As 2003 ended, Louisiana native George Huff was an unlikely pick to be a future Soul and Gospel music star. He was working as a fry cook and dishwasher at the University of Oklahoma, trying to repay college loans. Then a break came. Huff became a contestant on season three of American Idol. Though not originally chosen to make either the semi-finals or the finals, positive developments (including a "wild card" pick by Simon Cowell) moved Huff into the final twelve.
Once on Idol, Huff made the most of the opportunity, wowing the U.S. with his deep baritone voice and his infectious smile. He became one of the more popular contestants and won over a legion of fans (largely young women). It became clear that a recording career would follow; but while most expected an contemporary urban outing, Huff surprised many by signing with Word Records, a Gospel and Contemporary Christian label.
Huff's first release was the November, 2004 My Christmas EP!, working with veteran Gospel producers Cedric and Victor Caldwell. It was a surprise all the way around. Unlike season two finalists Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken, who sounded great on stage but whose voices have not translated well to recordings, with both lacking the character and distinctiveness they showed in live performances, Huff's deep baritone sounded richer and smokier on My Christmas EP! than it did on Idol, and exuded an unexpected character and depth. His version of "O Holy Night" was a revelation, showing a level of soulfulness only hinted at in his Idol performances.
The Christmas album was mostly a warm up, as the major energy at Word went toward the creation of Huff's true debut album, Miracles, released in October of 2005. The disc was moderately successful, but not enough to keep Huff on Word's artist roster. After a few years off, he signed with E1 Entertainment/Koch Records and prepared the album George Huff, working with producers Aaron Lindsey (Marvin Sapp, Israel Houghton) and Jamiene Thompson. It was issued in April 2009.
By Chris Rizik