SC teen Caleb Kennedy earns a spot in ‘American Idol’ Top 7 with Disney song

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Sunday was Disney night for American Idol’s top 10, and Caleb Kennedy of Roebuck, S.C., chose to sing Real Gone from “Cars.”

It sent him into the top 7 with just three weeks left in the competition show.

As has been the case in recent shows, the judges had all praise for the 16-year-old high school student.

Each one talked about the energy he brought to the stage with his guitar playing and gritty voice. He engaged the crowd, encouraging them to clap and at the urging of celebrity mentor John Stamos looked directly at the judges several times..

Judge Katy Perry said Kennedy adds “a little bit of sparkle” with every performance.

“We lean in to that energy,” she said.

Judge Luke Bryan said, “What a way to kick off the show with that energy.”

Judge Lionel Ritchie said a live performance needs to radiate off the stage.

“That was it,” he said,

A clip showed Kennedy’s mother Anita Guy surprising him at Disney World, where the contestants spent last week and had coaching from Stamos.

Guy said, “I love you, baby.”

Kennedy responded, “I’m going to cry.”

His family was shown after his performance in their home in Roebuck.

Host Ryan Seacrest remarked at how many more people were there this week. Kennedy said some of his band members, “my buddies and my mama.”

Through the season, the judges have said they were particularly impressed with Kennedy’s songwriting. On a recent show, he performed “Nowhere,” a song he finished writing while a contestant. It has ranked high on the country charts.

Kenendy, a Dorman High School sophomore, and the other contestants were at Disney World for coaching for their performances and got some time for traditional Disney play experiences. They performed live Sunday from Los Angeles.

Best known perhaps for his role on the television show “Full House,” Stamos has a lot of experience as a musician, appearing on Broadway in a revival of “Bye Bye Birdie” and with the Beach Boys.

Kennedy bought his first guitar just three years ago and learned to play it by looking at chords on his cellphone. His grandfather, Rudy Blanton, said Kennedy can hear a song and play it.

He is well known in Spartanburg County, where his mother, Anita Guy, would book gigs for him. He was known to have an original song to play each week at the Fr8yard.

Based on votes from viewers, “Idol” will send two people home each week until the season finale May 23 when three contestants will perform.