Etta James classic vaults Idol winner

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WIND RIDGE – “We had great talent this year. It was really hard to pick the winners,” Jacktown Fair Idol manager Shelly Brown said.


This homegrown version of “American Idol” has lured an ever-growing number of contestants with generous prize money and recording time at Silent Wing Studio, Bobtown, for six years. On July 19, despite the humidity, sudden rainstorms and too-hot-to-move weather, 12 finalists from the two previous days of competing stepped onstage, dressed like stars, ready to give it their best.


The judges, Veronica D’angelo, Brad Henry and Doug Wilson critiqued every performer in the manner that the contest has become known for, providing fair, constructive encouragement from professionals willing to help young talent “move to the next level.”


For those who were there for the first time, this was a chance to learn how to put on their “A-plus” game, work the stage and entertain and engage the audience as well as sing. “I used to come just to watch,” first-time contestant Megan Bayles of Carmichaels said. This year, her father encouraged her to get up there and let them hear her fine voice and she did, taking third place and $300 with “Something’s Got A Hold On Me,” originally performed by Etta James and later by Christina Aguilera.


“There was a lot of talent and it was so much fun to be a part of it,” Bayles said. Best of all “it was my dad’s birthday.”


At last year’s competition, Nick Brown of Mt. Morris was limping with an injured foot and when it was his turn to perform his CD wouldn’t play. Undaunted, “I went to my car and wrote a song in three minutes and sang it a cappella.” Although Brown didn’t win a prize, he won points for perseverance. This year Brown sauntered onstage for a jazzy, Sinatra-inspired performance of “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone, now a Michael Buble hit. It made him a finalist, and Friday night he took the second place prize of $500 and 10 hours of recording time with the Stevie Wonder hit, “Superstition.”


Chelsea Malone of Morgantown, third runner-up for 2013 Miss West Virginia, had competed in Idol twice before.


She was back to try for the $1,000 and 15 hours of recording time first prize. She won the 2013 Jacktown Fair Idol contest with a top-drawer performance of “At Last,” another Etta James classic that combined her strong vocal range with the glamorous look of a pop star.


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