EAST COUNTY — Malcolm and Karen Ronney, owners of MacAllisters Grill & Tavern, normally turn down requests from musicians to perform at their restaurant.
“It’s something we’ve shied away from,” Karen Ronney said. “Often times, you get people more mature and show-offey who are interested in themselves.”
Then, one day, six to eight weeks ago, a boy and his father showed up at MacAllisters.
The boy, Sam Woolf, a 17-year-old Braden River High School student, wanted to perform there. He requested no money. He brought only his guitar, a speaker and a dream.
Ronney gave Woolf a stage — the patio outside the restaurant.
The Ronneys kept inviting Woolf back after customers bombarded MacAllisters’ Facebook page with interest in the singer.
Rain often interrupted his performances, during which he sang cover songs and original material.
The Ronneys last heard from him the last weekend of July, his last performance there, when Woolf said he was going away for vacation.
“It turns out, we put two and two together; he was probably auditioning for ‘American Idol,’” Ronney said.
Sept. 5, Ronney got a call from “American Idol” asking if its crew could come to MacAllisters and film Woolf perform.
Woolf had never mentioned “American Idol.” This was the first the Ronneys had heard from Woolf since July.
“We were oblivious to what he was trying to achieve,” Ronney said. “He was just this young humble kid with a great voice, who would start to sing and then it would be pouring rain.”
Woolf came back to MacAllisters Sept. 6, with an “American Idol” camera crew filming him.
Woolf covered songs by Matchbox 20 and Ed Sheeran and also played a few original pieces.
Woolf is a contestant on “American Idol,” though the new season doesn’t air until January.
An “American Idol” spokesperson would not comment further.
Woolf has not responded to a request for comment.
Ronney hopes he does well.
“He had a nice demeanor,” Ronney said. “I wish him well.”
Contact Josh Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org.