Santa Cruz fans and Patch readers have started collecting money to help American Idol contestant James Durbin during tough financial times.
Durbin can't talk to the press or even communicate with friends during the weeks of American Idol broadcasts, some of which were prerecorded. Some locals said there may be a profile of this 21-year-old's struggles on one of this week's editions of the show, (which airs Wednesday and Thursday on FOX at 8 p.m.).
Durbin's father died of a drug overdose when James was 9. He has Asperger's and Tourette's syndromes, which are forms of autism. He studied music as the first person to receive a scholarship from the Santa Cruz's Musicscool, run by Dale Ockerman, the former member of the Doobie Brothers.
In an interview aired during his San Francisco audition, Durbin said he was unemployed and sometimes didn't have money for diapers for his year-old son. As a result, fans and locals are trying to raise money to help him.
He and his girlfriend, Heidi, have a post office box to take donations for them and their son: P.O. Box 94, Capitola, CA. 95010.
In a late-night Facebook interview, his former teacher, Ockerman, had this to say:
"I love James; he's a great cat, and one of my favorite singers.
"I've worked with Mike McDonald, Bill Champlin, Steve Marriott, Richard Bryant—some of the best of the best, and he's up there with those musicians, a unique soulful powerful voice; he seems to not have any limits.
"James was the first scholarship recipient at my Musicscool. He was sponsored by Kids on Broadway and the Lundbergs, bless their hearts. He picked up keyboards, guitar, songwriting, all with such a healthy appetite and intense concentration, it was a joy to be around. Last time I saw him, we were doing blues harp stuff, and within 30 seconds, he was bending, isolating notes, not an easy thing to do.
"I don't think it's easy. I just think he works really hard, really fast, and he has a pulse on what sounds good to an audience, or to a group of musicians.
"Every performance he's done singing with the White Album Ensemble, he gets standing ovations, people who saw Guitarmy—our Zeppelin band with 10 student guitarists, Dave Tucker on drums and Tiran Porter on bass—said it sounded scarily like a Zeppelin record, on stage.
"I was a big fan of his late dad, the virtuoso bassist Willie Durbin. We had some very funky jams, back in the day."