How American Idol Caleb Johnson can use his new super powers to boost hometown Asheville



Caleb Johnson, the 23-year-old rocker from Asheville, was crowned the new American Idol on Wednesday night. For folks who followed Johnson through the singing competition, it seemed to be a fait accompli. Johnson stood out from the beginning. Johnson also showed real grit in pursuing his goal – this was the third time Johnson had competed.

Congratulations, Mr. Caleb!

The contest may be over, but Caleb’s whirlwind of activity is just beginning. He’s acquired some major new super powers – he’ll be on tour with an American Idol show, he’s recording an album, he’s got a prom date. My hope is that somewhere along that roller coaster ride of new-found fame and money, Caleb takes time out to think about how he can use his new super powers to boost his home town of Asheville. After all, this was the community that nurtured him, that helped define his musical persona and helped support him through his competition.

Here are a couple of ideas to help Caleb get started:

-Pick a nonprofit and give back: Asheville’s own Warren Haynes has a great model here, and he’s set the bar pretty high. Each year, the (former) member of the Allman Brothers Band, who has his own band, Gov’t Mule, holds a December concert in Asheville. He’s been staging the Christmas Jam for decades, with a part of the proceeds of ticket sales going to Habitat for Humanity. The Christmas Jam, Haynes and his fans have raised more than $1 million to help build houses for people in need.

-Support music education: Caleb is an Erwin High School graduate. That high school district is one of the poorest in Buncombe County, has evidenced by the high number of students who receive free and reduced lunches. Caleb could help future students, not only by feeding their bodies, but also their music minds. Caleb could create his own way to boost music education in schools, or support the Music Academy Asheville. Caleb actually visited the Rock Academy during his hometown visit recently. (The Rock Academy is right next door to the Music Academy.) Or support Dr. Bob’s Soundschool, the innovative curriculum that teaches second grade students the physics of sound using acoustic and electronic musical instruments such as the theremin, as well as oscilloscopes. It’s the educational arm of the Bob Moog Foundation (Moog, of course, is another hometown hero.)

-Produce that zombie opera: Caleb has already been called a “mini Meatloaf” because of his music sensibilities (and his heft.) And he’s already said that he wants to do some cool, crazy music, including a “zombie opera.” Asheville is a zombie-loving town, as evidenced by a popular zombie walk that’s coming back this year after a hiatus last year. So I say do it, Caleb. Produce it in Asheville. Debut it in Asheville. Bring together Asheville’s many undead forces and rock.


theOtherBarry May 25, 2014 - 9:59 am

I hear Tim Moffitt is drafting a bill ordering that Caleb is from Buncombe County, not Asheville.

AshevilleBlog May 23, 2014 - 2:34 pm

I personally am not sure why people are jumping on the ‘Caleb owes Asheville’ bandwagon. While the entire town gave him a ton of support during this and other endeavors and while he is from here, I really don’t think it entitles the town to anything. This is a young guy who didn’t back down after being publicly rejected twice on national television, only to win it on the third. That takes balls and dedication.

He’s only 22, and he now has the obligation of being a star – which going from average joe type to celebrity status is a huge deal. All I can do is wish him luck and hope that he doesn’t continually get pressured from both sides of the fence. Caleb is in the hands of his record label now and we have no say over what he can and will do.

Really though, don’t stand with your hand out. That is just as bad as all of the people who used to go to HS with him now proclaiming about all the ‘good times’ they used to have with him (whether or not they were even friends in the first place) just to ride that fame tail. It’s ridiculous.

boatrocker May 22, 2014 - 8:58 pm

It took a Meatloaf lookalike without a dedicated backing band 3 tries to win American Idol?

Awwwwesome. Now I know why Rome is burning. Nero at least accompanied himself on the lute.

It will be a glorious day when a local band (with real people playing instruments who accompany said singer at every gig and who are featured on TV) wins a nationally syndicated award and awful reality shows have to hold a bake sale to buy air time.

With apologies to that old bumper sticker.

Radio Follower May 27, 2014 - 9:19 am

Boatrocker…Your bitterness aside: Caleb’s band, Elijah Hooker, was solid. He’s the real deal.

boatrocker May 28, 2014 - 12:34 pm

Bitterness my arse- if pointing out the vapidity of modern pop culture offends you, well, I’m not forcing you to read any comments.

Besides, I’m willing to bet most of the sycophant posters of the ‘woo hoo yay Caleb’ comments probably complained about a $5 cover when first hearing him perform before being ‘famous’- Fame is not synonymous with talent by the way. Justin Bieber has sold more records than Duke Ellington ever did, so therefore Justin must be more talented than Duke, right?

I do have a tiny shred more respect for the guy now that I know that he has at one point played well with others in a working band. That is at least reassuring-thanks for bringing that fact to the table.

Too bad American Idol doesn’t allow the same hard working backing bands to perform with said contestants. That’s the biggest problem I have with awful shows like that. I guess those John Bonhams, Noel Reddings, Mick Taylors and Slashes technically don’t deserve any awards or respect because they don’t sing as a frontman, they just play boring instruments.

doghaus28815 May 22, 2014 - 4:11 pm

hope he got laid.

Paul May 22, 2014 - 3:07 pm

Considering a lot of these American Idol folks do not anything musical with their “fame”, it’s probably better that he focus on building his career in music if he wants one rather than take too much on like work with a non-profit or other political causes like music education. He’s a singer, not a businessman. Once he has his life goals in order and a plan to achieve them, maybe do some of the things on this list.

Would be a shame if he didn’t build on what enabled him to win the competition to begin with.

PBnJ May 22, 2014 - 10:59 am

-don’t do drugs

Mike May 22, 2014 - 8:52 am

“Now that you’ve won fame and glory, and all your hopes and dreams have come true, we just have one question for you: What about us?”

Harry May 22, 2014 - 8:04 am

Great points Ashevegas.

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