Originally published on the Nash Country Weekly website.
Well before Keith Urban on American Idol or Blake Shelton on The Voice, Johnny Carson’s sidekick, Ed McMahon, was giving young and talented entertainers and models a chance to win $100,000—along with their big break on Star Search.
While band Sawyer Brown was the only country act to clinch a Star Search win, many others, like Billy Dean, Phil Vassar, Rissi Palmer, James Bonamy and, most famously, LeAnn Rimes, captured the attention of Nashville’s industry ears and went on to eventually sign recording contracts.
Nashville Star ran from 2003 to mid-2008 on the USA Network and, in ’08 only, NBC. It’s also where Blake Shelton first appeared as a talent judge, pre-The Voice.
True story—Blake sat at the judges’ table in 2007. And surely we remember that Miranda Lambert, now Blake’s wife, placed third in the show’s inaugural season, while Chris Young reigned as the Season 4 (2006) champ.
Here’s a look at some other Nashville Star alumni and what they’re up to these days.
Buddy Jewell – Season 1
WINNER The first Nashville Star’s post-victory single, “Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey’s Song),” peaked at No. 3, and its follow-up, “Sweet Southern Comfort,” also reached No. 3. Buddy’s self-titled debut album was released in 2003 and was certified gold. He still continues to record and perform.
Miranda Lambert – Season 1
Third-place Though she placed third in the first season, Miranda has gone on to win many awards, including ACM and CMA Female Vocalist of the Year trophies. All four of her major label albums have gone No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. She is also part of the successful trio Pistol Annies, which released two critically acclaimed albums. No doubt there is more great music yet to come!
Brad Cotter – Season 2
WINNER After winning his season, Brad released his debut album, Patient Man, and debut single, “I Meant To,” which reached No. 35. He shifted his focus to Christian music and his most recent album, Right on Time, was released in 2009.
George Canyon – Season 2
Second-place This runner-up’s most successful U.S. single, “My Name,” peaked at No. 44. He went on to become a star in his native Canada with several successful singles and [Canadian] gold albums.
Erika Jo – Season 3
WINNER At 18 years old, Erika Jo was the youngest artist, as well as the first female, to win Nashville Star. Her self-titled debut album appeared in 2005, and her only charted single, “I Break Things,” hit No. 53. She still performs on occasion.
Chris Young – Season 4
WINNER Chris Young won Nashville Star in 2006 and has been a top draw ever since, winning over many new and dedicated fans. All three of his albums to date have charted in the Top 10, with his most recent, Neon, peaking at No. 2. A new album is expected later this year.
Angela Hacker – Season 5
WINNER Despite winning her season, Angela failed to chart significant singles or albums.
Whitney Duncan – Season 5
Fifth-place The fifth-place finalist’s major-label single “Skinny Dippin’” hit No. 48 in 2009. She also co-wrote Kenny Rogers’ “My World Is Over.”
Kacey Musgraves – Season 5
Seventh-place In 2012, seventh-place finalist Kacey released her debut single, “Merry Go ’Round,” which reached No. 10. Her major-label debut album, Same Trailer Different Park, bowed at No. 1. Kacey was also nominated for Top Female Vocalist at the Academy of Country Music Awards. Additionally, she co-wrote Miranda Lambert’s current single, “Mama’s Broken Heart.”
Melissa Lawson – Season 6
WINNER The season winner’s one single, “What If It All Goes Right,” peaked at No. 43. Her praise/worship album, Constant, was released in 2010.
photos – Whitney Duncan by Jeff Lipsky/Warner Bros, Angela Hacker courtesy WBR, Season 2 by John Russell/USA, Buddy Jewell courtesy Sony Music, Erika Jo by John Russell/Karen Byrd PR, Kacey Musgraves by Christine Musgraves/Sandbox Entertainment, Melissa Lawson by John Russell/NBC, Miranda Lambert by Randee St. Nicholas/Sony Music Nashville, Chris Young by Randee St. Nicholas/Monarch Publicity