LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Maybe two months ago, a neighborhood kid named Sam Woolf showed up at MacAllisters Grill & Tavern. He said he was a musician and asked if he could perform there.
"We had never had live music before but we thought, why no give it a try?" says Karen Ronney, who owns MacAllisters with her husband Malcolm. "He didn't want to be paid. He said he just wanted the exposure. He played out on the patio just for tips."
The crowd at MacAllisters loved Woolf's performance so much that the Ronneys kept inviting him back. He became the regular entertainment at MacAllisters. But then he said he was going on vacation. They never heard from him again.
Then on Thursday, someone from "American Idol" called. There's a contestant on the show this season, this 17-year-old named Sam Woolf. The people from the show wanted to tape some scenes in his hometown. They asked if they could send some people down and
shoot in MacAllisters.
"I'm a huge 'American Idol' fan," Karen Ronney said. "I didn't have to take too long to think about it."
So this afternoon, people from "American Idol" will fly into town, and they'll meet Woolf at MacAllisters. Ronney's not sure exactly what time Woolf will perform, but the "Idol" people asked her to set aside two hours, from 2 until 4 p.m. They'll start shooting whenever they get their equipment set up. Ronney asked the "Idol" people, and it's fine for the public to show up and cheer Woolf on. There's no cover charge.
She hasn't seen Woolf since he last walked off her patio carrying his guitar and his tip jar. She sent him a quick email Wednesday to make sure the "Idol" thing was legit, but she hasn't spoken to him. He couldn't be reached by the Herald for comment Thursday, either.
She figures he must have made it through at least the preliminary round or two on "American Idol" if the show is going to the expense of sending a camera crew here.
She isn't especially surprised that Woolf has found a national stage.
"You listen to him, and he sounds like he's famous already," she said. "I'm happy for him and if we can help in any small way, we're glad to do it."
You can listen to Woolf sing at www.samwoolfmusic.com.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.