Fans vote Bradenton's Woolf into top 13 'Idol' berth

mclear@bradenton.comFebruary 20, 2014 

He wiped sweaty palms on his pants and had to take several deep breaths as the "American Idol" votes were announced Thursday night.

Nine names went by without his being called.

But Sam Woolf of Bradenton was the 10th performer chosen out of 10 by TV call-in and online voters.

On Wednesday, the 17-year old singer-songwriter from Braden River High School reached the Top 20. A day later, only Woolf and 12 contestants are in the mix.

Thirty contestants -- 15 males and 15 females -- started the week still alive on "Idol."

On Tuesday, judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. eliminated five women.

On Wednesday, they repeated the process, knocking five males out of the competition.

The judges decided on 10 cuts before the Wednesay show started, but maintained suspense by calling the survivors on stage one at a time to perform live, with a dwindling pool of contestants awaiting their fates backstage.

About 40 minutes into Wednesday's show, Urban began introducing Woolf.

"We don't always agree, but this guy came out and we all agreed," Urban said.

Woolf "didn't do so good in the group round," Urban said, but he impressed the judges again last week by performing an original song.

"I think he's going to be in this competition for a long time," Urban said.

Before Woolf came onstage, the TV audience saw footage of him working with coaches, including former "Idol" judge Randy Jackson, who told him not to look at the floor when he sang. Woolf said he'd go back to his room and watch videos of some of his favorite performers.

Then he came onstage and wowed the judges with a version of David Gray's "Babylon" while looking noticeably more self-assured than in earlier performances.

"The people love you, Sam, and with good reason," Urban said after the performance.

Lopez was even more effusive in her praise.

"You have such a great quality to you," she said, "and it's no surprise that everyone has already fallen in love with you."

Connick was the only judge who tempered his praise with some advice.

"I hope that you can gain some small layers of confidence as this competition goes on," Connick said.

But Connick also made it clear that he's an unabashed Sam Woolf fan.

Marty Clear, entertainment reporter, can be reached at

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