Deejays recall Garner 'Idol' contestant's early days

Posted March 1, 2011 5:45 p.m. EST
Updated March 1, 2011 11:53 p.m. EST

— When "American Idol" semi-finalist Scotty McCreery took the stage in Garner last summer for a radio station contest, he was just happy to be singing.

"He was 16 years old and he was out there with his guitar, and you go, 'No way,'" WQDR deejay Janie Carothers, said of hearing the teen's voice for the first time. The country music station hosted the competition "Clayton Idol." 

The reaction to McCreery's voice is universal. 

"When he got off stage, I literally thought to myself, 'If anybody from Nashville hears him sing, it's a done deal,'" WQDR deejay Marty Young said. 

McCreery won "Clayton Idol" and went on to perform for the radio station's hometown tours and events in the area to raise money for sick children. He even performed in the parking lot and the drive-thru at McDonald's during the WQDR hometown tour. 

McCreery has come a long way from that parking lot. 

"I didn't really sing outside of church before I won 'Clayton Idol' but now I'm singing anywhere and everywhere they'll take me," McCreery told WRAL News in February. 

One of those places is the "American Idol" stage, where the 17-year-old is performing each week hoping for America to vote him through to the top 10. 

McCreery's "Idol" journey began last year when he auditioned in Milwaukee singing Josh Turner's "Your Man" and Travis Tritt's "Put Some Drive in Your Country."

"I was a bundle of nerves inside, but I tell you what, in the moment, you're just there," McCreery said. 

Since appearing on the show, McCreery has cultivated a fan base, including Kaitlyn Hunter and her mother, Dawn. The two have T-shirts showing their support and have attended Garner's "Idol" viewing parties. 

Hunter sang in the Garner High School chorus at the same time as McCreery. She remembers the first time she heard his voice. 

"It was beautiful. Just the tone of his voice was so rich and deep," she said. 

Though McCreery has mainly tackled country music on "Idol," Hunter said he is talented at choral music as well. 

Young agrees. 

"When he starts blowing people away and they go, 'Oh my God, he's not just country,' and that's when everybody's going to realize this kid is for real," he said. 

McCreery's success has inspired Hunter to try out for "Idol" next year. 

A website devoted to McCreery is selling fan T-shirts. Proceeds from the sales are being donated to nonprofit groups he is involved with, such as the Garner High School Trojan Baseball Team, Garner High School Choral Boosters and the First Baptist of Garner youth group.