Dustin Wilkes, a member of the Jackson County FFA Alumni and the Georgia
FFA Alumni will be on the hit TV show Nashville Star tonight.   Dustin is
from Jefferson, Georgia and is the son of Mr. Luther Wilkes who is on our
State FFA Alumni Council.  In the past Dustin has performed at the Georgia
FFA Convention and the National FFA Conventions and the National FFA
Alumni Convention.

We are very excited to announce that Dustin's talent has won him a place
on the Nashville Star, the country version of American Idol.   After
beating out over 20,000 other contestants in the preliminaries, Dustin is
now one of 10 finalists that will compete on the show. We would like the
extend our congratulations to Dustin and ask you all to show your support
by tuning in to watch.

The Nashville Star season 5 will premiere tonight, Thursday, January 11th
at 10 pm on the USA Network. After each episode you may vote for your
favorite singer performing in that episode, by telephone or online.
Please show your support for Dustin by calling in and casting your vote.

The following link will take you to the Nashville Star webpage to hear a
video clip of Dustin.

The following news article was in the Athens Banner Herald this morning:
Jackson County native to debut tonight as musical finalist in national TV
By Erin Rossiter   |   [log in to unmask]   |   Story updated
at 1:15 AM on Thursday, January 11, 2007
Dustin Wilkes is the only singer billed as the "true country boy" in the
bunch aiming to be crowned the next "Nashville Star." As being typecast
goes, he doesn't mind the label at all.
"There are a lot of ways you can be represented in the media," Wilkes
said. "That sounds pretty true to me."
Folks in his hometown of Jefferson may view roots as an edge, too, for the
man who completed tours as a Marine, beer truck driver and bar bouncer
before finding his way onto the national television stage tonight.
He's one of 10 singers debuting in the fifth season of the fan-driven show
that premieres at 10 p.m. on the USA Network. The eventual winner of the
American Idol-like contest will receive a recording contract from Warner
Music Group.
But Wilkes and the four men and five women joining him on the Acuff
Theatre stage at the Grand Ole Opry know the TV exposure alone could
affect their musical careers.
"There are a lot of talented people on there," he said. "I don't think any
of us really look at it as a competition. We understand it is more or less
the luck of the draw as to who gets more votes and who doesn't."
Wilkes, 26, spared a few minutes Monday between production schedules,
changing a flat tire and running errands to talk about his recent turn of
Originally picked as an alternate, he learned of his finalist status in
late December and since has been staying at a hotel with other finalists
in Nashville, where he happens to live and work.
The producer's initial phone call is not one he'll soon forget.
"It didn't even hit me for about five seconds. It's one thing when you're
going to be picked. It's another thing when you're going to be alternate.
(You thinking), 'Just another close but no cigar in my life,' " Wilkes
said. "Oh man, I'm usually a pretty cool, calm and collected kind of
person. But I wasn't right then. I was so happy, I was screaming like a
little girl."
He moved to Nashville shortly after his time with the Marines ended in
2004, a story line sure to be profiled in the show.
During Wilkes' service in Marietta, he became involved with Toys for Tots
and wrote a song called "One Toy at a Time" for the program. The
composition became an anthem for the charity. He traveled across Georgia
and the country to record and sing it.
The charity collected more than 350,000 toys that year from an
eight-county area in Greater Atlanta, said a proud Pamela Ryman, who
encouraged Wilkes as an officer in charge of the Marine charity.
Performing also helped Wilkes realize his calling.
"When I wrote that song, that was another situation that just kind of came
out of no where and just kind of scooped me up," he said. "I was on tour
for that for several months, singing in dress blues at stadiums and
football games to little stages, 10-foot square in the middle of Wal-Mart
... That is definitely what provoked it. I had (sang in front of people)
before, but not like that."
Wilkes set out for country music's capital city within days of his release
from the military. He pursued random jobs putting him nearer to the
industry and stage. At the well-known musical saloon called Tootsies
Orchid Lounge, Wilkes dropped the stool as a bouncer and grabbed the mike
as singer/songwriter.
Fans quickly followed.
"He is a good entertainer," said Susan Keaton, who is organizing Wilkes'
voting support as president of his fan club. "He is doing really well.
(It) probably hasn't hit any of them yet, on how it's going to be."
The 10 finalists were tapped from more than 20,000 to audition during a
nationwide search. That's a staggering accomplishment to his father,
Luther Wilkes.
"I told him, 'This doesn't happen very often for a little ol' boy from the
country to go all the way like this,'" said the elder Wilkes, who lives in
Jefferson. "The Lord just blessed him with a voice and talent, too."
Looking back, the elder man can see Dustin's talent in blossom.
As a boy, he made up songs, collaborated with his sick grandfather who
loved gospel music and sometimes had to be told to silence his musical
instruments and sleep.
"When he was 5,6,7,8, I would have to make him put his guitar down at
night, so he could get up and go to school the next morning," Luther
Wilkes said. "He'll just start singing a song that jumps in his head."
One tune figures prominently on both men's minds today. It's an original
piece by Dustin called "I Bleed Country."
Words to the song tell the elder Wilkes the two down-home lessons he and
his late wife, Vivian, taught their boy stuck.
"Remember who you are and whose you are," Luther Wilkes said, recalling
his advice to Dustin years ago. "And, anything worth doing is worth doing
Win or lose, Dustin Wilkes promised the song will be aired one day.
Because it will delight listeners who identify with "true country" boys
like the Wilkes men from Jefferson.
"The music business is the most cut throat, crazy industry I've ever seen.
There is not exact science to it," Dustin Wilkes said. "Someone can
deserve something good and work hard and not be getting something good at
"What keeps me in this business is every time I play in front of somebody,
the way the people react (when they) enjoy what I'm doing."
'Nashville Star'
Jefferson native Dustin Wilkes will debut as one of 10 finalists in the
season premiere of the fan-driven show called "Nashville Star" that airs
at 10 tonight on the USA Network. For more information on the program or
how to vote for your favorite performer, log onto
For more information about Wilkes' music, log onto

Published in the Athens Banner-Herald on 011107