From Chicken Catcher to Country Star?

07/01/2009 12:00AM

Hiding behind a backwards cap, Kevin Skinner, 35, wowed judges with his brilliant guitar playing and singing. But expectations were low when the "chicken catcher" from Mayfield, Ky., stepped out onto the America's Got Talent stage Tuesday. He drew mostly snickers from the crowd for his folksy wit when he said he likes to hunt and fish, "take the truck muddin'," and count the stars under the open sky.

His version of "If Tomorrow Never Comes" by Garth Brooks had such a sophisticated and tortured sound, the unemployed farmer beamed with pure talent in a Susan Boyle-like breakout moment that may not become a YouTube sensation, but is definitely worthy of top-ranking performance of the season.

Piers Morgan, who sets the tone on the judges' panel as the cranky expert, had nothing but praise for Skinner. "There is a moment in every season and I can remember them all, where somebody comes onstage dressed like you are, and your cap is on the wrong way around, and … then you start to sing and within about 20 seconds, you had me," he said. "By the end of it, that was one of the most emotional powerful performances I've seen in a long time."

Sharon Osbourne agreed: "I thought you were going to be really hokey and silly," she said. "But I can tell you're a really lovely person. You're a very genuine man."



Skinner got his ticket to Vegas, but it wasn't all diamonds in the rough.

• The juvenile court judge should never have told the crowd that was his job. The audience turned on Franklin Sane before he uttered a single note. But when he sang "Downtown" -- fugettaboutit! • A 62-year-old skinny gray-haired woman named Carol Lugo "came to dance." But she mostly gyrated and flapped away to "I Can't Help Myself," wiggling her knees and faux-moonwalking off the stage. A lesser bit of charisma would not have made her so fun to watch. • Jeffrey, a 33-year-old librarian and a lifelong entertainer, said he had dropped his pursuit of going to Las Vegas, but still maintained a little hope. Sadly (and appropriately), he was booed off the stage for a big-kid version of "I'm Glad I'm Me." -- Nicholas White

Tell us: Who was your favorite of the night? Does Kevin Skinner have what it takes to win AGT?

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