America was first introduced to Clay and "that voice" when he auditioned in Atlanta Georgia for the TV hit show,  American Idol.  When asked why he decided to audition, he replied that his friend, Diane Bubel, (pronounced Bew-bul) the mother of Mike,  the 12 year old autistic boy with whom he  worked "wouldn't leave him alone about it."  Clay laughingly says that he finally told her that "if she would be quiet about it", he would go ahead and audition.

     On January 25, 2003, this skinny, red-haired, bespectacled young man walked out for his audition in Atlanta Georgia in "full on nerd gear", judge Simon Cowell seemed to stifle a snicker as he  asked Clay,  "Why are you here?" (Why ah yew heah?)
     Clay spread his hands, palms forward and in his soft southern drawl, stated simply, "Because ah'm the American Ahdol".

     The skeptical judges watched and listened as Clay demonstrated his rich, clear voice, singing an excerpt from the 80's song, 'Always and Forever'. 
     When he finished, the judges paused.  The first judge, the now notorious Simon Cowell, said in his British accent, "You don't look like a pop star..... but you've got a great voice." 
     Randy Jackson, the other judge, looked at Clay incredulously, and said, "Yeah, it's weird -it's wild... to hear that voice coming out of this....."
 "...little white boy..." Clay interjected,  nodding as if it were not the first time he had heard that kind of comment.

     Judge Randy went on to say that he thought Clay could "work on his style", and they announced he was "coming to Hollywood"!  (Female Judge Paula Abdul was not present at Clay's Atlanta audition.)



  Clay was born Clayton Holmes Grissom in Raleigh, North Carolina.  When he was discovered by American Idol talent hunters, he was a lanky, 6 ft. 1 inch tall, 24 year old special education major at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, whose career goal had been to become a special education teacher. He graduated in December of 2003, completing his requirements for a bachelor's degeree in Special Education while touring with the American Idol 2 Top 10. 

Before auditioning to be on American Idol he worked one on one with a 12 year old autistic boy, and was on staff at the YMCA daycare program where he was jokingly nicknamed  "Gonzo" and was adored by the children.  Friends tell about the time he good-naturedly let the children duct tape him to a wall! 

His many friends were familiar with his beautiful voice.  They seem to take it for granted as just being a "part of Clay".
 
 

ALL ABOUT CLAY
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