South Carolina teen advances to Top 9 on ‘American Idol’ with Willie Nelson song

Mitchell Willetts
·1 min read

South Carolina’s Caleb Kennedy hit the ‘American Idol’ stage Sunday night with his “best” performance yet, earning the budding singer a top 9 spot in the competition.

The Upstate 16-year-old covered the classic “On the Road Again” by country music icon Willie Nelson.

“That was your best, from top to bottom, performance that I’ve seen you do,” judge Luke Bryan said.

Kennedy’s showing was a return to form for the Roebuck teen, who belted out his original song “Nowhere” last time he took the stage without a hat on his head or guitar in his hands — which both have become part of his persona.

But Sunday night, he was strumming a six-string once again.

“Have you ever been on the road?” judge Lionel Richie asked.

Kennedy replied, “No sir.”

“If you keep this up, you’ll be on the road for a very long time.”

Back in Kennedy’s hometown, friends, family and neighbors are all watching, proud of how far he’s made it and how much he’s grown, The State reported.

“He’s broken out of his shell,” said Thomas Thornton, children’s minister at the church attended by Kennedy’s family..

Thornton has heard Kennedy sing since he was a child, and even remembers a time when he was shy.

Watching him perform on the national stage, Thornton is sure of one thing: “It’s only going to get better.”

American Idol airs at 8 p.m. EDT on Sundays and Mondays.