‘American Idol’ Winner Talks Full-Circle Lynyrd Skynyrd Moment

In 2006, Taylor Hicks became the oldest-ever contestant to win American Idol. The then 29-year-old Alabaman bested runner-up Katharine McPhee to take home the season 5 title. Now 47, Hicks has come a long way from playing harmonica on a cover of the Lynyrd Skynyrd hit “Sweet Home Alabama” in a high school talent show. In a full-circle moment, the “Porch Swing” singer will perform during a celebration of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s signature song.

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“Sweet Home Alabama” Turns 50

Somehow, a band of non-Alabama natives managed to pen the Heart of Dixie’s unofficial state song. Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington both hailed from Florida. Ed King was a West Coast transplant from Glendale, California. Still, all three took offense to Neil Young’s 1970 song “Southern Man.” Feeling Young blamed the South as a whole for slavery, Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” in response.

[RELATED: Behind The Song: Lynyrd Skynyrd, “Sweet Home Alabama”]

Growing up in a suburb of Birmingham, “Sweet Home Alabama” was a staple for Taylor Hicks. Despite not having a name, the American Idol champ’s band won the high school talent show that day. After graduating from Hoover High School, Hicks attended Auburn University, where he joined a band called Passing Through. “Sweet Home Alabama” was a must for the band during gigs at the world-famous beach bar The Flora-Bama, down in Pensacola.

“And if it wasn’t in the set,” Hicks told AL.com, “someone was giving me cash money to play it. And they still do.”

Monday (June 24) marked 50 years that “Sweet Home Alabama” has been a part of the Southern zeitgeist. And tonight (Thursday, June 27), Taylor Hicks will once again perform the 1974 hit—this time at an Alabama Music Hall of Fame event celebrating its half-century anniversary.

The free event is from 5-7 p.m. Central and includes a complimentary tour of the museum, located at 617 U.S. 72 West in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

Taylor Hicks Never Got to Perform “Sweet Home Alabama” on ‘American Idol’

“Sweet Home Alabama” factored heavily into Taylor Hicks’ pre-American Idol career. Shockingly, though, he never performed it during his time on Idol. Many other Idol alums have done so—including fellow Southern winners Ruben Studdard and Carrie Underwood—but not Hicks. He wanted to, but says the show’s weekly themes never lined up. Now, he says, “it’s an honor” to perform the legendary song.

Featured image by David A. Smith/Getty Images

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