
Prior to Kiker’s winning audition, Perry’s fellow judge Lionel Richie had Kiker go out on the street with host Ryan Seacrest to singer for a group of strangers, in an effort to get him prepared for performing in front of an audience.
As Kiker had explained, up until that audition, he had only sung by himself while collecting trash on the back of a garbage truck.
Now with “some” experience under his belt, Kiker came back into the studio and reintroduced himself before beginning to sing Rascal Flatt’s, “Bless the Broken Road.”
Perry was smitten, clapping for Kiker and telling him that she wanted to hear more from the nervous contestant.
“Show us your range,” she asked a befuddled Kiker, who admitted with a laugh, “I don’t know what that is.”
“Show us what you can do with your voice,” Perry clarified.
Admitting that he was “still trying to figure that out,” for himself, Kiker then prepared to sing once more for the panel before judge Luke Bryan jumped up and took a seat at the piano.
As Bryan began to play, Kiker let his vocals soar and successfully showcased his impressive and raw vocal talents.
After the impromptu performance, Richie asked Kiker if he understood what he just did to which he humbly responded, “Not really.”
“For a man who has no idea what his voice can do, for a man who has no idea what key he’s singing in, for a man who has no idea who the heck he can be, he’s here to do one thing: He’s trying to show his daughter that he’s somebody,” Richie said, as we walked up to Kiker. “I want us all to let you know, you’re a hell of a man,” he continued. “I want you to come get this ticket. You’re going to Hollywood!”
Perry, Richie, and Bryan have all raved about this season of American Idol.
“It’s literally a fast track mentorship program that everybody’s watching,” Perry told reporters at an American Idol Q&A earlier this month. “I think true artists and true stars are coming out of Idol again.”
“The talent is showing up in buckets,” Richie added. “They’re bringing more attitude to the table. In certain cases we have to turn the attitude down. But for the most part it’s amazing what’s happened this year.”
“And to watch the back stories of the kids,” said Bryan. “We get to watch the premiere like America get’s to watch it. We get to fall in love with these contestants and their ups and downs and their paths to get here.”
American Idol airs Sunday (at 8 p.m. ET) on ABC.