updated 06/12/2006 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 06/12/2006 AT 11:00 AM ET
American Idol finalist Chris Daughtry got back to his roots Sunday, playing a concert in his Lasker, N.C., hometown that drew about a thousand fans to a town with barely a hundred residents.
The homecoming was originally planned as a meet-and-greet at Daughtry’s grandparents’ house, but the family moved it to the baseball field of a local school, fearing the singer would be mobbed by fans after news of the event broke on the Internet.
Local officials reported they’d been receiving calls from people looking for directions to the town, which doesn’t appear on most maps.
Daughtry, 26, showed up at the ballfield at 2 p.m. on Sunday wearing dark jeans and T-shirt. He gave the audience a casual “hey guys” before trotting up the stairs onto the makeshift stage – a flatbed truck on loan from school-board member Ken Brown.
After receiving the oversized “key to the city” with a humble “thank you so much,” Chris grabbed his acoustic guitar and played an eight-song solo set. Most of the songs were written by him or his rock band Absent Element, although he did perform his popular Idol version of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.”
“Unfortunately, most the songs I sang for the show I have no idea how to play,” he said.
The audience didn’t mind a bit. “We love you,” screamed fans, many holding homemade signs. “I love you too,” Daughtry responded.
The crowd included 26-year-old Robin Draper Handly of Roanoke Rapids, who told PEOPLE she and Daughtry were boyfriend and girlfriend in middle school – until she dumped him for being “too nice.” “I’m still kicking myself in the tail,” she said.
Daughtry, the fourth-to-last contestant voted off this season’s Idol, was born in nearby Roanoke Rapids, N.C., but grew up in Lasker, a town that had a population of 103, according to the 2000 census.
He wrapped up his 45-minute performance with the newest song he wrote. Its title? “Home,” which, he said, “is kind of appropriate for today.”