Clay Aiken (born Clayton Holmes Grissom November 30, 1978) is an American pop music singer who rose to fame on the American Idol television program. He came in close second (after Ruben Studdard), but has largely eclipsed the official contest winner in both popularity and record sales.
Aiken (he changed his last name from Grissom to his mother's maiden name Aiken) hails from Raleigh, North Carolina and attended Raleigh's Leesville Road High School before enrolling at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Although his American Idol activities temporarily delayed his academic pursuits, Aiken graduated with a bachelor's degree in special eduation in December of 2003. He found his interest in special education during high school, and became an assistant to a severely autistic boy. It was this child's mother that urged him to audition for American Idol.
In November of 2003, Aiken appeared on The Nick At Nite Holiday Special, where he sang a duet with Bing Crosby via special effects. The song was "Little Drummer Boy/Peace On Earth", which was originally sung by Crosby and David Bowie on a 1977 Christmas special.
In 2004, Aiken embarked on the "Independent Tour" with Kelly Clarkson, winner of the first American Idol contest. He was also scheduled for selected summer tour dates, but high demand led to the booking of over 50 dates across the United States, leading to what many fans called the "Not-a-Tour". He will be touring for the third time this year in November and December for a series of Christmas shows with local orchestras.
Some fans of Clay have been fondly referred to as "Claymates," a name that originated on the message boards during the second season of American Idol.