The new “King of Cool” came home Saturday morning to a crowd of about 150 family, friends and fans at the Cool Community Center eager to get a hug from or photo with one of America’s new music sensations.
A final three contestant on this season’s Fox television reality show “American Idol,” the hometown hero arrived in a stretch limo about 10:15 a.m. to chants of his name.
As James, a Cool native, stepped from the limo shortly after it pulled up to the Cool Community Center, his eyes and smile widened as he saw people he has known growing up in this small community located in far western Parker County along U.S. Highway 180, about six miles east of Mineral Wells.
He worked his way through the adoring fans, signing whatever was handed him — including a 6-month-old silver dachshund named Toby, which received a Sharpie signature directly to his fur.
James eventually reached Cool Mayor Dorothy Hall, who presented him a key to the city, letting him know how much he means to the people of Cool and Millsap and how proud and supportive everyone is of him.
Hall told the Mineral Wells Index she is happy how James has united the cities of Cool, Millsap and Mineral Wells, all places he has graced with his talents for years growing up, honing his bluesy singing and guitar-playing skills with his musical family including his mother, Debra James.
“He’s bringing the communities together, and anytime you can do that it is fantastic,” Hall said. “Cool is on the map. We were on the map before, but now we are really on the map.”
Katy Teague, of Weatherford, said she didn’t get to sleep until about 2 a.m. Saturday, and awoke at 5 a.m. hoping to be the first one at the community center. She accomplished that.
“I thought the streets would be lined with people, but I was the only one here,” said Teague, who came with a homemade sign and a T-shirt that read, “I’m having an emotional affair with Casey.”
Teague said she thinks James will win, but isn’t worried if he doesn’t. Still, she is doing her part. She said she has voted about 3,000 times for James this season on her cellphone.
“It doesn’t matter really,” Teague said. “I almost don’t want him to win so that he can start making his albums. I want whatever he wants.”
Longtime family friend Deborah Jones was on hand Saturday morning. She said she has been close friends with Debra James for many years and has known the James family a long time, including Casey since he was a child. She attended “American Idol” the week contestants sang songs of Frank Sinatra. James’ performance of “Blue Skies” was harshly criticized by the judges.
“I wanted to reach out and pull [judge Kara DioGuardi’s] hair,” Jones said.
James and DioGuardi have been a focus of attention since James removed his shirt during his Denver audition at the request of DioGuardi.
“He’s pretty shy and humble,” Jones said. “He’s not like that, to pull his shirt off and expose his chest.”
But she said James is rolling with the fun everyone is having with it, and said it has probably worked to his advantage during the season.
She said she has often been at the James’ residence, especially at holidays, and listened to the family play. She remembers Casey playing at the former Community Baptist Church in Mineral Wells.
“He would bring me to tears” she said.
She said it was about five years ago she suggested James try out for “American Idol.”
“They don’t really watch a lot of TV, and I said something about ‘Idol’ to Debra and she said, ‘You need to talk him into it,’” Jones said.
Besides a key to the City of Cool, several other presentations were made to James, including from Millsap boots and leather clothing maker Stephanie Ferguson, who made James a pair of boots using imported buffalo leather. The boots are red, white and blue with Casey on one, James on the other. Both have states of Texas, with stars and the words “Cool” and “Texas.”