Kris Allen's pals will tell you they always thought he was destined to be on (and win) "American Idol." But despite making it to the top four and gaining a head of steam after Simon Cowell initially told him his personality was too low-key to take home the season-eight crown, the truth is, Allen's lucky he's on the show at all.
See, back in June, Allen, 23, told his pal Cale Mills that he was planning to try out for the show. The first problem was that Allen couldn't make the nearby audition in St. Louis because of his impending wedding, so he decided to aim for the Louisville, Kentucky, audition in July instead.
The night before the audition, Mills packed into a car with Allen, his older brother Daniel Allen, a pair of guitars and some pillows, and the trio began an all-night, 12-hour journey from Conway, Arkansas, to Louisville. As Kris and Daniel snoozed, Mills, 25, did most of the driving to Freedom Hall, where nearly 15,000 wannabes had already started lining up the night before.
"It's a miracle we even got there, because we didn't have a clue where we were going and, at the last second, we pulled off an exit by accident, and we were getting ready to ask for directions when we looked up and saw the line of people," said Mills, who often plays guitar and sings alongside Allen at gigs in their hometown. "We got out, changed and tried to freshen up a bit, and I can't remember the moment when we realized the time had changed. We forgot that it was an hour ahead there, so we got there and when we walked in the doors, they said they weren't taking any more auditions."
After waltzing past the huge line of people waiting to get in, the trio stood in a nearly deserted registration room as the staff folded up chairs and closed things down. "Daniel is a talker, so he went up and told them how we came all the way from Conway and we had our guitars and I don't know if they were messing with us or what, but after saying we were too late, they laughed and let us sign up," Mills said.
Looking at the daunting, half-mile-long line of singers who had now begun shuffling into the arena, Daniel Allen said there was no way the guys were going to walk to the end again, so Mills said the elder Allen somehow convinced the gruff bodyguard near the front of the line to let them in early using some concocted story about how their guitars could not stand being out in the sun all day.
Because they got one of the last tickets available, the three singers spent the next 11 hours camped out waiting for their auditions, which didn't take place until after 7 that night.
"On top of that, Kris was sick throughout the day, and he was the one that really had a chance, so that was frustrating for him and us, because, man, we just wanted them to hear him at his best," said Mills, who will be in the audience Tuesday night (May 5) when Allen takes on rock night. "He was doing a lot of resting and probably didn't warm up or sing until 6 p.m. that night, when he started singing Donny Hathaway's 'A Song for You,' which he sang in the audition [shown on TV]."
Mills went first, singing Maroon 5's "She Will Be Loved," followed by Kris and then Daniel. "In my mind, he wasn't in top shape, but when you're that good, even when you're not at the top you will still be better than nearly everyone there," he said. Mills was dismissed as the Allen brothers were asked to sing again. The elder Allen ended up making it through several rounds, washing out just before getting a chance to sing for the judges and his little bro — well, the rest is history.
"Kris was pumped up about it. He felt like he probably could have done better, but he called his parents and told them about it, and his mom got us a hotel room for the night," Mills recalled, noting that even though he didn't make it, he did get his moment to shine on the Louisville audition episode, where he swears you can see him walking off in silhouette if you look really closely.
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