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Cowboy Honors Mom by Making It On American Idol

To honor Mother’s Day weekend, I thought this was a great feel good story to share with all my friends. My position at GHS has afforded me many great opportunities, including memorable celebrity interviews. With the finals of American Idol approaching, I thought it would be a great time to feature one of the Idol contestant who may not have finished first, but who sure had me at “Hello.”

However, when I approached my fave American Idol contestant since Carrie Underwood for an interview, the guy didn’t get back to me. (Just for the record, this rodeo queen is not accustomed to being stood up by a cowboy). What a jerk, right? No! Turns out, I was actually being “vetted” from the “powers that be” at American Idol to ensure that and I made the grade to feature one of their Hollywood finalists.

In the end, not only did I get the nod from Idol, but I got a behind the scenes access like you won’t believe. So curl up with your computer and hang on for a truly birdseye view of the “process”, especially a hottie contestant named John Wayne Schulz who I won’t soon forget.

You might want to watch the Idol audition video first.  Just click on the play button and enjoy!

So let me start with how this guy came on my radar. Like many trainers in our industry, my Daddy has a real hang-up when it comes to his cowboy hat. He is so particular about the block, that one of our customers actually named a colt, “Don’t Touch My Hat” as a funny gesture to my Dad’s lack of humor relating to a very personal matter. As early as I can recall, I’ve always been keenly aware of hat shaping and blocks. When 2011 American Idol Contestant, John Wayne Schulz showed up on my tv while watching American Idol a few months ago, it wasn’t his good looks or his fabulous rendition of “Believe” by Brooks and Dunn that made me a believer, it was his perfectly shaped western hat. I didn’t know if the guy could sing or not, but like his namesake, I knew John Wayne Schulz was an authentic cowboy.

Although John Wayne Schulz made it to Hollywood, he was sent packing pretty early.  I found him back on his working Texas ranch where he was raised. When I caught up with him, he had just gotten off of a horse. When I asked whether riding horses was a job or a passion, he declared “both,” stating “riding is a cowboy’s job that I am very passionate about!” Purrrr! Growing up on a 200 acre ranch, the aspiring country singer learned to rope from his Dad, and cousin, Bucky. So what’s a rancher/roper doing with a “snaffle” bit hat block? Though his ropin’ buddies may wear the wide brim with smaller creases on the sides, JWS prefers what he thinks looks best on him, and actually shapes his own hat to get just the right look. While a famous song may imply that some of us think a tractor’s sexy, I’m sure all you real cowgirls agree that a well blocked hat is like, to quote Charlie Sheen, “Winning!” Duh – LOL.

Completing the ultimate snaffle bitter look are “white label” Cinch brand jeans, square toed boots and a trophy buckle worn on Idol which was actually a Christmas gift from his cousin who is his roping partner. What, he hadn’t won the buckle himself? Hang on, he does have trophy buckles of his own, but this guy is refreshingly all about family, and I got the sense that those personal details mean a lot to this very sensitive guy. With a recent sponsorship from Montana Silversmiths, maybe he will launch a buckle line of his own one day! Some of you may recall John’s father’s infamous “incident” on Idol when Ryan Seacrest actually got hung up like a bull rider on his Dad’s belt buckle.  You can check it out here. Talk about up close and personal!

Now back to family which is clearly his core. The whole American Idol process was not necessarily the path that John was on, but in fact a promise to his Mom who is in the second round of treatments for her battle with cancer. Though, he had no complaints about the American Idol process, being away from his mother clearly took its toll. After recently undergoing a full body CT scan, John is optimistic that her cancer is “going away.”  John confided in me that, “She has been my whole life support. I don’t know if I’d be getting after my music career if it wasn’t for her.” I am certain that I speak for all of our GHS family in that we are keeping his Mom in our prayers as well. (A younger John pictured right with his mom) 

As number five of six children, the tight knit Schulz family supports each other’s hobbies and interests. Hunting and fishing with his Dad and little brother are highlights in this busy performer’s life, which must provide much needed relief from what seems to be an exhausting schedule. Even with his new found fame, work on the ranch still has to be done. Working alongside his Dad, a recent day on the ranch meant hauling 18 round bales, picking up a bulldozer, feeding and vaccinating cattle, fixing machinery, and roping which left little time for a quick lunch in between. His sister, Melanie is a trusted confidant and helps coordinate John’s increasingly busy schedule when she isn’t working full-time for Texas A&M. Whew, I’m worn out.

Coming from a Mormon upbringing, he clearly puts family, faith and friends first, however, I did manage to crack the surface of this seemingly straight laced cowboy. To my surprise, when I asked if having such special women in his life raised the bar for potential girlfriends he replied, “My mom always told me she has a motto – don’t drink, smoke, or chew, or go with girls that do!” John notes that he actually does encounter women on the rodeo circuit who actually fit all of those criteria. It was sweet when acknowledged that he hasn’t been on many dates in his life, but does admit to having a preference for blondes! Though he has dated brunettes, he exclaims “look out for red heads!” As far as his dream date, some of the people who work on AI also work on Dancing with the Stars and have proposed a date between Chelsie Hightower (a fellow Mormon) and John. John described that the staffers said, “OMG we are totally hooking you up” Remember, you heard it first!

I’m no Simon Cowell, but told John that I was disappointed in the overall talent pool this year on Idol, and was shocked he was voted off so early in the competition. John intimated that he always knew it would come down to (a choice between) “Scotty (McCreery) and me”, and understood from show personnel that “there was only room for one country singer in the competition.” After spending time talking to the humble Schulz, I was not surprised that he was genuinely happy for Scotty who ended up “getting the ride.” In a season chalk full of surprise and fan disappointments, John believed fellow competitor, Pia Toscano to have been one of the best. Cast off in round nine to the shock of fans, an early dismissal hasn’t hurt her career as she looks to launch a single the week of the finals. It also didn’t seem to hurt a certain Oscar winning past seventh round cast-off named Jennifer Hudson! One of the perks of this 23 year olds new found “fame” was meeting King of Country, George Strait at a roping recently who he fondly describes as “one of the most genuine and kind-hearted cowboys you will ever meet in your life”.

The refreshing and modern day John Wayne has no complaints, and is grateful to the Idol judges who he describes as “awesome.” He honestly admitted to having been surprised to have made it through the first round. Comparing Idol auditions to a “big cattle call,” he described the process as a lot more time consuming than you would think. It goes something like this: Day One: You get a wrist band. Day Two: Audition in a big arena where they move the people really quick on that day. In Between: Two auditions before making the celebrity judge round. John explains that the process is deceptive on TV. While originally auditioning in August, he did not see the celebrity judges until October. Admitting that “It is a very interesting process”, a loyal Schulz would not “give away all of their (AI) secrets.”

So I had to know more about the judges, including my favorite rocker, Steven Tyler. As a baby weaned on Aerosmith by my rock-loving Mom, I still question whether or not I was the only toddler in America who was belting out all the lyrics to “Janie’s Gotta Gun” from a car seat? John appreciated that the judges spend a great deal of time with the contestants, and offer a lot of advice. He was pleasantly surprised as to how normal the judges were. When the cameras weren’t rolling they would be checking in with their families, talking to us, just doing normal things. “Steven Tyler seemed to like me a lot. He would always come ask me, ‘Hey John Wayne, how are the cows?’ He is awesome! They all are.” John, who remains under contract with Idol through September exclaimed “I was shocked I got sing in front of celebs, and couldn’t believe I made it all the way through Hollywood! I thank the three judges for the opportunity they gave me”.

What’s ahead for this talented young singer songwriter? Don’t look for John to try-out again for Idol, as he hopes to focus on his professional career at this time. Never one to complain, he recalled again that would not have considered doing any show, except to please his Mom.

To John, who put his college career in Animal Science on hold at A&M to do Idol, and pursue his musical dreams, I extend an invitation. Though, I would love for my state association to hire him to perform at The All American Quarter Horse Congress, he has my number if things don’t work out with Chelsie 😉 So here it goes:

Dear John: (how cliché!)

God fearing, buckle winnin’, ranch raised, horse ridin’, colt breakin’, gainfully employed, blonde Miss Rodeo Ohio USA has an opening on her calendar for the finals of Idol. (Just saying).



Fans may contact John on Twitter @: JWSFans or “Like” his Official Facebook page.

(Photos courtesy of and American Idol)