Whatever Happened To Taylor Hicks From American Idol?

"American Idol" fans will likely recall the thrilling moment Taylor Hicks won Season 5 of the iconic reality singing competition (via EW). That was back in 2006 — and would you believe the Alabama native beat Katharine McPhee to take home the win (via Popsugar)? His signature single "Do I Make You Proud?" led the 29-year-old to victory. In the process of securing the title and joining the likes of Kelly Clarkson in the winner's circle, he sang past the now more well-known Kellie Pickler and Chris Daughtry, who competed against Hicks during the season and finished in sixth and fourth place respectively, according to Reality TV World.

AOL credits Hicks' distinctive voice for his win and noted that he went on to sign a record deal after the finale. His single debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 in the top spot, so he made quite the entry into the competitive world of professional singing. Even the infamously tough to please "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell predicted Hicks would run away with the victory so, clearly, scores of fans loved him (via Today). With that successful start, you might be wondering how the grey-haired soul singer disappeared into basic oblivion.

Unfortunately, Taylor Hicks' star didn't shine for long. His record label dropped him just two years after winning the nationwide singing contest (via Fox News). However, he wasn't finished yet.

Taylor Hicks created his own record label and released music independently

Following Taylor Hicks' win, he was immediately signed to J Records — a label owned by Sony-BMG that managed artists from the competition (via Fox News). On January 4, 2008, the label's publicist Liz Morentin announced that Hicks was "going to record on his own for the next album," leading to speculation that he had been dropped. However, the musician didn't acknowledge the rumors when he spoke to Birmingham News (via Reality Blurred). But Hicks did say he thought he'd have "a lot more freedom creatively" with his next record, adding that he'll "also have the time now to create an album without the post-winning-'Idol' constrictions."

Two days later, Hicks confirmed the news on his MySpace page. "The important thing for all of you to remember is that I've been a working musician my whole life," he wrote (via AL.com) "This is turning the page on a new chapter in my career. Artistic freedom and control is an exciting prospect."

In 2009, Hicks independently released his second album "The Distance" through his label Modern Whomp Records (via Today). "I had traditional label offers but I just thought to myself, you know, I think this is a pretty good comeback story," he told Today.

Taylor Hicks starred as Teen Angel in a Broadway production of Grease

Around the same time as his second album's release, Taylor Hicks took his talents to Broadway where he played Teen Angel in a production of "Grease." "I am incredibly excited to be a part of one of my favorite musicals," the musician said in a statement (via Playbill). "The Soul Patrol's gonna invade Broadway!" Following the show's success, he reprised his role as Teen Angel for the national tour of "Grease" in the summer of 2008 (via Playbill).

It was a busy time for Hicks. A year previously, he published a memoir — "Heart of Soul: An Inspirational Memoir About Finding Your Voice and Finding Your Way" (via TV Fanatic). The book was published by The Crown Publishing Group (via People) and was reportedly ghost-written by David Wild, according to the musician's agent Alan Nevins. Hicks allegedly received around $750,000 in advance of the memoir before publishing, according to the New York Post.

Taylor Hicks was the first American Idol contestant to have a Las Vegas residency

In June 2012, Taylor Hicks had a "full-circle moment" when it was announced he would be performing a three-month Vegas residency at The Indigo in Bally's Las Vegas Hotel and Casino (via The Hollywood Reporter). Las Vegas just so happened to be where the star initially auditioned for "American Idol" back in 2005. Hicks was also the first alum of the show to land a residency in Vegas. Since then, winners like Carrie Underwood (via Good Morning America) and "American Idol" judge Luke Bryan (via Rolling Stone) have also taken the plunge.

The popularity of Hicks's initial residency run resulted in the musician moving to a bigger venue over at Napoleon's in Paris Las Vegas in January 2013 (via The Hollywood Reporter). He performed at the venue for five nights a week until November 23 before extending his residency at the venue with another run of performances between March and April 2014 (via Vital Vegas) as a result of receiving "nearly-universal positive reviews" for his act.

The musician made his acting debut on Law & Order: SVU

In a surprising twist of events, Taylor Hicks made his television debut as a judge on an episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" in 2013 (via The Hollywood Reporter). Playing himself, Hicks sat alongside "American Idol" season two runner-up Clay Aiken and R&B musician Ashanti on the judging panel for a fictional singing competition. The episode revolved around a scandal involving a singing coach played by Billy Porter.

Hicks had a blast shooting the episode and reveled in channeling his "inner Simon Cowell." It was also his first opportunity to experience the realm of acting. "Playing yourself is a really great way to get your feet wet in the acting field," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "I was born on TV, meaning that's where I caught my break. So that's where I always have to be smart and revisit that medium as much as I can."

In 2021, Hicks branched out to the film world with the independent movie "Stars Fell On Alabama" (via AL.com). Not only did he star as himself in the film, but he also provided a few songs to the soundtrack. He provided a taste of his next album through the single "Porch Swing." He also put his "musical producer hat" on to help plan which songs would be used in specific scenes (via AL.com).

Taylor Hicks hosted his own food show inspired by United States history

Outside of music, the musician opened a restaurant in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, called Ore Drink and Dine in April 2011 (via AL.com). Before Taylor Hick's ownership, the venue used to be the Open Door Café and was owned by his late friend Robert Hawkins. Hicks regularly performed there so he decided to take it over and transform it into his own place when Hawkins passed away.

A year later, Hicks partnered with another Birmingham restaurateur (via Birmingham Business Journal), and Ore Drink and Dine joined Mike Wilson's Saw Juke Joint as a combined venue. "The opportunity came up to partner with a great restaurant group, and we thought it fit the space perfectly," Hicks told AL.com. "I think the concept first the area perfectly. We all know Saw's has the best barbecue in town, and the juke joint concept is a home run."

In 2016, Hicks took his love of food even further by hosting his food show "State Plate" on the cable network INSP. It ran for three seasons (via IMDb). The series saw Hicks travel across the United States to make the perfect dish that personified each state he visited. "As a touring musician ... I think, like all of us Southerners do, I have been on a food tour," Hicks told Commercial Appeal. "INSP has this wonderful idea for a food and travel concept, and it all just came together."