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Aug. 1 - 31, 2005

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Stuck on Clay

By WENDY LEMUS, STAFF WRITER

Before Clay Aiken's Cary concert Friday evening, there is going to be quite a party — hosted by his local fans, for fans coming from near and far for the show.

The measure of this man could be weighed by his ultra-loyal fan clubs, which have formed throughout the world and been the basis for social gatherings, charity work, Clay Aiken pin trading and, of course, friendly gossip about the redheaded singer.

For some, Aiken is a heartthrob. For others his perfect-pitched voice is the main attraction. And still others say the guy is so darn nice they cannot help but catch his enthusiasm for causes such as The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which raises money for children with developmental disabilities.

"I used to make fun of all these people who sit around and chat about him," said Raleigh Claymates fan club member Teresa Moss, 32, of Morrisville. "He's just a boy who can sing."

At some point along the singer's rise to fame, though, "I kind of got sucked in," said Moss, who began to get involved in fan club activities and attend concerts.

The Raleigh Claymates' second pre-concert breakfast, planned Friday morning at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Research Triangle Park, follows a successful event held last fall when Aiken performed at the State Fair. More than 450 people from 32 states and Canada attended.

This time people have registered from as far away as New Zealand, organizers said. (Registration has ended.) Clay's mother, Faye Parker, will be there, as will Cary Mayor Ernie McAlister. There will be entertainment, an auction and other fun activities, pumping up fans for the concert frenzy to follow.

Entertainers will include some of Aiken's local performing friends: Tina Seldon-Cash, Donnie Strickland and Adam Barber. Claymates have been practicing line dancing for a performance at the event.

The chow will include lima bean pies and "cow patties," the latter baked by Parker.

"They're really nothing but fudge oatmeal cookies," Parker said.

Claymania has spawned another phenomenon — pin trading. Clubs throughout the country and abroad design and have pins made with their main man's image: a maple-leaf pin from Canada, a palm-tree pin from Florida and a "Claydelphia" pin, to name a few.

The Raleigh Claymates have designed their very own black and pink pin, for members only, with a slogan: "Raleigh Claymates — we came for the voice and stayed for the man." They have a different-colored pin — black and green — non-members can buy.

The club will sell a third design to raise money for The Bubel/Aiken Foundation. It is available on the Web site www.raleighclayfans.com.

"We're told he knows about it and he likes the idea" of the pins, said Raleigh Claymate Dawn Graham, 36, of Fuquay-Varina.

The Raleigh-based fan club formed shortly after Aiken's near victory on the 2003 season of television's "American Idol." It began as a group of 10 or so locals with a common "interest" occasionally getting together, said Graham, one of the founders.

The club has blossomed from there, with at least a couple hundred members from the Triangle area. Graham said Parker has been supportive with many club endeavors including some charity fundraising activities.

Last Christmas members wrapped gifts at local stores to earn money for The Bubel/Aiken Foundation. The year prior the group held a toy drive for hospitalized children. This spring it shipped some 22 boxes of supplies to Aiken's younger brother Brett Parker's U.S. Marines unit in Iraq.

"She's been really kind to our group. She doesn't have to do these things," Graham said, referring to Parker's participation in many of the activities including the fan club breakfast.

A lot of the gatherings are social, Graham said. Club members hold an an annual picnic and monthly nights out, and sometimes chat online. Their common idol is not the only topic of conversation. They chat about children and careers — normal female stuff.

"We genuinely are friends," Graham said.

Aiken's fans say like attracts like.

"Because Clay wants to be more than just a singer, he really wants to make a difference," said Barbara Dewees of Raleigh, "the majority of his fans are drawn to him for that reason."

And for that voice.

Like the Claymates' new slogan says, Graham and millions of others came for the voice and stayed for the man."He's just really kind. How many people can you say that about in the entertainment world?" she said.

Check it out

Check out the many Clay Aiken pins that have made the scene at his concerts:

www.allthingsclayaiken.com/clayfanpins.html, or

www.findingclayaiken.com/FCA2/pins/allpins.htm

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Aiken Wait is Over

By WENDY LEMUS, STAFF WRITER

Claymania is heading for Cary.

In a little more than a day, a group of exceedingly loyal fans will descend on Koka Booth Amphitheatre at Regency Park to see their "American Idol" in person.

When singer Clay Aiken performs Friday night, Aug. 5, at the outdoor venue, many fans will come from his hometown area, and some will come from other states and countries. It will not be the first time many of these self-dubbed "Clayniacs" have seen the Raleigh native perform live (and likely not the last).

These are the kind of fans who will take plane trips for a glimpse of that red hair and an earful of that resounding voice, which had its origins with a skinny kid who sang at church and in the Raleigh Boychoir.

Aiken has come a long way since then, traveling the road from "American Idol" runner-up and Rolling Stone cover star to headlining concert tours.

In the process, he has developed a loyal legion of fans who span the generations of 12-year-old girls and their mothers, and their mothers' mothers.

Following Aiken's first Raleigh appearance two years ago — on the "American Idol" tour — a fan related the story of an 80-year-old woman in the audience who was in a wheelchair and on oxygen, but clearly enamored with the singer.

Fast forward to a more mature and seasoned Aiken, with a compact disc (two if you count his Christmas CD) to his credit as well as a published autobiography.

As of Tuesday, his concert remained close to selling out after a couple months in the Ticketmaster system — unlike his previous near-instant sellouts at the State Fair (tickets were $15) and of more intimate-venue "Joyful Noise" Christimastime concerts in Raleigh. A handful of lawn tickets for the 7,000-seat outdoor amphitheater remain available; reserved seats quickly sold out.

"I think he does kind of realize that he may have a staying power now," after multi-platinum record sales, concert tours and numerous public appearances including a July 24 "TV Guide" cover, said Barbara Dewees of Raleigh, a member of Aiken's hometown fan club with tickets to the Cary concert.

Dewees, 57, and other local fans agree that the true test will be Aiken's next CD, which he is reportedly working on.

Dewees has heard buzz about this Jukebox Summer Tour — which reportedly includes everything from Aiken's now-famous covers of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and Neil Sedaka's "Solitaire," to a medley of Elvis Presley songs and some Goo Goo Dolls numbers.

Special events are planned for Aiken's tour of music spanning the '50s right up to a preview of his upcoming CD. Ten lucky audience members will enjoy a "meet and greet" with their singing idol. One fan club Web site has reported that fans are encouraged to bring cell phones for an interactive text-messaging event in which some will get a post-concert text message from the man himself.

On to more serious matters, especially for Friday night's ticket holders. Amphitheater parking lots open at 5 p.m. and gates will open at 6. The concert starts at 8.

"We don't want people to camp out before the show, as we do have an event the night before and we share our parking lots with the surrounding office buildings," said Becky Schmidt, the amphitheater's general manager.

"We will have a total of three hours to get everyone parked and into the venue before Clay hits the stage so camping out is not necessary."

There will be the added convenience of shuttle service from the parking lots to speed up the entry process, Schmidt said.

Large amphitheater video screens purchased last summer will be used, so fans can get a better view of the singer.

Dewees has seen Aiken live more than 10 times in the two short years since he rocketed to fame. She has tickets for five dates this summer.

"I like his sense of humor," she said. "He's jovial, intelligent, witty, funny — an all-around entertainer. And he's easy on the eyes."

(See related stories on the News page of CaryNews.com)

Contact Wendy Lemus at 467-3391 or wlemus@nando.com

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Parker keeps her cool despite her son's fame

Parker keeps her cool despite her son's fame

File Photo By Chris Seward

Clay Aiken's mom Faye Parker smiles at a fan as she signs a photo of her famous son at Triangle Town Center in 2003. 

By WENDY LEMUS, STAFF WRITER

If Faye Parker doesn't have an agent, maybe she should.

In the past two years, since her singing-sensation son Clay Aiken garnered more fame than either of them could have imagined, Parker has become a celebrity of sorts herself.

Oh, she still runs her interior design business, Parker Exclusives, in downtown Cary.

But her schedule is also filled with invitations to judge pageants and attend charity functions, in addition to doing interviews with the likes of "TV Guide," which late last month displayed her famous son on its cover.

"They just get in touch with me," Parker said in a recent phone interview from her office. "They find out where I work. ... [by now] it's kind of common knowledge."

While the pace of Parker's life has picked up, some things have remained the same.

Clay is still Clayton, his full name, to her. That is how she refers to him — 26 years of habit.

She has not stopped decorating homes and, in fact, recently began work for an Aiken fan in Charleston, S.C.

"I'm still here trudging along just like usual. Sometimes I have a few more clients because [fans] come in," she said, adding, "they're all so nice. If it helps business, that's great."

Parker, who lives in Raleigh, still attends the same church, Leesville Baptist, where members used to hear her talented son belt out gospel songs.

A subtle hint of the South in her voice, Parker said she enjoys the "invites," even though they require a lot of time and sometimes travel.

"I just went to Michigan and judged the state pageant," she said.

A recent local fundraiser for the Literacy Council of Wake County auctioned off a dinner with Parker.

Just imagine, she said, how intimidating that can be, wondering if anyone would ante up for a prize with her name on it. She did not have to wonder long, though.

One dinner — sold! — to the highest bidders, to the tune of more than $11,000. The two winners are friends from different states, fans of Aiken.

Parker sometimes takes along a friend to such commitments.

"My friend went and we had a very nice time with both of them," Parker said of the prize dinner at a local restaurant.

She stays in touch with a special group of people — Aiken's hometown fan club. She is on the board of The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which raises money for children with developmental disabilities.

Occasionally, she will attend one of her son's concerts, but not nearly as many, she said, as some of his fans; she met one California couple that has literally followed Aiken from city to city, attending more than 90 shows.

Parker will be in the audience at two shows on his summer tour — the one in Cary on Friday evening and the one at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Va., on Monday.

In a half-hour interview, the seasoned interviewee — she has met Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer — anticipated many of the questions about her son, who rose to fame on the 2003 season of TV's "American Idol," where he came in second to Ruben Studdard.

Parker said her son is happy touring and doing what he has loved to do since he was a child — sing. The mother and son are extremely close.

He realizes that there are advantages to fame beyond money and adoration, she said.

"He loves being able to make a difference," Parker said. "He knows he's got the best fans in the world."

Aiken's celebrity status and increased visibility have encouraged his loyal legion of fans to support causes that are important to him, such as The Bubel/Aiken Foundation. He and friend Diane Bubel formed the nonprofit organization; he had worked as a volunteer with Bubel's autistic son while studying special education at UNC-Charlotte.

Aiken was named a national ambassador for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF in 2004.

He doesn't have to worry much about being spotted at the mall, his mother said, because he doesn't hang out in malls much. It is in local restaurants that "I think sometimes people recognize him," she said — an understatement, of course.

Parker said fans usually are polite when asking for autographs, waiting until Aiken finishes eating. One excited group of teenagers who spotted him in Charlotte on their prom night approached his table and Aiken later had his picture taken with the group.

Parker said Aiken still watches the TV show that made him famous, when he can. He keeps in touch with Studdard and Kimberley Locke, friends and competitors from the 2003 season.

He called another fellow contestant, Josh Gracin, before Gracin's performance at the Longbranch Saloon in Raleigh several months ago. Just one guy kidding another, Parker said.

When Gracin addressed the audience, her son "wanted to make sure he said 'Raleigh' right."

Contact Wendy Lemus at 467-3391 or wlemus@nando.com

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Raleigh News and Observer

Cary crowd gives Clay high marks

Quote:

From Concertgoer Reports

CARY -- Clay Nation was content Friday night. The citizens were hot and couldn't buy a breeze, but Clay Aiken's Jukebox Summer Tour made happy campers out of the 7,000 or so people at Koka Booth Amphitheatre at Regency Park.

The songlist spanned '50s to the present -- from "Twisting the Night Away" to "Invisible" is how fan Pamela Broadwell described it -- and included songs that concertgoers expect to hear on his next album.

We asked concertgoers to post their comments on a forum at www.newsobserver.com. Those who responded were all but unanimous in saying that the adored singer from Raleigh delivered the music, the moves and the charm the expected.

Here's a sampling:

* Kay Hester of Raleigh: "I have attended all of Clay's concerts, and each one gets better than the one before. It's so obvious that Clay is maturing in his performance, and he keeps that wonderful ability to connect with his audience."

* Hannah Wolfe of Hillsborough: "He always finds a way to connect with his crowd, and he never ceases to amaze! His dorky dance moves and quirky comments ('I'm sweating like Ruben tonight!') definitely added to the evening."

* Annette Brantley of Middlesex: "He is a beautiful man with a beautiful voice. Even my husband, who is not a major Clay-maniac like me, was clapping and screaming. We thoroughly enjoyed every second of the show."

* Nicole Androsiglio of Raleigh: "I really love his jokes. I liked when he was making Angela, Quiana and Jacob dance and he said, 'I get to make them do whatever i want, cause MY name's on the ticket.' ... I do get a tad bit jealous when Angela and Clay start dancing. She starts touching his hair and pulling his shirt. Then her and Quiana start rubbing his stomach. Could they get any more lucky?' "

* Mike Smith of Raleigh: "It's admirable that he is so generous to his backup singers, but I imagine they sang 25 percent of the tunes. We were there to hear Clay sing. He is a refreshing counterpoint to most of the sleazy stuff that our kids are force-fed, and we will continue to be fans, but this concert was tedious."

* Jessica Woltz of Apex. "It was great to get a taste of his new album. (I am already addicted to the new song.)"

* Aubrey Templeton of Goldsboro: "Clay was totally working the stage, and he didn't miss a beat. He was perfect, and all his performances were so much fun. I got a kick out of watching the security guys boogying to Clay, too. ... I LOVED watching Clay dance (And yes, Clay, you CAN dance!) and just really getting into it all."

* Jen Baucom of Durham. "Grannies bumped shoulders with moms who cheered and sang along with their daughters (and some husbands!) ... a great crowd of very enthusiastic Clayniacs. Clay's backup singers were, as usual, fantastic, and watching him banter with them on stage was fun. The show left us with big smiles on our faces!"

* Neva Miller of Apex: "Who else could sing Elvis, Earth, Wind & Fire, Lionel Richie, Barry Manilow, and Prince -- and sound better than the artists themselves?"

* Pamela Broadwell of Clayton: "Who else would channel Elvis one minute and the Monkees the next? Who else would have the temerity to sing the Archies and Simon and Garfunkel in the same show? Name one other singer who would dare to sing the sweet Christopher Cross ballad 'Sailing' and then follow it with MC Hammer? ... When I spend my hard-earned money on a concert ticket, I want to be entertained, to feel something, to laugh and have a good time. I was, I did, and I can't wait to do it again."

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Audience Clay in Aiken's hands...

Msnbc article

Audience is clay in Aiken’s hands

Singer won second place on ‘Idol,’ but first place with fans

Jeff Christensen / AP file

Former "American Idol" runnerup Clay Aiken performs on ABC's "Good Morning America" summer concert series in New York's Bryant Park, Friday, July 29, 2005. (AP Photo/Jeff Christensen)

COMMENTARY

By Andy Dehnart

MSNBC contributor

Updated: 6:23 p.m. ET Aug. 9, 2005

Less than a week after kicking off his 25-city “Jukebox Tour,” Clay Aiken performed in Greenville, South Carolina. After performing an energetic review of hits from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, he concluded with a few original songs, including “When You Say You Love Me,” which was on his first album, “Measure of a Man.”

As he began to sing, he stumbled, arriving at the wrong words at the wrong time. The music kept playing but Clay turned to the singers on stage with him and said, “That’s the third night in a row!” He laughed. “I don’t know the words to this song!” Then Clay pretended to sulk off stage, letting one of his back-up singers take over, but he quickly came back to give it another try.

Then, in the front of the Peace Center’s auditorium, near stage left, a fan held up a sign. But she wasn’t proclaiming her love for Clay; instead, she was offering assistance. “Are those the cue cards for that song?” he asked, walking over toward her. In her hands were, in fact, homemade cue cards with the lyrics to “When You Say You Love Me.” Having known of his tendency on this barely week-old tour to have trouble with the song, someone had constructed cue cards to help him out and passed them to the front of the auditorium. His fans knew he was going to mess up before he did.

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“Although I feel completely, miserably embarrassed, I’m going to try to continue, if that’s okay,” Clay said. Then he asked, with mock incredulity, “How do you know I’m going to do the same ones I did last night?”

That’s a good question, but there’s an easy answer: Clay Aiken may have been the runner-up on “American Idol 2,” but two years after he lost that competition, he has become the single most successful and popular reality TV show contestant ever. No other reality TV stars—and few stars of any other origin—have managed to build a fan base like that at the Peace Center last Wednesday. Other reality show participants have recognizable names (such as Omarosa, Richard Hatch), and others have gone on to successful careers (like Clay’s “Idol” predecessor Kelly Clarkson, for example), but Clay has an audience like no other.

Even though Clay lost “Idol,” he easily outsold winner Ruben Studdard in both singles and albums, and his debut record landed at number one upon its release. His fans are obsessively devoted to both Clay and his art, going online to discuss his music and his charity work (as a UNICEF ambassador, among other things).

There’s even a Clay Aiken credit card, which can be used to buy everything from a Clay Aiken bucket hat to a Clay Aiken thong.

Play that not-so-funky music, skinny white boy

Why exactly is this “skinny white boy,” as Clay described himself in Greenville, such a sensation? I went to Greenville to try to find out. What has inspired the rabid devotion that characterizes Claymates, as his fans are known? What sort of performance causes fans to attend concert after concert on the same tour?

Although a single concert just skims the surface of the phenomenon, from the moment Clay strutted out on-stage arm-in-arm with his back-up singers, the audience was, well, clay in Clay’s hands.

Before the concert began, I asked a fan sitting in front of me to explain, in a sentence, why so many people loved Clay Aiken. “We came for the music, but we stayed for the man,” she said.

This enthusiasm for both Clay and his art didn’t subside the entire evening. Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour show, the audience stood up (during the fast songs) and sat down (when Clay was telling a story or singing a slower song). Waves of energy rippled throughout the auditorium as he performed medleys of well-known hits from the past half-century, more than capably tackling covers of songs by everyone from Elvis to Prince.

As Clay moved on stage, camera flashes strobed constantly, and tiny images of the stage were visible on dozens of video cameras’ view screens. Some fans stood with cell phones open, broadcasting the concert to others around the country, who transcribed it online for the benefit of other fans. The audience cheered wildly when Clay accompanied himself on piano, because, someone quickly told me, he was just learning to play.

Everyone who’s heard him knows that Clay can sing. But on stage, Clay is also energetic, humble, and awkward. He mixes self-depreciation with a dose of pretend, over-exaggerated ego, and genuinely appears to be having a great time interacting with his audience and his band. Far more experienced performers would have been thrown off after forgetting words to a song, but it didn’t really phase Clay at all; in fact, he embraced it. His personality and persona are as much a part of his performance as his music.

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During the performance, Angela Fisher and Quiana Parler sang back-up for him throughout the evening, but the phrase “back-up singer” doesn’t really apply to either one. Clay literally shared the stage with them, as they performed their own solos as he stepped aside.

His gawkiness is especially endearing. Clay may be able to sing exceptionally well, but his on-stage talent drops off rapidly after that. Primarily, he dances like a wooden puppet on a stick.

But every time he’d awkwardly attempt a dance move, or just attempt to move a body part, screams would ripple through the crowd. And he played along, giving them more of what they wanted.

Watching Clay and his audience interact was revealing, but in many ways, the concert seems to be just the public side of his popularity. Fans gather online and in person, and have two and a half years of history with Clay; I don't know if I'll ever fully be able to see the Clay phenomenon in exactly the same way they do. But the performance made it clear that, in this era of manufactured pop, where top-40 music is constructed for the benefit of the audience by marketers and radio station conglomerates, Clay Aiken's fans believe they have found something real. That's ironic since Clay Aiken, the phenomenon, was born of "American Idol," which, with its narrow focus and snap judgments, is a televised look inside the machine that produces our entertainers.

At the same time, Clay’s fans were introduced to him and his music and saw him work his way up throughout the competition. His talent and his personality are genuine, or at least appear to be, because we’ve watched him grow along the way. Clay Aiken may be a product of the "American Idol" factory, but to some degree, what went in is what came out, and that’s just the way his fans like it.

Andy Dehnart is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.

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Aiken, Lounging at Wolf Trap

Washington Post

Who says girls love bad boys? Certainly not the women who filled Wolf Trap on Monday -- paying ticket prices higher than for any other pop, rock or country singer scheduled to appear at the amphitheater this season. They love Clay Aiken.

And while his voice is polished and he moves about the stage quite comfortably, there's nothing about his new road show, tabbed "The Jukebox Tour," that will convert the nonbelievers, those who didn't cheer when he finished second in the 2003 season of "American Idol," nor swoon when his first post-"Idol" single and two full-length CDs hit No. 1.

Aiken put on the sort of show a wedding singer might if given a big budget. The set list was made up of two hours of really famous cover songs -- it included the longest Elvis medley seen outside of a Las Vegas lounge -- capped off by a handful of tunes from his own, thin discography. Tunes from the Beatles ("Can't Buy Me Love"), Frankie Valli ("December 1963") and Ricky Martin ("Livin' la Vida Loca") were broken up by decade and delivered chronologically from oldest to newest.

Aiken, in between period-specific costume changes, sang mainly abridged versions. One of the few songs that the singer, fronting a seven-piece combo, didn't give short shrift to was "Mandy," the pop gem from Barry Manilow, a founding father of the asexual heartthrob realm that Aiken now rules.

As a good wedding singer would, Aiken had the crowd dancing and singing along with every familiar tune. And just as "Idol" contestants get caught up in nonmusical subplots as the season goes on, Aiken let the fans in on a behind-the-tour soap opera. He alluded to romantic and sexual advances a backup singer, Angela Fisher, had been making toward him, then made a big point of telling her to back off, and bragging with an odd cackle that he'd "shot her down!"

-- Dave McKenna

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Random Clay hits are HOT!

A review I like much better than the Washington Post's.

full text but please make sure to visit the site and give this story hits.

Clay-mazing show for faithful fans

By WENDY LEMUS, STAFF WRITER

Friends Jackie MacFarlane and Katie Canning came a long way to see Clay Aiken's sold-out show at the Koka Booth Amphitheatre at Regency Park on Friday night.

So, with general admission tickets in hand, they weren't going to risk sitting on the far reaches of the lawn. The New Jerseyian and Canadian, respectively, were the second and third people to arrive at the gate — at about 10 a.m. — a full 10 hours before the concert.

The friends met through a chat room devoted to their mutual idol, and decided to follow the Raleigh singer's Jukebox Summer Tour — from New Jersey, to New York City, then to Darien Lake, N.Y., and Cary.

"It's like a reunion," said Canning, 18.

Albeit a hot and sticky one. Concertgoers who lined up early for the 8 p.m. show endured sun, humidity and temperatures in the 90s. Some held umbrellas, or waved fans bearing the idol's picture on them, to keep cool.

When the gates opened at 6 p.m., some 7,000 ticketholders streamed into the amphitheater. (The final few tickets were sold a couple hours before showtime.)

Many fans wore signs proclaiming their fan status — T-shirts reading "Jukebox Summer Tour," "Clay Aiken Official Fan Club Member," "Ultimate Claymate" and even "The Future Mrs. Aiken."

"Just the thought of seeing him is so, like, awesome," said 15-year-old Lizzy Phillips of Fayetteville, who shrieked when a nearby group of binoculars-holding concertgoers spotted the singer doing a pre-concert meet-and-greet in the backstage area with some lucky fans.

If the 26-year-old Aiken has come a long way in terms of image from his famous red sideburns-and-geeky-glasses "American Idol" television show audition in 2003, audience members say he certainly has grown as a performer too.

Many in his female-heavy fan base have seen Aiken in concert multiple times in the two short years since he hit the touring circuit.

"He's so much more confident," said MacFarlane, 18. "He has improved drastically. He seems like he's enjoying himself so much.

"I can't believe it's the same Clay that walked into that audition."

Aiken has one full-length album to his name, not including a Christmas song collection. Obviously that means he has to find other material to entertain fans lining up to see him in concert.

With the Jukebox Summer Tour, he made some bold choices. Who dares take on the King of Rock ‘N' Roll other than an Elvis impersonator?

In a 25-city tour that celebrates five decades of rock ‘n' roll, Aiken could not have left out Presley.

Performing for more than two hours, he belted out some of the last few decades' best-known songs — made popular by the Bee Gees, Prince and Marvin Gaye to name a few.

He has proved — Randy, Paula and Simon, take note — that it is not the song choice that matters.

It is the voice. And he can sing. He is at his best when he does powerful ballads, and there were plenty of those Friday night.

Aiken and three highly energetic backup singers — who also had a chance to show off their vocals with some solos — started in the 1950s with an old time rock ‘n' roll medley of standards such as "The Twist" and "Great Balls of Fire."

An Elvis medley included "Love Me Tender," "Hound Dog" and "Heartbreak Hotel."

A trip through the '60s included "Solitaire," a Neil Sedaka song that impressed the "American Idol" judges and which Aiken later recorded as a CD single.

Then it was on to Motown and kitschy dance steps reminiscent of The Temptations and The Four Tops.

Just before a break, Aiken headed into the reserved-seat section near the stage, microphone in hand, joking, "I know there's some men who were tied to the roof of the car and dragged here tonight. We need somebody who's just miserable."

Guess he knows who is making him rich.

Victim found. During the second half of the show the man was pulled onstage for backup dancing to a collection of '70s hits, which Aiken followed with two popular ballads from that decade: Barry Manilow's "Mandy" and Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

Probably Aiken's biggest stretch of the evening was a rendition of Prince's "When Doves Cry." He did not sound a bit like Prince. The performance was, however, spine-tingling. He made the song his own. The "American Idol" judges would be proud.

The show finished with some selections from the new millennium — from Aiken's 2003 "Measure of a Man" CD and with a glimpse of a new CD he is working on.

Then the jukebox turned off (yes, there was a real jukebox on stage), the stage lights dimmed and there was no need for an encore. The sweat-inducing show had included 60-plus songs, in full or part.

Patty Allen of Wake Forest, who attended the concert with her 14-year-old daughter Kate, said the concert was like a trip down memory lane.

And Aiken's performance? In a word, "awesome," Allen said.

The show turned out even better than MacFarlane and Canning had expected; at the 11th hour some reserved-seat tickets had opened for sale and they ditched their general admission tickets for fourth row.

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A nice cover article in the local paper's entertainment section about Clay's concert at the Toledo Zoo - no new content though.  I was happy to see a GMA photo on the inside page, instead of an AI retread.  This should help move the last few tickets to this concert.

Toledo Blade

Something for everyone: Clay Aiken covers Top 40 tunes from the '50s to today

Photo

Clay Aiken

Zoom

By DAVID YONKE

BLADE STAFF WRITER

Kicking off a one-two set of concerts by American Idol stars, 2003 runner-up Clay Aiken comes to town for a concert at the Toledo Zoo amphitheater on Tuesday, followed by 2002 champ Kelly Clarkson at the SeaGate Convention Centre Aug. 22.

Aiken, who lost in Idol's second season to Ruben Studdard by a margin of less than 1 percent, is covering a lot of ground with The Jukebox Summer Tour 2005.

The show will feature 100 Top 40 songs from the 1950s to the present, with many strung together in medley form.

A lot of the tunes were on the charts long before Aiken was born in 1978, but said he enjoys music from all eras.

"I thought it would be cool to sing a bunch of covers and relate to everybody," he said in a press release. "There will be songs my mom likes and my grandparents like, and there are a lot of people who love the music of the '70s. I like the '80s, and we're going to have a lot of fun with songs from the '90s."

Among the songs in the show will be several golden oldies with which Aiken is already associated, including Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and Neil Sedaka's "Solitaire." He's also planning Motown medley and doo-wop medleys and will shake things up with a series of Elvis Presley classics.

Aiken, 26, of Raleigh, N.C., had always planned to be a teacher and was working with autistic children when a mother of a student talked him into trying out for American Idol.

"I had my life planned out until I was 50 years old," he said. "I was going to be a teacher and maybe a principal at some point."

But the mother of one of his students heard him sing during a visit to her home and persuaded Aiken to give the Fox TV show a try.

The first time he auditioned, in Charlotte, N.C., Aiken didn't get picked. But he tried again in Atlanta and wound up in the finals with Studdard. Although he lost by a whisker, the charismatic young singer was quickly signed by RCA Records.

Aiken's 2003 debut disc, "Measure of a Man," sold more than 2 million copies and produced the hit song "Invisible." Last fall, he released the holiday album "Merry Christmas With Love," which shipped more than a million units.

Aiken is currently working on his third studio album and is serving as national ambassador for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, for which he visited the tsunami-ravaged region of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and war-torn northern Uganda.

Clay Aiken will be in concert at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Toledo Zoo amphitheater. Tickets are $39.50 and $47.50 from Ticketmaster. Information: 419-474-1333.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com or

419-724-6154.

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From GranNC at the CB:

Article: For Aiken, a $2.3 million house is not a home

In this morning's Baltimore Sun:

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LOS ANGELES - Clay Aiken is looking more mature these days since dying his strawberry-blond locks brown and getting a short haircut, but he apparently isn't quite ready to settle down - at least not in the San Fernando Valley home he bought for $2.3 million last fall.

The 26-year-old singer, who gained fame in 2003 as a runner-up on the TV show American Idol, is already selling the house. He listed it in March for $2.5 million and expects to close escrow next month.

The Mediterranean-style home was newly built when the pop singer bought it.

On more than an acre in a private, rural area of the valley, it has plenty of room for Aiken and a number of his friends and family.

The 7,800-square-foot house has six bedrooms, 6 1/2 bathrooms, a family room and a bonus room.

The grounds, zoned for horses (although Aiken has none), include a pool, a spa, a gazebo and a sports court.

It's like a small resort yet comfy. The master suite has a private study. There's a fireplace in the family room. And an open floor plan.

So, why is Aiken selling?

In a TV Guide interview, Aiken voiced concerns about living in what he has described as "lonely" L.A. and said he would like to go home to Raleigh, N.C., where he was a special-education teacher before being "discovered" on national TV.

But, since buying the house, Aiken has been busy and hasn't spent much time in L.A.

Aiken has been on his 25-city Jukebox Tour, which ends Sept. 1 in Atlantic City, N.J., and is expected to follow it with a Christmas tour.

He's also been working on a follow-up to his 2003 debut album, Measure of a Man.

Since performing on American Idol, Aiken has enjoyed sales of more than 3.9 million CDs, running just behind Kelly Clarkson, who is the biggest-selling participant in the show.

Aiken is also a UNICEF ambassador, and he has been helping raise funds for the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which he co-founded in 2003 with activist Diane Bubel to help children with developmental disabilities.

It was Bubel who persuaded Aiken to audition for American Idol after she heard him singing while he was caring for her autistic son, Mike.

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NY post article about Clay's sophomore CD scan here...thanks to runningfree of the CH.

In Style

I just received my issue in the mail and Clay was once again voted one of the sexiest stars!!! (of course, we wouldn't have questioned that one!).

It has Jennifer Garner on the cover and it's the September issue and should be in newstands in the coming week - being a subsriber I get mine before it hits the stands. It has a small pic of him from GMA last year and it's on page 439 under the heading of Crooner. There is also a very brief mention him in the paragraph where they intro the whole section on page 409.

TV guide Scan of this week'sletter to TV guide letters to TV guide

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From the CH:

WMMX 107.7 Radio Interview

Awwwwww he was so cute!!!

The female DJ told Clay as soon as he got on the phone, "I love you." He giggled and she said, "No, I really really love you." LOL He giggled again.

She brought up the fans and he said he wasn't expecting the fervor with this tour but is constantly amazed the fans are still there and full of excitement. Says he is always prepared for the intensity of the fans to die down and is always amazed when it doesn't.

Female DJ: They worship you.

Clay: Let's cut down on the worship. *giggles*

Female DJ: It's because you're HOT!

Male DH: Yes, you should hear her...every day all she does is talk about you.

Clay: Really? *giggles*

Female DJ: Yes, it's because you're HOT!

Male DJ: And because you have a really really great voice.

Female DJ: You are my most favorite singer ever. I really mean that.

Clay: Wow that's some really big shoes to fill.

Female DJ: After the show can I hang out with you on the bus?

Clay: WHOA! *giggles*

Female: Just relax, you know, maybe give you a back rub?

Male DJ: She is good at trivia...she could ask you lots of question.

Clay: Actually, I am really good at trivia. Such a nerd. *giggles*

She asks him what they can expect at the concert tonight and he tells them a few things.

It was a cute interview...didn't learn anything *new* but it was so cute to hear the female DJ gush over him and him just giggle and giggle.

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Aiken croons and Claymates swoon at concert

The Flint Journal

FLINT JOURNAL REVIEW

CLIO

THE FLINT JOURNAL FIRST EDITION

Monday, August 15, 2005

By Misty R. Gower

mgower@flintjournal.com • 810.766.6338

Journal review

CLIO - In 2003, he captured the hearts of gals ages 7-70. In 2005, he's captured the soul of five decades of rock 'n' roll.

"American Idol" standout Clay Aiken brought his Jukebox Tour to the Clio Area Amphitheater on Saturday night, singing rapid-fire snippets of hits from the 1950s to '90s to a crowd of about 2,500 at the 3,100-seat venue.

Make that a crowd of about 2,475 women and 25 men, a lopsided fan base that didn't go unnoticed by Aiken.

"I know you've either been bribed, threatened or tortured to be here," he told the men in the audience.

From the time Aiken stepped onto the stage dressed as The Fonz, licking his thumbs and bumping a "malfunctioning" jukebox with his forearm, the Claymates were on their feet and screaming.

Fans sat silently only when Aiken belted out ballads, the only songs he sang in their entirety throughout a 21/2-hour show that felt like part Broadway musical and part rock 'n' roll history lesson.

Aiken - decked out in costumes from each era - introduced each decade of songs with a narration about what was going on in the world at the time and who touched the nation's hearts with their music.

Of course, the 26-year-old crooner wasn't shy to admit that his vast knowledge of each decade wasn't firsthand.

"Truth is, I was a fetus in the 1970s," he said to a roar of laughter.

Covering the 1950s and '60s during the first hour of the show, Aiken embraced the aw-shucks corny factor that made him a star on Season 2 of "Idol" - think judge Simon Cowell telling him to never dance again - and he ran with it, knowing that each shake of his tush and wink of an eye would send the crowd into a frenzy. A jump on the piano during "Great Balls of Fire" had women fanning themselves.

In addition to seeing Aiken's ever-improving dance skills and his ability to play the piano, fans got to hear quite the range in his voice, often amazing listeners with low tones that many didn't know he had.

He adapted well to the style and sound of each artist whose songs he sang, but in true "American Idol" fashion, he, well, made it his own.

He also unselfishly helped his fantastic band and three phenomenal backup singers make things their own, often singing backup for them.

But there was no doubt that Aiken was the heartthrob star of the show. His grinding dance with a backup singer during his version of Prince's "When Doves Cry" during the '80s segment had many swooning.

"This is too much for my heart," said Jean Roman, 65, of Toledo, who had never attended a concert until Aiken stole her heart on "Idol" in 2003. The Clio show was the third Aiken concert she had attended in a week.

It was Aiken's six-song set of his own works at the end of the show that garnered the biggest applause of the evening, proving that while he has built a 2005 tour around songs of the past, he's going to have plenty of fans in the future.

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SIGH I wish we can simply ignore them but we do have to give space to these Asshat reviewers:

Vermont

Clay Aiken attracts Claymates

Burlington Free Press

ESSEX JUNCTION I ran into my first Claymates onMonday night as I walked past the green wooden doors that separated a Champlain Valley Fair parking lot from the backstage area at the grandstand.

Two women had waited outside the doors, trying for a glimpse of the night's headliner, Clay Aiken. A third woman, 25-year-old Angel Smith of Baltimore stood off to the side holding a purse bearing Aiken's image and ticked off the states she had seen thesinger's perform in since the end of July. New York, Connecticut, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and, now, Vermont.

"I never used to travel before he came along," Smithsaid. "I've flown for my second time the other day because of Clay."

It was then, a scant 30 minutes before the spiky-haired singer took to the stage, that I realized that I had been living a lie.

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Boston

Aiken sticks with stale 'Idol' formula

Boston Globe

By Marc Hirsh, Globe Correspondent | August 30, 2005

If you were a newly autonomous artist, released from the contract foisted upon you by ''American Idol" and one of the few unqualified successes to come out of the Fox phenomenon, would you stage your summer tour as though it were an amusement park rock 'n' roll revue? Clay Aiken did, and his Jukebox Tour, which hit the Bank of America Pavilion on Sunday, showed all the imagination, professionalism, and depth of the cheesy group numbers performed on the show from which he's supposedly trying to distance himself.

The evening's tone was set at the start, as a jukebox played Starship's ''We Built This City," recently named the worst song ever by music magazine Blender. As the record started to skip, Aiken came out dressed as the Fonz and hit the jukebox, at which point a backdrop reading ''The '50s" unfurled and the band started up. Medley after medley followed, as Aiken (with substantial help from backup singers Quiana Parler, Angela Fisher, and Jacob Luttrell) sang the most recognizable parts of hits from the past six decades. Some strange moments resulted, as when Aiken sang in front of a backdrop reading ''ELVIS" in huge letters, prompting the question of who exactly the crowd was supposed to be applauding.

The Claymates had no doubt, screaming their devotion. One couple carried a sign informing the singer and the world that this was their 100th Aiken concert. Aiken acknowledged them and many others from the stage, showing an ease with audience interaction and stage patter, even when it was simplistic and moon-eyed commentary like, ''The music of the 1960s paints a portrait of lightheartedness and fun."

Aiken occasionally broke from the medley format to perform an entire song from start to finish, though ''Mandy," ''Solitaire," and a surprisingly pretty version of Christopher Cross's ''Sailing" were truer to his middle-of-the-road pop stylings than ''When Doves Cry." By the time he closed with six of his own songs -- and the Claymates responded as though ''Invisible" wasn't actually a creepy stalker anthem -- Aiken was left to sink or swim on his own merits. The rest of the show suggested that you can take the boy out of ''American Idol," but you can't take ''American Idol" out of the boy.

Clay Aiken tries to be an Idol to everyone

Boston Herald

By Christopher John Treacy/ Music Review

Monday, August 29, 2005 - Updated: 12:35 AM EST

Just in time for Boston's ``American Idol'' tryouts at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, Clay Aiken's Jukebox Tour pulled into the Bank of America Pavilion to remind potential contestants of what's possible if you make it to the show's finals.

Rather than touting a new disc, Aiken's tour is in support of his miraculously extended 15 minutes of fame. And it's also a showcase for the vocalist's vivid imagination. In it, Aiken fancies himself a '50s teen heartthrob, the Elvis incarnate, a Motown star, a '70s soul singer, a choirboy with keen falsetto, a young Casey Kasem.He does all this while being soundtracked by some of the biggest pop hits of the last 50 years; taken for what it is, the show is entertaining.

But despite an exhausting 100 songs (most in medley format) spread over a two-hour-plus show and presented in chronological order, he isn't all that well equipped to deliver from so many different musical corners. It was when he jumped on top of the piano during ``Great Balls of Fire'' that the hilarity first hit home – Aiken's nondescript sexuality just doesn't have the necessary ``balls of fire'' to pull off such a stunt. The same went for the Elvis tunes, the Bee-Gees' selections from the '70s, and an attempt at Prince's ``When Doves Cry'' from the '80s. He saved a small offering of his own songs for the new millennium segment at the end.

It's the backup singers who really carry this charade. Angela Fisher, Quiana Parler and Jacob Luttrell provide amazing vocal support, without which Aiken would simply fall flat. Each was given their own individual chance to shine, particularly Parler during Gladys Knight's ``Midnight Train To Georgia,'' misplaced in the '60s segment of the show despite it having been a hit in 1973.

Moving by decades up to present day, Clay Aiken bent over backward to show us all the things he does nicely. But ``nicely'' is a bland word, and really he'd do much better to pick just one or two things he's extraordinarily good at and go from there. Preying on beloved pop hits is easily crowd-pleasing, but it doesn't add any personality to what was already a pretty bland offering. And someone really ought to have told him ``Solitaire'' will always belong to Karen C

Aiken, Seaport move music fans

Boston Herald

A harborfront hotel full of Clay Aiken fans got a jolt yesterday.

A fire in an electrical switch room cut the power – and air conditioning – at the Seaport Hotel, forcing the Fidelity Investments-owned hotel on South Boston's waterfront to bus guests to other city hotels.

Firefighters responding to an alarm yesterday morning quickly put out the blaze, which was contained in an electrical switch room in the hotel's parking garage.

The hotel was then forced to turn off its main electrical lines as power-company crews went to work to repair the damage. Emergency generators kept the lights on, but not the air conditioning, according to a hotel spokeswoman.

The sudden loss of power surprised a legion of Aiken fans hanging out at the Seaport after Sunday night's concert at the nearby Bank of America Pavilion.

Seaport managers spent yesterday afternoon guiding hotel guests onto buses bound for the Boston Harbor Hotel and other alternate lodging.

``I was really surprised,'' said Barbara Allen, an Aiken fan who flew in from California to see her idol, and who unexpectedly found herself yesterday afternoon in front of the Seaport waiting for a bus.

``Everything took on a life of its own,'' she added.

Located in Fidelity's World Trade Center complex, the Seaport picked up any difference in room costs in cases where the rates at other hotels were higher, officials said. ``No guests were in any danger,'' said Lauri Howe, a spokeswoman for the Seaport. ``Guests were moved for their own comfort.''

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Gilford, New Hampshire

Clay Aiken plays Gilford

NH Citizen Online

GILFORD — Second season American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken both wooed and wowed a large crowd at Meadowbrook Musical Arts Center.

"He's a great entertainer. I was rooting for him all along," said Cheryl Moody of Farmington who attended Saturday's concert with her sister, Judi Aubert of Rochester. "I think he's just awesome. I just love his voice. If he comes back I'm going to bring my 10-year-old daughter," said Aubert.

Aiken's good looks coupled with his family values and charitable work was a common theme among concertgoers, predominantly 40-ish something women. "That's what I admire most. He is a good moral role model. Kids need that," said Frank Downing of Malden, Mass., who said he is a substitute teacher who works with autistic children.

Downing's wife, Fran, characterized herself as an avid "Claymate," the name taken by his most rabid fans saying she had tickets to attend Aiken's Sunday night concert in Boston. She has previously traveled to Indiana twice and once to Michigan to see his shows.

A 2004 Christmas album, "Merry Christmas With Love," followed Aikien's 2003 debut, "Measure Of A Man." "He has an amazing voice. One that comes along once in a millennium — the range, the volume and he call hold a note longer than anyone," she said of Aiken, 27, who hails from Raleigh, N.C. "And it's not just his singing. He connects with people and does a lot of work for charity," she continued.

"He was the best singer. He should have won (Idol)," asserted Rachel D'Onfro of Westminister, Mass. She said she saw Aiken's Christmas show last year. "He was my number one pick from the very beginning (of American Idol)," she said. D'Onfro said she's downloaded all of Aiken's songs, even an early demo album. "And I'm not even a Claymate. There are (fans) here from Hawaii," she said. Aiken started the night with a medley of 50s and 60s songs, doing some covers of such classic artists as Chubby Checker, Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers classic "Unchained Melody."

Aiken is working with Canadian producer Jaymes Foster Levy on his sophomore effort, which he hopes to have out by next spring.

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