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

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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.

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