Hicks Credits Katrina For 'Idol' Win

Taylor Hicks reacts after being announced the winner of season five of American Idol on Wednesday, May 24, 2006, in Los Angeles. At left is runner-up Katharine McPhee. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)
AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian
Taylor Hicks has Hurricane Katrina to thank for his "American Idol" win. Hicks told Jay Leno that he got one of the last taxis out of New Orleans as Katrina was about to hit.

He said that after a 15-hour ride he ended up at the airport in West Monroe, La. Hicks said his airline offered him a free ticket anywhere in the U.S.

Hicks chose Las Vegas on a whim, because he had never been there before. It was in Vegas that Taylor auditioned for Idol. He says it was fate that took him there.

Earlier, Hicks told The Early Show national correspondent Hattie Kauffman he hasn't been able to sleep yet.

"This is a dream, the American dream," he told Kauffman. And he says he would love to tour with younger R&B and rock artists such as John Legend and John Mayer. Hicks' victory earned him a recording contract and a new car.

The announcement came after a grand finale Wednesday night that included two hours of performances by this year's finalists, past contestants and several surprise celebrity guests.

The results show took place at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles. Fans of local favorite Katharine McPhee were gathered in nearby Universal City and Taylor's fans were rooting for him in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala. Both groups were shown on the Kodak's big screen live via satellite.

McPhee tells CBS News she wasn't sad about taking second place.

"It wasn't sadness, it was more like bittersweet feeling of graduating from high school," she said. McPhee also told Kauffman that she had the time of her life at the contest. She said "doors are starting to open."

The show's fifth and best-rated edition took a leap in stature Wednesday when Prince, Mary J. Blige and other big names performed during the finale. The series has given big boosts to the album sales of pop stars who have appeared on it.

More than 63 million votes were cast, "more than any president in the history of our country has received," Seacrest said.