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'American Idol' audition bus tour draws 1,000 to Piedmont Park

This was posted on Wednesday, August 22, 2017 by RODNEY HO/ on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

In the final seasons of Fox's version of "American Idol," they began doing separate bus tours to seek out talent in smaller cities. That included a stop in Athens season 15. This makes lines more manageable and technically reaches more people.

ABC - taking over "Idol" in 2018 - is continuing this practice, hitting more than 20 cities all over the country, from Fargo, N.D. to Portland, Ore. to Orlando to Provo, Utah. Atlanta was one of the stops on Tuesday. While "Idol" in the past has used AmericasMart, the Georgia Dome and Gwinnett Arena (now Infinite Energy Center), ABC chose a more scenic spot with plenty of greenery: Piedmont Park.

About 1,000 people tried out, according to a publicist.

That's far smaller than the "big" stops in the past, where anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000-plus showed up. The bus stops do not feature any of the celebrity judges (only Katy Perry has been identified so far). And Ryan Seacrest was nowhere to be found. It didn't appear as if ABC was even filming the auditions at this juncture.

The entire process appeared to run smoothly and though the temperatures reached into the high 80s by mid-afternoon, singers spent most of their time in shade thanks to the trees. People would break out into song. Some folks shielded themselves from any sunlight at all with umbrellas. ABC had five tents with a single producer in each. They would listen to people in groups of four. Each contestant would step forward and sing 15 to 30 seconds, then step back. After the four were done, the producer would bring them forward and point out which ones were finished and which ones would move on.

Auditions started on time at 9 a.m., including several "front-of-the-line" contestants who had finished in the top six during the WSB-TV's "Atlanta Idol" competition: Larq Wumble, Carlton Kell, Sharnae Leland and Andrew Weaver. Surprisingly, none made the first cut. The publicist told me auditions ended on time at about 5 p.m.

At about 10:30 p.m., Jake Michael (who said he almost made it on "America's Got Talent" this year after seven rounds of auditions) arrived after harrowing traffic from Acworth. He was able to get to the front of the line but said his voice was only at about 60 percent. During his audition, he cracked a high note. His wife Bri could hear him from about 100 feet away and knew that was not a good sign. Indeed, the producer liked his low and middle range but said that high note hurt him. He left in good spirits, though, kissing his baby daughter and his wife and gabbing with the morning show at B98.5.

And he shouldn't feel bad. A vast majority of the singers were cut immediately. By 11:15 a.m., I had only seen a handful of folks make the early cut. A producer interviewed them and another videotaped them and even had them sing some more if need be.

There was a time during the peak years when "Idol" was such a phenomenon, rival TV stations would cover the event but that was a long time ago. Besides the local WSB-TV ABC affiliate, and ABC affiliates in Chattanooga and Columbus, I didn't see a lot of media.


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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.