Irresistible Southern boy Ruben Studdard proved he's got what it takes to win the hearts of millions of Americans when the then-25-year-old Birmingham, Alabama, native edged out Clay Aiken on FOX television's May 21 'American Idol' finale.
As a result, Studdard became a singing sensation taken under the wing of music industry legend Clive Davis. Davis signed Ruben Studdard to a recording contract on J Records through Simon Fuller's 19 Recordings Limited.
The J Records roster is home to platinum superstars Annie Lennox, Alicia Keys, Rod Stewart, Luther Vandross, Busta Rhymes, Tyrese and Monica, among others. The RCA Music Group, which includes both J Records and RCA, is a BMG-owned label group run by Davis. The RCA roster is home to superstar artists Christina Aguilera, Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews Band, The Strokes, David Gray, Heather Headley, Kelly Clarkson, and more.
If the success of inaugural "American Idol" champion Kelly Clarkson is any indication, Studdard's biggest accomplishments are yet to come. Clarkson's RCA Record's debut, "Thankful," stormed into The Billboard 200 at No. 1, selling 300,000 copies in its first week and became one of the year's best-selling release by a debut artist.
As a child, Ruben Studdard sang at his parents' Baptist church, but it wasn't until college that he became serious about music. Abandoning a promising career in football which would lead to an athletic scholarship at Alabama A&M University, he decided to switch his major and study voice at the school, graduating with a degree in 2000.
He started his professional career as a singer for Just a Few Cats, a Birmingham-based jazz and soul band. During 2002, Ruben joined one of the group's backup singers at an audition for the second "American Idol," making the first round of cuts at his local audition, then winning himself a slot on the national television program.
Ruben Studdard made a big impression from the start. Where most of his competitors were pop star wannabes hungry to win the competition, Ruben was quiet and exceedingly laid-back, impressing audiences and judges alike with his large voice and easy confidence. He soon climbed to the top of the pack and stayed there throughout the show, only once being voted into an elimination round. By that point, "American Idol 2003" had turned into a race between Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken, a skinny, geeky kid from the South whose appearance and taste were nearly the polar opposite of Ruben's.
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