Partway through the second American Idol in early 2003, guest judge Gladys Knight christened corpulent crooner Ruben Studdard a "Velvet Teddy Bear," a nod to his smooth, Luther Vandross-styled voice and his Barry White-sized girth. It was a nickname that stuck, since it captured the persona of the 25-year old Birmingham, Alabama native who had unexpectedly become the front-runner in the national televised talent show. Surrounded by skinny kids emulating Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini, the two singers who walked away with the debut American Idol in 2002, Studdard stood out with his massive frame, winning smile, easygoing style, mellow voice, and trademark jerseys bearing the number 205, the area code of his hometown. That hometown looms large in the background of Ruben. The son of two teachers, Studdard was born in Birmingham on July 14, 1978. As a child, he 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.
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 horse race between Studdard and Clay Aiken, a skinny, geeky kid from the South whose appearance and taste were nearly the polar opposite of Ruben's. Like many horse races, this one ended in a photo finish, with Ruben beating Clay by a few thousand votes in May of 2003. Within a month after the end of competition, Ruben's first single "Flying Without Wings" was released concurrently with Clay's "This Is the Night," a release scheme designed to keep the competition alive. Aiken beat Studdard to the top of the charts, and shortly afterward, it was announced that the planned joint August release of their debuts would be delayed, and each record would be released separately. As Aiken rode a wave of popularity that eclipsed Studdard's, Ruben worked frenetically -- recording his debut, touring with American Idol, filming a cameo for Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, and suing 205 Flava Inc., the company that made the jerseys he famously wore on American Idol, claiming that the clothes makers illegally profited from his image (205 Flava Inc. countered that they paid the singer $1,000 to wear the jerseys on the show during the competition, and presented checks written to Ruben's brother and manager on MTV News to support their claim). As Ruben worked, his album's release date kept getting pushed back, first from an August release, back to October, and then to November. Studdard's sessions boasted a variety of producers and collaborators, including Fat Joe, Missy Elliott, and R. Kelly, whose names were leaked to press during recording in an effort to shore up Ruben's hip-hop and R&B credentials. When the finished product, entitled Soulful, was finally released on December 9, 2003, it didn't boast either the highly-touted Missy or Kelly tracks (though Fat Joe made the cut) but it did display a distinct hip-hop-flavored R&B bent, which stood in contrast to the pop-oriented efforts by other American Idol contestants Clay Aiken, Kelly Clarkson, and Justin Guarini. Ruben was born on September 12, 1978, in Birmingham, Alabama.
Ruben Takes Godfather to Mattresses
Ruben Studdard is singing the blues.
The Velvet Teddy Bear is suing his godfather and former business adviser for allegedly mismanaging $246,000 in income, according to court documents.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Alabama, accuses Ronald Edwards of wrongly withdrawing at least 23 checks totaling $90,000 from Studdard's account between July 2003 and February 2004 without obtaining the American Idol champ's approval.
Studdard also claims that Edwards and SEZ Inc., his Birmingham-based entertainment and marketing firm, tallied up big charges on Studdard's credit cards as well as additional expenses worth another $156,000--all without telling the portly popster.
Studdard won the Fox talent show in May 2003, and the dough started rolling in shortly thereafter. But it wasn't until May 2004 that Studdard says he clued in and canned Edwards--a former family friend--for misusing the money. According to the lawsuit, Edwards continued racking up unauthorized bills through September 2004.
The Soulful singer is looking to recoup the earnings and is also asking for unspecified damages.
Glennon Threatt, an attorney for Edwards, says the dispute centers around an oral contract made when Studdard was competing in Idol's second season.
According to Threatt, Edwards agreed to represent his godson in May 2003, before Studdard won, and was granted a power of attorney over his checking account. Threatt says Edwards traveled with the budding R&B star, paid Studdard's rent and legal fees and obtained cars for Studdard. The lawyer says Edwards also made payments to himself for services rendered.
"They tried to work it out but they couldn't get it resolved," Threatt tells E! Online. "We think Mr. Studdard owes us some money but the allegation that [Edwards] stole are untrue. But what it comes down to is my guy's claim for the value of his services."
The attorney says the fallout has left both sides smarting.
"My client's wife and Ruben's mother are best friends," says Threatt. "Unfortunately there's some huffing and puffing going on right now."
Studdard's attorney, Victor Hayslip, acknowledges there was no written agreement, but claims that Edwards' power of attorney was not an authorization to withdraw money.
"These monies were spent without [Studdard's] knowledge and without his authorization," Hayslip says. "It's a betrayal by somebody very close to him but he felt he had no choice to sue...to protect his rights."
Threatt, meanwhile, says Edwards will file a countersuit next week over the deal gone bad between Studdard and his godfather.
Maybe it was an offer they both should have refused.
Studdard's Manager Seeks $5K From Star
Ruben Studdard's former manager is seeking $500,000 in damages from the American Idol winner for allegedly failing to pay his management fees and not reimbursing him for expenses.
Ron Edwards' court filing on Friday is a counterclaim to the lawsuit Studdard filed in February.
Studdard's suit claims Edwards and his Birmingham marketing and advertising firm, Sez Inc., misused $246,000 in the year that he worked for Studdard. The suit also accuses Edwards of making unauthorized expenses after he was fired.
Edwards, 46, denied those allegation in his filing.
Edwards' attorney, Glennon Threatt, told the Birmingham News that his client and Studdard, 26, were longtime family friends and that Edwards agreed to help Studdard for free before he won American Idol in May 2003.
Ruben Studdard Makes Christmas Wishes Come True
Ruben Studdard makes no bones about it: Christmas is his favorite holiday.
He comes from a tight family and they always had parties on Christmas. He's got a chance to spread some Christmas cheer of his own, but it might make his family a little sad.
He's going to throw a party in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for his foundation on Christmas night, but that means he has to leave his family in Alabama on the big holiday.
He says last year he missed Thanksgiving with them because he was in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and he was a bit upset about that. However, Studdard puts his own spin on it: "It's cool."
Ruben Studdard's ''I Need an Angel"
It's hard to take the gospel anthems of American Idol winner Ruben Studdard seriously when just a few tracks ago, the "velvet teddy bear" was representing for the "ballers and shot callers."
It also doesn't help that the title track, I Need an Angel by R. Kelly, contains trite lyrics like "Have nowhere to go so I'm down on my knees/I'm trying to see the forest, but there's this one tree."
Studdard's artistry seems restrained on tracks such as Goin' up Yonder and Shout to the Lord and none of the tracks have the kind of vocal abandon that infuses gospel with integrity and awe. But, there are some redeeming qualities. If you listen with your eyes closed, Studdard's gentle tenor sounds a bit like a laid-back Smokie Norful. His collaboration with gospel quartet legend Harvey Watkins Jr. on Fix it Jesus adds some old-fashioned revival to the mix and is a standout track, along with a smooth R and B arrangement of I Surrender All.
Studdard says he grew up singing gospel, and only recently began singing secular music. Now he's back to gospel. But in order to be taken seriously, Studdard needs to find the identity that's true to who he is. That truth will set him free.
Ruben Studdard Soars to #1 on Gospel Sales Chart!
Studdard's J Records Gospel Debut, I NEED AN ANGEL, is the Biggest Gospel Debut in 6 Years! Ruben Studdard's debut gospel album, I NEED AN ANGEL, took the #1 spot on the Gospel sales chart this week with sales topping 96,000 copies, also landing at #20 on Billboard's Top 200 album chart. I NEED AN ANGEL is the highest selling gospel debut since Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation Project in 1998. To put this achievement in perspective, the #2 gospel album this week sold only 8,000. The album is Studdard's follow-up to his multi-platinum 2003 Grammy-nominated debut SOULFUL.
The lead single "I Need An Angel" was written and produced by award-winning hit maker R. Kelly. In addition, the album contains new Ruben Studdard renditions of many inspirational classics and traditional tunes, including the much-loved classic"Amazing Grace" and the traditional "Fix It Jesus." Additional tracks include "Goin' Up Yonder," "Shout To The Lord," "Restoration," "We Have Not Forgotten" (featuring Fred Hammond), "Ain't No Need To Worry" (featuring Mary Mary), "Center of My Joy" and "Running Back To You."
"I have been singing gospel songs since I was a child and I really wanted to go back to my roots with this record." explains Studdard." "My mother was in the local choir. I went to pre-school church and it was a teacher there who first heard me sing. I was doing solos at a young age - my first one was "I'm Yours, Lord." I continued singing in church and in school and I listened to all kind of music at home. Every song on this album has a special meaning to me."
Studdard whose musical journey began in his native Birmingham, Alabama when he sang with the local choir at the age of three chose all the songs for the album, focusing on tunes that have played an important role in his life.
Additional producers that contributed to the album include Warryn Campbell (known for his work with gospel duo Mary Mary, Luther Vandross, Brandy and Dru Hill) and Eric Dawkins (of the gospel group Dawkins & Dawkins and writer of songs recorded by Quincy Jones, Tyrese, Commissioned and CeCe Winans).
Studdard, who also won an NAACP Image Award for his debut album SOULFUL, spent much of late 2003 and early 2004 touring across the country, giving audiences a first-hand look at why his emotive performances brought him national recognition and acclaim week after week during "American Idol."
Ruben Studdard almost recovered from pneumonia
Alabama native Ruben Studdard said hes better and recovering from pneumonia, but he's happy his new CD tops the gospel chart.
I'm actually doing much, much better right now, Studdard exclusively told the syndicated TV show Extra. I'm feeling great. I am feeling 90 percent better and hopefully in the coming weeks I'll be 100 percent.
Studdard said he was very pleased to be getting ready to perform for President George W. Bush at the Annual Christmas in Washington Concert that airs Wednesday on cable's TNT.
The Velvet Teddy Bear had gained some weight after winning the second season of Fox's American Idol, and had begun to lose weight thanks to a strict diet and exercise program he started on Extra.
Three weeks ago, Studdard fell ill just after he began promoting his new album, I Need an Angel.
I just hate that I got sick right in middle of what we were doing, because we really had it going well, Studdard said. I was working out and eating right.
Being a TV 'Idol' doesn't guarantee big CD sales
American Idol was supposed to reinvent, or at least put a new twist on, the star-making machinery behind the popular song. But the TV talent search seems to be losing some of its power to launch albums. Idol alumni such as first-season champ Kelly Clarkson and second-season runner-up Clay Aiken have shown some enduring commercial appeal. Clarkson's second CD, Breakaway, sold 250,000 copies its first week, 47,000 fewer than her debut, which was released much closer to her win. And Aiken's new CD, Merry Christmas With Love, has sold at a record-setting pace for a seasonal album.
But there are signs that Idol sales are less than idea:
This season's winner, Fantasia, sold 240,000 copies of her Free Yourself album in its debut week. That's sharply below the first-week totals for second-season winner Ruben Studdard (417,000) and Aiken, whose Measure of a Man is the biggest Idol seller (613,000 first-week, 2.7 million total).
Studdard's new gospel album, I Need an Angel, sold 96,000 copies its first week.
Fantasia's runner-up, Diana DeGarmo, sold just 47,000 copies of Blue Skies last week - the worst debut in Idol's short history, 10,000 below the first-week sales of Justin Guarini.
"We could get to a point, and we may already be there, where (Idol) remains a successful TV vehicle, but that success doesn't translate into album sales," says Billboard charts director Geoff Mayfield. Mayfield notes that recent Idol albums were released into a competitive holiday market, and didn't benefit from being unveiled during or close to the series' run. "I think the novelty of buying an American Idol CD may have worn off."
Craig Marks, editor of music magazine Blender, says Idol "hasalways has been more of a TV phenomenon. The brilliance of it was in finding a different platform to launch a music career, by tying in television marketing and media coverage. Selling the CD was never the most important part of the equation commercially."
The Bush Concert
Stations: This serves as a tops to Bush Bush honors U-S troops at holiday gala.
President Bush says the nation is grateful for the service of U-S military members overseas.
The president paid tribute to the servicemen and women tonight at the taping of a holiday pageant at the National Building Museum in Washington.
Bush says military families and the troops they love have the support and gratitude of our nation.
The 23rd annual "Christmas in Washington" concert benefits the Children's National Medical Center in the nation's capital. This year's event was hosted by T-V's Doctor Phil, and guests included country singer LeAnn Rimes, "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard and pop singers Michael McDonald, Vanessa Williams and JoJo. It will be broadcast Wednesday on the T-N-T cable network.