MINERAL WELLS — Cool native Casey James returned to the stool and an acoustic guitar Wednesday night, performing Keith Urban's "You'll Think of Me" in hopes of making the "American Idol" top 12.
It was a stark departure from his performance last week, when Idol judge Randy Jackson said he was "channeling Jimi Hendrix."
This week, Jackson said he felt James played it "safe."
"Don't pull back," Jackson told James. "It was a very safe choice."
Ellen DeGeneres said, "I thought it was great. You're more comfortable sitting on a stool and playing guitar, aren't you?"
"I'm kind of back on the Casey train, kind of," said judge Kara DioGuardi, who was critical of his performance last week. "I'm missing that spark. But it was definitely a move in the right direction."
Simon Cowell told James he considered it his second-best performance. "I think it made you sincere. I don't think it's something we'll be raving about in 24 hours."
James and his legion of fans await Thursday night's results show on Fox, hoping he garnered enough votes to make it to Season 9's top 12.
Mom appreciative of support
When Debra James relayed how a friend called her and read the article about Millsap High School students collecting donations through “Caps for Casey’s Mom,” she teared up.
Last Friday, over 100 Millsap students collected close to $150 by paying $1 per infraction to wear normally prohibited caps, holey jeans or for boys to come unshaven. They did this in honor of MHS alum James to help his mother get to Hollywood to see her son perform on the Fox reality show.
“Just at a time when the world is as bad as you’ve ever seen it, people come up out of the woodwork and exhibit this kind of generosity and support,” she said. “It redeems humanity once again.”
The mother of Cool-raised Casey said she could not talk about her son’s experiences, but said her experience has been a “mind blower.”
Debra James encouraged Casey to go to the Idol audition in Denver, Colo., so he could be seen. Mission accomplished.
James, a nurse at Wise Regional Hospital in Decatur, found a trip to Hollywood a bit pricey for her budget, citing an $11 turkey sandwich and paying over $4 for a plain old cup of joe.
“I’m just overwhelmed and have been trying to work and keep things going,” she said. “My goal is to pray more. It’s quite a ride.”
Casey’s mom said she’s grateful for all the area fundraisers that will eventually help her with expenses. She said she wants people who have helped in Millsap, Cool, Mineral Wells, Weatherford and the region to know, “How overwhelmed I am about all this stuff going on to get me to Hollywood.”
“I was just blown away about the Millsap ‘Caps for Casey’s Mom,’” she said. “Everybody – people I don’t even know – have been so supportive.”
So far, many have come together to help Debra James with her expenses. A Weatherford/Hudson Oaks contingent, comprised of Craig’s Music, College Park Pack-n-Mail and Ultimate Cupcakes has fielded donations from individuals, like Southwest Airline tickets and cash.
“We’ve all been collecting money to get Debra to and from Los Angeles,” said Craig’s Music’s Craig Swancy, who received the Millsap High School funds. In addition, he said, “A gentleman walked through the door the other day and remained anonymous and dropped $100 off for Debra.”
“It’s all good stuff, everybody’s lending a hand,” added Swancy. “As I like to say its good people doing good work for other good people.”
He has known Debra James and her sons since Casey, now 27, was 13 to 14. “She’s been dropping the boys off since,” he said, adding, “They’ve spent many hours in the store.”
“She is a very sweet, charming and hard-working single mom,” said Swancy. “She’s a nurse by trade and is a very kind and caring person – you have to be to be a nurse.”
Some in the area may recall red-haired Debra, also a musician, who once worked at Mineral Wells Care Center. Occasionally, she and Casey would play for the residents.
Music runs through the family. America now knows Casey sings and plays guitar, but not nearly as many know his older brother, B.C. (also known as Billy), is an accomplished musician. Before this season of American Idol, B.C. played the bass in a band with Casey.
Both guitars James used in “American Idol” came from Craig’s Music, as did the Gibson J-45 used in “Crazy Heart,” according to Swancy. He said he sold it to the late Stephen Bruton, who was musical director for the film. He also sold a guitar to T. Bone Burnett, producer for the movie.
“I’m very proud to see someone with all this talent on ‘American Idol,’” Swancy said of the local Idol star. “What ‘American Idol’ doesn’t realize is there’s five to six more Casey Jameses in this area. We’re blessed with a lot of talent. Some of these guys don’t go looking for a break. Casey did, and he got a break.”
In addition to the Weatherford/Hudson Oaks fundraising efforts, friends have set up a bank account in Debra James’ name at First Financial Bank in Mineral Wells to help offset costs to see her Idol son.
She said couldn’t swing a trip to see Casey perform this week, but hopes she will be able to go next week, provided he is still in the contest.
James wanted to let those who have given know, “If something happens and Casey gets voted off this week – America’s fickle – I will donate [contributions] to a battered women’s shelter. That money will only be used to go see him. Although it would help me to recoup some [previous] expenses, I’m not going to use it [for that].”