‘American Idol’ auditions life-changing for Alabama garbage man

Published 6:54 am Saturday, February 15, 2020

Alabama’s Douglas Kiker, who’ll be featured in the season premiere of “American Idol,” has the perfect Cinderella story: Until recently, the only singing he did was in the shower.

“I got a late start on music, I literally just started singing a few months ago,” said the Greensboro native who now resides near the Gulf Coast in Grand Bay.

In a sneak peek released by the show, Kiker is shown speaking to celebrity judges Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie and Katy Perry right after a performance that they apparently found quite impressive. “I’m a garbage man,” he tells them.

“He’s here to show his daughter that he’s somebody,” says Richie, walking toward him. “We’re proud of you.”

“That was not garbage. It was greatness,” says Perry.

Regardless of where Kiker’s “Idol” ride takes him, the experience so far has left him wide-eyed. “I’ve never experienced anything like it,” he said. “It’s made my overall life fuller.”

Kiker grew up in Greensboro. He was raised by his grandparents, Joyce and Bill Kiker, who adopted him when he turned 18. His childhood was tinged by tragedy: A sister, Anita, died in 2005 after an assault by her husband, who remains in prison.

“I grew up with little means,” Kiker said, but he was in a loving environment, nonetheless.

He moved to the Mobile area mainly for a change of scenery and “I ended up finding love,” he said. The daughter mentioned in the “Idol” clip is Elliana Kiker, who is two. Kiker and his fiancée have a baby on the way.

Kiker said he didn’t get much exposure to music, at least as far as making it, during his youth. “As far as singing goes, I’ve never tried to do any kind of musical thing,” he said.

He was, however, an eclectic listener. “I listen to Beethoven, I listen to rock and roll,” he said. “I don’t know why I said ‘Beethoven’ specifically, but I do listen to classical music. I listen to opera. If somebody could put some beats to opera, I’m down for that. … I like hip-hop and country.”

He does like to put his own spin on things when he sings, and that appears to be working for him. When an “Idol” bus pulled into Mobile for auditions in August, Kiker decided to give it a shot.

“On a whim I tried out for ‘American Idol’ and I had an amazing experience on it. It’s changed my whole perspective on life.” Literally: up until then he’d have been satisfied to hold a job and grow a family. “Now I want so much more out of life,” he said.

“I got to meet a lot of amazingly talented people, literally in line,” he said. “I just want the best for everybody.”

He didn’t make the cut in Mobile. “My nerves got the best of me,” he said. Knowing he hadn’t given it his best shot didn’t sit well, so he traveled to another audition in Baton Rouge. That’s where he cleared the first round.

“Man, I’m talking about feeling like I got lifted 10 feet tall,” he said of the moment.

The footage released by the show is from a second-round audition in Savannah, Ga., Kiker said. He’s indebted to his older brother, William Kiker, for being able to get there. “He was the one that paid my way there and put me up in a hotel,” the aspiring candidate said.

“I had never met a celebrity before,” said of standing before the judges. “It was just something I could cross off my bucket list.”

“These are some really good people,” he said of his first impression. The warm welcome from fellow Alabamian Richie was “surreal,” he said, and he’s only become more impressed as he’s gotten more familiar with the magnitude of Richie’s career.

Kiker works for Advanced Disposal. He said he’s grateful to managers Douglas Wilder and Walt Hamlett, as well as his truck’s driver, Jimmy Breckenridge, for their support. “They definitely like seeing that one of their own has a chance to be so much more.”

Some “Idol” contenders arrive with their own preferred genre and a look to match. Kiker said he has no idea what look or sound the show’s producers and coaches might develop for him.

“I’m sure if I had money I would have my own style and stuff,” he said, “but I’m just a regular ordinary guy.”