Bo Bice doesn't remember life without music. “My father played guitar, banjo and mandolin. My mother and her three cousins were in a group called the Singing Jays, and my mom sang at the Grand Ole Opry. I guess that's why I always took music for granted. I remember how weird it was the first time I realized not everybody could sing.”
His parents had extensive record collections, and Bo Bice started buying his own 45s at garage sales, starting with “Monster Mash” and “Time in a Bottle.” He was five when he bought his first album, by Steve Miller. Soon, he was adding Boston, the Rolling Stones and the James Gang to his pile of albums.
Bo Bice listened to the radio a lot while he was growing up. “My mother loved gospel and country and my dad really loved rock and I'm an avid talk radio listener.” He had a toy guitar at age two, and on his ninth birthday, Bo's parents gave him his first real guitar, an electric Squire Telecaster. “That's not a little thing for a nine-year-old,” Bo laughs. “It cost $500 and that was a lot of money for my parents. I had that guitar around my neck all the time.” That same year, Bo Bice performed in public for the first time, singing “God Bless the U.S.A.” in a talent contest at the Atlanta Civic Center.
Bo Bice was 13 when his father's work took the family to England. Bo attended an American school on an Air Force base where he met other students who played guitar. Bo's first band, Spinning Jenny, played local pubs. Over the next four years Bo played with other bands in England, but when he turned 17 he decided it was time to move back to America. He lived with relatives, completed his high school education and enrolled at Calhoun College, where he joined a new group, Purge. While studying music at the University of North Alabama, Bo moved on to a new band, Blue Suede Nickel, and then formed a trio called SugarMoney with fellow Purge members John Cooper (bass) and Shane Sexton (drums).
In the first round of auditions, Bo sang Badlands' “In a Dream” for a producer and she asked if he knew any Motown. He sang the Temptations' “My Girl” and she told him to sing that in the next round. When Bo came face to face with executive producer, he followed the advice and sang “My Girl,” but then offered “In a Dream.” Nigel sent him through to judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paul Abdul, who sent him to Hollywood. It was all good news, with one hitch – the guitar store in Pelham fired Bo because he was going to miss their annual sale.
The rest of the “American Idol” story you know. Bo made it into the top 24, then the top 12, and as the weeks went by and others were voted off, Bo remained. On the final episode, Bo Bice was named runner-up to Carrie Underwood. He was signed to RCA Records and his first single, “Inside Your Heaven” / “Vehicle” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Singles Sales chart.
‘So many things have come into my life because of ‘Idol,'” says Bo Bice. “I got to sing Van Halen's ‘Panama' with Trey (Anastasio, of Phish) at Bonaroo, and got to play with Willie Nelson, Richie Sambora (who is featured on Bo's remake of “Vehicle”) and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I was able to meet George Benson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Kenny G, Billy Preston and the guys from Anthrax. I'm very grateful!”