When Season 17 of American Idol aired on March 3, an estimated seven million viewers watched as the first contestant entered the room to perform for judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. The judges were taken aback as 20-year-old Walker Burroughs of Birmingham, Alabama sat down at the piano and performed “Love Like This” by Ben Rector, before doing his own rendition of Lionel Richie’s “Hello.” While millions across America became instant fans of Burroughs, the Belmont University sophomore already had an established fanbase here in Owensboro.
Burroughs’ aunt, Cherri Lolley, owner and operator of CherriCare medical equipment and supplies, said music runs in the family.
“Our family is very musical,” Lolley said. “Both he and his (twin) sister have been very musically inclined. He plays piano — he is a very talented young man.”
While Burroughs and his family are not originally from Owensboro, they are from Kentucky. Born in Louisville, the family moved to Birmingham when the twins were just three years old.
Lolley, who has two other sisters in addition to Burroughs’ mother, said because she was the closest aunt, she would make several trips to Louisville to help care for the twins when they were little.
“We spent a lot of time together before they moved,” Lolley said, adding that, after the family relocated she would still make the effort to see them as often as she could.
Lolley’s sister and her husband also have an organization called Passport, which offers people the opportunity to learn about other children around the world from other cultures. Lolley said their travels often took them to places such as Africa and Hong Kong, so she would travel with them as their nanny to assist with the twins while the couple did missionary work.
Burroughs has come a long way from the little boy that “banged on drums” and required a nanny.
“He got a golden ticket and he’s going to Hollywood,” Lolley said. “He’s had some good experiences and he’s gotten to meet some incredible people. He’s done some interviews and was invited back to his high school…He doesn’t come on again until this weekend.”
Sunday, March 24, is the beginning of American Idol’s Hollywood week. While it is yet to be determined if Burroughs will make it past this round, those in the online and entertainment world say his chances are pretty promising.
TVLine named Burroughs one of the Top 10 artists to watch based on auditions, calling him a “gentle soul from Birmingham, Ala.” that “earned a mini standing ovation” from Katy Perry who “used words like ‘natural, cool, effortless [and] dope’ to describe his unique sound.” The rating website added, “How can you not support a contestant who ends by saying, ‘I made my mom tear up and that makes me a happy boy.’”
As to how Burroughs feels about Hollywood week, his experience so far and what the future holds, Lolley said her nephew had the following response, “I prayed about it, and — if I make it — that’s great and — if not — I’ve had a wonderful time.”
Lolley said she has been and will continue to host watch parties when she knows Burroughs is going to be on the show. She anticipates having her next party at CherriCare so that it can hold more people and said she is flexible from there, depending on how far Burroughs advances.
“I don’t know what the interest is,” Lolley said. “We will probably open it up to Facebook and invite people to cheer him on — because it’s a big deal for our family.”
American Idol Hollywood week airs Sunday and Monday at 7 p.m. (CST) on ABC.