American Idol MC/Host Ryan Secrest, and judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan

By Matthew Wilson, USA Today | “American Idol” returned Sunday for its third season on ABC as plenty of hopefuls had big dreams on the line and a few endured eyebrow-raising moments.

Douglas Kiker, a garbage man from Mobile, Alabama, knew very little about music, but came to “Idol” auditions, he said, to impress his 3-year-old daughter. His only singing experience was on the back of a garbage truck.

Judge Lionel Richie sent Kiker out of the audition room to warm up his voice and ease his nerves by singing in front of the crowd waiting to audition. When he returned, Kiker got a little help from Luke Bryan on the keyboard, belting out “Bless the Broken Road” by Rascal Flatts, which warmed the judges’ hearts and made Katy Perry cry.

“You just stay who you are, and you’re going to go so far, and you’re going to take your daughter with you,” Perry said.

Last year’s victor: ‘American Idol’: Southern heartthrob Laine Hardy pulls off stunning win over Alejandro Aranda

College student Francisco Martin also needed a little help from Bryan and Ritchie to shake off jitters. Bryan checked the young singer’s pulse to make sure he wasn’t going to have a heart attack on stage.

All those nerves paid off when Martin sung a cover of “Alaska” by Maggie Rogers that wowed the judges. Perry even demanded an encore performance of an original song, although Martin cut the performance short with laughter when Perry questioned whether the song was about a friend or romantic partner.

London transplant Louis Knight,19, also sang an original song with more feeling, as it dealt with the suicide of his friend, Russell. The combination of Knight’s vocals and piano work led Bryan to declare him one of the best he’s ever seen on the show.

“I think he might be the biggest star we ever had on ‘American Idol,’” Bryan said. “I had chill bumps telling you that you’re a star.”

Several singers found their golden ticket to Hollywood, including 21-year-old Arthur Gunn, born in Nepal and a Bob Dylan in the making; 23-year-old Nick Merico, who returned after dropping out last year and progressed despite Richie’s complaint that “I don’t like you … I don’t like your attitude”; and “The Bachelor”-obsessed fitness trainer Meghan Fitton, who received her ticket from that show’s host Chris Harrison.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘American Idol’ premiere recap: Who got the golden ticket?

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[Editor’s note: Of the 8 who got through to Hollywood, I would say that any of them have a chance of being in the Top 10 – providing they can get through the stress of late nights and early mornings, of choreography, of endless song choices and rehearsals, of being able to get along with their competitors, and of being able to show real teamwork. And this doesn’t count the people telling you how to look and act! Or to make sure you sing with your eyes open.]

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