America's 'Velvet Teddy Bear'

The Early Show, 'American Idol' Ruben Studdard Sings His Way To The Top CBS/The Early Show

Dubbed the "Velvet Teddy Bear" by R&B legend Gladys Knight, Ruben Studdard can now be called the newest "American Idol."

Studdard was the last to stand after a grueling singing competition on Fox's "American Idol 2." Now, will he be able to duplicate the record sales success of last year's American Idol winner, Kelly Clarkson?

Ruben and his brother Kevin visited The Early Show Wednesday to discuss the "American Idol" achievement and future expectations.

"Man, it's great. I'm enjoying every minute of it," said Ruben. "It's been kind of crazy."

He said, however, he was glad the six-month competition was finally over.

The 24-year-old, 350-pound singer from Birmingham, Ala., didn't dance his way to the top, but he did rely on his voice to lift him above the rest of his competitors. For his prize as this year's winner, Studdard got a recording contract, with an album to be produced by music mogul Clive Davis and released by J Records.

After years of playfully abusing his younger brother, big brother Kevin said Ruben deserves his success.

"He's worked for this his whole life," said Kevin. "[But] I don't care who he is to America. He's still my little brother."

Ruben already has a legion of fans back in his Birmingham home, which he recognized throughout the "American Idol" competition by wearing the "205" telephone code for Birmingham emblazoned on his clothes.

"They've been showing me a lot of love even before [I won]," said Ruben. "They've shown it even more with me being on [American Idol]."

Currently the stores can't keep his "205" emblazoned T-shirts on the shelves because of its popularity with fans.

His first single, "Flying Without Wings," which Studdard sang during the "American Idol" competition, will be released June 3.

His co-finalist, North Carolina student Clay Aiken, also got a recording contract. The two singers appeared on the final episode of the Fox TV show, and they had only about 130,000 votes separating them.

"Everybody that made the ['American Idol'] top twelve is going to do something special," said Ruben. "This year's group was just excellent. The talent level was great. And you know, it's just hard to deny that."

Approximately 33.7 million people watched the "American Idol" finale, more than 10 million more than last year's competition.

Studdard and Aiken already have a hit album in release. According to the Entertainment News Wire, the "American Idol Finalists" recording of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." has spent five straight weeks on top of Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Sales chart, selling 215,000 copies in the U.S.

In July, Studdard and Aiken will join other second-season "American Idol" finalists on a North American summer tour, which will kick off July 8 in St. Paul, Minn. The 39-city tour will also feature Kimberly Caldwell, Julia Demato, Joshua Gracin, Charles Grigsby, Kimberly Locke, Carmen Rasmusen, Rickey Smith, and Trenyce.

  • Rome Neal

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