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The Body Shop: From Chicken Soup For The American Idol Soul

Feb 7, 2008
Excerpt From Bucky Covington
Top 10, Season 5

If you asked me what my favorite subject was in high school, I'd have to be honest and tell you flat out -- it was lunch. I wasn't into the books very much. In fact, I wasn't into them at all. I didn't need to have my head buried in books and world maps because the map of my own life was already planned out for me. Carved in stone the day I was born, actually.

When I got out of high school, I'd head up Mill Road to the body shop where my grandpa and dad worked the 9-to-5 and did very well for themselves in our small town of Rockingham, North Carolina. My twin brother, Rocky, and I carried on the respected tradition of the Covington men. I couldn't break the tradition that had been in our family for over fifty years. They were counting on me to keep the shop growing, and the way I was raised in the South, you do what is expected of you and never disappoint the people you love -- you just don't.

And so, I didn't.

Ten years passed, and one morning my faithful alarm clock rang, as it did every morning. I woke to the silence of our small town. Not too much stirs at 7:30 here, other than the sound of an old dog barking or my mom's kettle whistling on the stove. My routine was the same as it had been for the past decade, and with each passing morning, I wrestled more and more with the thought of doing it again and again . . . and again.

I could practically do it with my eyes closed, and that feat of mastery bothered me every waking minute of every day. I took no pride in the simplicity of my life. Something was empty. Something was missing -- for me, anyway.

This morning was no different in some respects. My thoughts were elsewhere as usual, and not on Mr. Thompson's '87 pickup that needed sanding in an hour.

But today, I was charged with excitement as I rolled out of bed and into the bathroom. I stood in front of the mirror, focused on one thing. How do I tell my father that I have just learned the American Idol auditions have been moved from Memphis to our home state of North Carolina? I had thought long and hard about going to Memphis, but the trip would've been too expensive, and there was no way I could leave my father shorthanded at the shop for over a week. But then yesterday my sister-in-law called . . .

"Bucky!" she said. "The auditions have been moved to Greensboro! You can go now!"

I knew at that very moment that everything in my life could change. Greensboro was just an hour away and I knew this was fate calling me. I took it as a sign. I'm not sure if it was an angel or the Big Man himself, but deep down, I knew what I had to do. It burned inside of me. My hands were willing to go sand that old truck, but my heart told me something very different. It told me to sing.

Back in the bedroom, my old shirt and shorts were lying in a heap on the floor. I threw them on and punched my fist into my dirty baseball cap. I went into the kitchen, packed myself a lunch, and headed out the back door, letting the old wooden screen slam behind me. I jumped into my beat-up Chevy truck, started it up with a pair of vice grips, and headed out onto the one road where I had spent my life -- Mill Road. My entire family did everything on this road. Covingtons lived on it, worked on it, and raised families on it. As I pulled my truck onto the trusted blacktop, I could think of only one thing -- to get as far away from Mill Road as I possibly could. Sure I loved it, but I knew in my heart there were bigger roads for me to travel, and I was praying my music would guide me to them.

I drove to Bojangles drive-thru and ordered my usual -- a sausage biscuit with jelly and a large sweet tea. I sat in the parking lot listening to the morning DJ while I waited for Rocky to meet me. His truck pulled in, and together we headed to the dusty garage that housed four bays.

I sanded three cars that day, and all I could hear was the voice in my head, I am done! Man, I got to get out of here! It's funny because I loved the body shop. I loved working with my brother, father, and cousin. And yet, all the while, I'd just hear that voice, Bucky, you gotta get out of here and go do music!

I was counting on my father to understand my story because he had gone through it himself. He had been an amazing athlete and a great football punter back in high school. There was only one guy that could outpunt him in the state, and he ended up playing for the Washington Redskins. I only hoped my dad would understand as we sat down together.

It was the end of the day before we had a chance to talk. When I saw my dad putting away his tools after finishing up the last job, I took a deep breath and walked over to him.

"Dad, do you ever think back on your life when you played ball? Do you ever think that maybe you should've taken that chance and gone pro?"

My father didn't utter a word. He just looked me in the eye and listened.

"Do you ever look back and think maybe you should've tried, Dad? Maybe you should've taken that one chance?"

His eyes filled with tears. "My life is good, Bucky. I'm okay with it. I have three great kids. I'm very happy with what I've chosen."

"Dad, I just don't want to wake up one day when I'm forty years old and say, What if? What if I had taken that chance and dared to leave the body shop? I don't want that feeling haunting me for the rest of my life."

I remember the silence in the shop as I continued.

"Dad, I need a yes or no answer. Do you think I should go? Honestly, what do you really think my chances are if I go to Greensboro?"

He just looked at me. Then, wiping his dirty hands with a ripped-up old rag, my dad spoke slowly and from his heart.

"Bucky, not only do I think that you have as good of a shot as anybody, I think you've got to go. You can't stay here and wonder your whole life, son. You gotta listen to that voice inside of you and go. I'll be fine here at the shop. We'll manage. Walk out that door and go sing, Bucky. Just go!"

So I went. First I went home and packed a bag, then I loaded my truck, and, with my father's blessing, I drove slowly out of town on ol' Mill Road. I knew every crack in the pavement. I thought about all the balls I had caught on it, and all the bike racing I'd done on it. I headed down that trusted road and prayed my fate would be at the other end. Not knowing where the road would take me, I pulled my strength from my father's parting words:

"And Bucky, you're gonna be great."

(Reprinted with permission from Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul: Stories from the Idols and their Fans that Open Your Heart and Make Your Soul Sing).

(Note to iSnare Editor: Our client Debra Poneman is author of the book Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul. The book contains first person accounts of the hit TV show from contestants, fans and behind the scenes crew members. The piece above is from one of the contestants, Bucky Covington. We have Debra's permission to offer these excerpts from her book to iSnare.)
About the Author
Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul is a collection of captivating stories that the television cameras don't see - true, uplifting, and entertaining tales told with humor and candor. Visit Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul
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