Crystal leaves judges 'amazed'

If Crystal Bowersox makes it into the final two tonight, she may owe a nod to Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen chose the song that became her breakout performance of the evening: "Maybe I'm Amazed," by Paul McCartney.
Annie Zelm
May 19, 2010

If Crystal Bowersox makes it into the final two tonight, she may owe a nod to Ellen DeGeneres.

Ellen chose the song that became her breakout performance of the evening: "Maybe I'm Amazed," by Paul McCartney.

The tune showed off her vocal range and versatility as an artist, the "American Idol" judges said Tuesday. It also put her neck-in-neck with Lee DeWyze as she fights to the finish.

"Great song, great vocals, and America, we've got somebody else in it to win it right here," judge Randy Jackson said of Crystal's performance.

Lee had two standout performances -- his own song choice of "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd and the judges' pick, Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

For her first performance of the night, Crystal chose one of her personal favorites: "Come to my Window," by Melissa Etheridge.

The judges lauded her vocals but weren't sold on the arrangement.

Kara DioGuardi said she was still waiting for Crystal to have a "moment" on the show -- a feat the judges all thought she accomplished with her take on McCartney's song.

But no matter what happens in the competition, Crystal's hometown stands behind her.

Cathy Black Grant remembers a 13-year-old Crystal singing at the annual Huron Boat Basin concert in 1999 and says she was "blown away" by her talent.

"She was born to perform and this is a tiny piece of proof," she said, referring to the video clip.

Diane Weber, a secretary at Oak Harbor Middle School, remembers her as a strong-willed young girl who knew what she wanted and went after it.

She often stopped by the school office to chat with staff, and she seemed to be more at ease with adults than many of her own peers, Weber said.

Crystal's personal struggles made her fight even harder to achieve her dreams. Her parents divorced when she was 2, and she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at 7.

"She didn't have the best home life, but I think that gave her the strength," Weber said. "She was her own person, and you can tell when you see her."

Guidance counselor secretary Candy Bensch remembers Crystal as a shy, quiet girl whose personality shone through when she took the stage.

At Rocky Ridge Elementary School, she played a memorable "Suzy Snowflake" in the school's production.

When she transferred to Oak Harbor, she earned a spot in nearly all the talent shows.

Her fellow eight-graders voted her "Most likely to someday be a famous artist."

"The kids just went wild when she would perform," Bensch said.

Bensch, who has known Crystal since kindergarten, has a hard time separating the celebrity from the sweet, easygoing girl she's always known.

Just last year, she remembers chatting with her at the Oak Harbor football game.

"It's like that in a small town," Bensch said. "We all know each other and look out for each other. I'm proud that she followed her dream and was able to do as well as she has. No matter what the outcome is, she is a winner to me to stand up in front of those crowds and do what she does."

Wayne Orris, who manages the Trading Post tavern in Port Clinton and attended Crystal's performance on Friday, remembers her playing to a packed house even at 14.

"I told her 10 years ago it was going to happen for her," he said. "Guess I predicted the future."