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Sewn with love, a grandmother dresses her own American Idol

By Staff
"Granny" Schofield of Somerville hand-makes contestant's outfits
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Every stitch of clothing worn onstage by one rising star is sewn with love and encouragement by a very special local seamstress.
Yards of shiny, beautiful fabric fill the dining room of "Granny" Madge Schofield of Somerville, the grandmother of American Idol contestant Bo Bice of Helena. The dinner table holds a sewing machine, a surge machine, notions and patterns, including one for a tuxedo-like outfit Granny Madge plans to make for Bice with a fabric called liquid leather.
"Bo calls me Momma, but everybody around here knows me as Granny Madge," she said as she hand-covers buttons for Bice's latest outfit. "I've been making his clothes for as long as I can remember."
Bice's first live performance on Fox's American Idol was Feb. 21 when 12 men competed to be one of six who will continue on in two weeks to the final 12 competition with six female contestants. Bice sang "Drift Away" by rock legend Dobie Gray and wore an outfit custom-made by Granny Madge.
"Bo called me before the first show and said, 'Granny, I want you to make me a 60s outfit and I want it to really rock,'" Granny Madge recalled. "He sent me a pair of his faded Levi's to make into bellbottoms and I picked out some pretty sage green fabric to match his eyes. Paula (Abdul) just raved about his clothes. It tickled me to death."
In fact, American Idol judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson had nothing but praise for the longhaired "rocker" contestant.
"Even Simon bragged on him," the proud grandmother explained, an honor since the British judge is brutal with most contestants.
While Granny Madge talks, she keeps sewing. The floor is scattered with remnants of soft teal material she has used to make a Japanese-style shirt. The ironing board stands waiting to press the completed outfit, which will then be packaged and shipped the next morning to Hollywood.
The only thing stopping Granny Madge's progress is the ringing phone.
"I've heard from people I'd nearly forgotten about," she said jokingly. "People I haven't heard from in 25 or 30 years have been calling me to ask about Bo. I tell all of them to vote for him."
While others might be surprised to see Bice on television each week, Granny Madge isn't.
"I've known all his life he was talented," she said. "He could carry a tune by the time he was talking. When he was just three-years-old, he would sit in front of the television with his little guitar and follow the movements the country singers were making on their guitars."
Granny Madge remembers the first song she heard Bice sing all of the words to at the tender age of three.
"He would get his guitar and sing 'Longhaired Country Boy,'" she recalled with a laugh. "The guitar was bigger than him. People would give him quarters to sing it again. Even if he were a millionaire, he would still be Bo. He's is just a longhaired country boy."
Since that time, Granny Madge has seen her grandson, now 29, grow into a musical artist who writes his own music, sings, and plays any number of instruments. He has his own recording studio in Helena and has traveled from Nashville to Ireland to perform.
Bice, a native of Atlanta, spent his formative years in London and returned as a young man to the southeast United States in 1995. He attended Calhoun Community College and the University of North Alabama while performing independently and with the Huntsville-based groups Purge and Sugar Money.
His mother, Nancy Joy Downes of Covington, Ga., is a native of Morgan County and the daughter of Granny Madge. Bice has a host of cousins, aunts and uncles here in Morgan County with whom he has always been close. His family has encouraged him throughout his musical career and continued to cheer him on since his audition for American Idol in Orlando, Fla. last year.
"We get together and have a party ever time he performs," Granny Madge said. "He rocks the stage and we rock the house. When it starts, I just sit there and pray for him. I'll just be glad when it's over. If he wins, I might die on the spot, but I'll die happy."
Bice's family aren't the only one's who get together each week to watch him perform and see the following results show. Granny Madge said his Sugar Money band mates gather at the Sports Page restaurant in Huntsville, family friends gather at the Snack Shack near Brewer High School, and his church family gathers at his church in Birmingham.
"I can't go to all of them, but I wish I could," she said.
As Granny Madge finishes Bice's next outfit, she sews a little tag in the back that reads "Sewn with Love by Grandma."
"He said he got a little teasing about the tag in his first shirt I made him," Granny Madge recalled. "He didn't mind a little teasing. He was proud of his outfit."
Granny Madge is proud, too–not only of her grandson's talent, but also his compassion for the other American Idol contestants.
"He always brags on the other contestants," Granny Madge said. "I taught my kids and grandkids to always be good winners and losers. I'm proud of him for praising the amazing talent around him. I'm proud of him even if he doesn't go a step farther."