Harlan County has a ‘Voice’ contestant

Judith Victoria Hensley Plain Thoughts

October 18, 2013

God Bless Jimmy Rose! We were all so proud of this young man as he appeared on America’s Got Talent. It brought our whole region together to cheer him on.

Hang on to your hats! The cheering isn’t over. I hope the people of Kentucky will keep that enthusiasm for a candidate on The Voice with Harlan County roots.

Lupe Carroll is the son of Jeff and Rosa Carroll, and the grandson of Carolyn and Jerry Carroll, both born in Harlan County. Jerry grew up in Baxter, the son of James Clarence Carroll, nicknamed Stubby and Wilma Carpenter Carroll. Carolyn was born at Twila Coal Camp where her father, Ken Blanton (married to Virgie Hamlin Blanton) was working the mines. She grew up in Smith.

Jerry Carroll, Lupe’s grandfather is a second degree black belt in karate. His son, Jeff Carroll, is also a second degree black belt and a national champion for several years. One of his best memories is being taken to dinner by Chuck Norris. It should be no surprise that Lupe Carroll has the ambition to go for the top.

You can see Lupe Carroll singing on The Voice. If you missed his debut performance, you can watch it on d-j.tv/lupecarroll1 or go to www.daily/journal.com. Lupe will also be posting updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Lupe has been singing since he was in junior high. For Christmas when he was nine, he wanted and got his first guitar. He was born in Rockford, Ill., grew up in Momence and currently lives with his wife in Bourbonnais, Ill. He works delivering flowers by day, and sings by night. Lupe turned down the delivery job when it was first offered to him because he made more singing in one night than he made in a week of delivering flowers. He says he took the job delivering flowers because he loves to see people happy and when he delivers flowers, he gets to see the joy that flowers bring.

To be on The Voice, he had to go to Chicago to try out during auditions conducted there a few years ago. He made it through the audition, and the interview, but when they found out he was planning to be married shortly, they put him on hold. Lupe’s wife, Melissa, is a Kentucky native and a music teacher. She plays the cello in the symphony at Olivet University in Kankakee, Ill. The producers of The Voice said they did not want to disrupt a new marriage, so they kept him in their files and called him back this year to see if he still wanted to participate. He made it through about 15,000 people trying out for the show. From that group, 48 were chosen to advance as potential performers on The Voice.

When they called, and found out he was ready to go, they flew him and his wife to California to rehearse and make preparations to perform for the show. He worked with the show’s musicians for a couple of weeks before the filming. CeeLo turned his chair, signifying that Lupe would be moving on to the next round.

Lupe and Melissa are both dedicated Christians and active musicians. A few years ago Lupe started a Bible study for young men in his area. He has a heart for ministering to others. For his performance he chose the song If I Were a Carpenter after discussing what he should sing with his dad, Jeff. This song was written by Tim Hardin and originally performed by Johnny Cash. Even though this is an old song familiar to many, Lupe heard the song on his way to California to prepare for his television debut for the first time. His dad is a carpenter and he decided he liked the song enough to stick with it for his performance.

Lupe is 26-years-old. His grandmother, Carol Carroll, says about Lupe, “He is the oldest of Jeff’s sons and has always been a wonderful grandson. He is one of the most loving people you’d ever want to meet. He’s kind of like a big teddy bear. He’s always watched out for other people and been a loving and kind young man. I was proud of him before he ever tried out for The Voice.”

Lupe has visited relatives in Harlan County in the past and fell in love with the mountains. He was one of the pallbearers at his grandmother, Virgie Hamlin Blanton’s funeral.

Currently, Lupe is perfecting his craft and will be working with his coach, Cee Lo for the next couple of months until the next round of television performances.

The finals of the Voice will begin in December.

I have watched the show in the past, but I can assure everyone that I will be watching with a whole renewed interest. Just as Jimmy Rose was one of us, Lupe Carroll has roots that run deep among us.

I’ve often wondered about the number of untold success stories that have come out of Harlan County. If all of those born in southeastern Kentucky and their descendants were gathered back into these mountains, the number would be staggering. Lupe Carroll is a story in progress. We have an opportunity to cheer him on, pray for him, rejoice with him, and be there as the story unfolds!