I just spoke with Clay Aiken at Georgia Public Broadcasting and will post that video either later today or tomorrow.
First up: last night’s TV One special about Ruben Studdard for its series “Life After.” There are no major revelations but it’s a pleasant 30-minute journey through his life.
The half hour starts at Princeton elementary school in Birmingham. “I was always within an earshot of a whupping,” he said, since his grandma Hattie Williams’ home was down the street. He recalls daydreaming and getting in trouble for singing at his desk. “He sang all the time: sing sing sing,” she said.
He began singing at age three at pre-school at the Shady Grove Baptist Church. “He was very disruptive in class,” his brother Kevin said.
“He told us he’d be a star someday,” Hattie said.
He was on football as well as sing in three choirs. He didn’t want to go to college. He wanted to go to Atlanta and get signed. He got a football scholarship at Alabama A&M University but decided to focus on singing. His family was not happy.
He visited Rising Star Baptist Church and we heard from his childhood choir director Cheryl Agee. He sings some of gospel with her on piano. He left college before his senior year in 1999 to play in the gospel group God’s Gift. “We thought we’d be the next Winans,” he said. Another member of the group in 2002 wanted him to audition with her for “Idol.”
They show clips of him on “Idol,” including his audition. “You have a very nice voice,” Paula said. “Welcome to Hollywood dawg!” Randy said. “Alabama representing!” he said.
“Clay is one of the first people I met at ‘American Idol,’ ” Ruben said. They became good friends. (No interview with Clay.) They show a clip of him singing “A Whole New World.” Wow. He is still amazing. Glady Knight dubbed him “The Velvet Teddy Bear.” It stuck.
They noted that the range of support for Ruben was deep in Birmingham, from black to white. They show the moment he won. Clay is grinning like an idiot because he knew already, having peeked at Ryan’s card.
They quickly go through his album sales – two million copies for “Soulful,” gold for his gospel album “I Need an Angel.” He’d like to do another one.
In 2005, his ex-manager and close family friend stole $250,000 from him and he sued. “You’d never think someone you’ve known since you were a child would do anything to hurt you but people lose sight of things that are important like the love of your family when money becomes involved,” he said.
“Sometimes people take advantage of you,” Ruben’s mom said.
“I’ve forgiven him and moved on,” Ruben said.
They talk a bit about him trying to develop artists and a camp. “I wanted to impact the lives of these kids being in school and reading music. That’s the roots if you want to be a professional.”Then the 30 minutes are up.
Clearly, they had to leave out a lot of material.
For instance, the special didn’t talk about his marriage to Atlantan Surata Zuri McCants, his weight issues, his Vegan diet, his past tax problems, his “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” tour or his reunion with Clay for the current tour, to name a few.