WATCH: Texas Truck Driver Sings George Strait Duet With Luke Bryan On ‘American Idol’

“It’s a memory that I’m going to keep with me the rest of my life,” Cody Winkler says.


Lauren Jo Black

| Posted on

February 26, 2023


8:41 pm

Share on:

Cody Winkler, Luke Bryan; Photo by ABC, American Idol

Cody Winkler from Marion, Texas delivered one of the most memorable American Idol auditions of season 21. 

The 25-year-old truck driver, who farms and raises cattle on the side, also decided to try his hand at singing two years ago. 

Winkler walked into the audition room and admitted he was feeling “finer than frog hair.”

He then shared his backstory with the panel of judges.    

“I’ve tried my whole life… Always been kind of shy and always thought I was never good enough to do anything. So I really [started] to pursue it two years ago and I’m just getting started,” he explained. 

Winkler went on to deliver an a cappella rendition of Bill Green’s “Under A Neon Halo.”

Katy Perry and Luke Bryan could be seen snapping along, but ultimately, Perry told him,“I think you need some music.” 

“Great job getting up there and doing it a cappella!” Bryan applauded.

Cody Winkler took it in stride and shared, “Hey listen, I appreciate it. It’s a little hard getting up here without a steel guitar and all that in there.”

“I feel like I wanted to hear it with some music to really understand it. Is there anything that y’all play?” Perry said looking at Bryan.

Luke Bryan got up to join Winkler on acoustic guitar to perform George Strait’s 1981 major label debut single, “Unwound.”

“Well, that woman that I had wrapped around my finger/ Just come unwound/ She kicked me out of the house and tonight I’m whiskey bound/ Yeah, I’m gonna be the drunkest fool in town/ ‘Cause that woman that I had wrapped around my finger/ Just come unwound,” they sang. 

“You did good Cody,” Bryan told him following their impromptu duet. 

“You done good!” Perry complimented. 

While his dad waited in the hallway, Cody Winkler awaited his Idol fate.

“That done filled my bucket,” Perry joked before offering the Idol hopeful some wise words of advice. “Listen Cody, you are authentic as it comes… as authentic as a tumbleweed tumbles… Practice with a metronome, your timing just needs to be a little bit better and you know you can lock into some of those notes just a little bit better, but you are authentic as it gets.”

“Cody you remind me of a different man that doesn’t even deal with just any kind of proper notes. You just sing like himself,” Lionel Richie explained. 

“Who’s that?” Perry questioned.

“Willie [Nelson],” Richie said. “He don’t hit notes, he just sings like he wants to sing. I don’t know where you all are going, but I’m just going to tell you I like him a lot and I just like him enough to say ‘yes.’” 

“Willie Nelson… The legend,” Cody said with a smile.

Ultimately, the judges’ panel decided he was not ready to advance to Hollywood. 

“Cody, I still think there’s some fertilizing to do, but you got something real authentic,” Perry said before quickly adding, “It’s a no for me.” 

Even though he did not earn a golden ticket, Cody Winkler said his short-lived American Idol experience was worth it.  

Luke-Bryan-Katy-Perry-Lionel-Richie-Ryan-Seacrest; Photo by ABC, American Idol
Luke-Bryan-Katy-Perry-Lionel-Richie-Ryan-Seacrest; Photo by ABC, American Idol

“Luke Bryan is just an amazing Country singer. I mean, how many people can say they got to sing with a Country legend like Luke Bryan? It’s a memory that I’m going to keep with me the rest of my life and cherish,” he shared. 

This isn’t the first time Luke Bryan left his judges’ chair to duet with a contestant. In 2021, he famously joined contestant Alex Miller to perform Merle Haggard’s “Big City.” Miller, a native of Kentucky, was just 17 at the time and earned a golden ticket to Hollywood. Re-live the memorable moment HERE.

Alex Miller, Luke Bryan; Photo by ABC/John Fleenor
Alex Miller, Luke Bryan; Photo by ABC/John Fleenor

American Idol airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.

Share on:

Lauren Jo Black

Written by

Lauren Jo Black

Lauren Jo Black, a University of Central Florida graduate, has immersed herself in the world of country music for over 15 years. In 2008, she co-founded CountryMusicIsLove, eventually selling it to a major record label in 2015. Following the rebranding of the website to Sounds Like Nashville, Black served as Editor-in-Chief for two and a half years. Currently, she assumes the role of Editor-in-Chief at Country Now and oversees Country Now’s content and digital footprint. Her extensive experience also encompasses her previous role as a Country Music Expert Writer for and her work being featured on She’s been spotlighted among Country Aircheck’s Women of Influence and received the 2012 Rising Star Award from the University of Central Florida. Black also spent time in front of the camera as host of Country Now Live, which brought live music directly to fans in 2021 when the majority of concerts were halted due to the pandemic. During this time, she hosted 24 weeks of live concerts via Country Now Live on Twitch with special guests such as Lady A, Dierks Bentley, Jordan Davis, Brett Young, and Jon Pardi. Over the course of her career, she has had the privilege of conducting interviews with some of the industry’s most prominent stars, including Reba McEntire, Blake Shelton, Luke Combs, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Lainey Wilson, and many others. Lauren Jo Black is a longtime member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.