Lee gaining hometown support on The Voice image

Kelly Clarkson, celebrity judge on season 14 of The Voice, pictured with Benton native Kaleb Lee.

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  From the moment he stepped on stage as a kindergartner at Benton Elementary School’s talent show and sang Garth Brooks’ ‘Workin on a Full House’, it was apparent Kaleb Scharmahorn, now 32, was a performer in the making.

  Some 27 years later, he is gaining national fame as one of 12 finalists on season 14 of The Voice. Known on the show as Kaleb Lee, he performed Monday night before a national television audience of voting viewers who will determine his fate moving forward. The results from America’s instant vote took place last night and results will be announced tonight at 7 p.m. on NBC.

  At the time of this interview, Lee could not reveal his song choice for Monday night. He would only say it was a familiar country song that many may have danced to at their wedding.

  Lee is enjoying phenomenal success on a national stage now, but he said his interest in music is rooted in his hometown of Benton.

  Lee said he first picked up a guitar at the age of eight and took lessons from the late Scotty Henson of Benton and Herb Chapman of Chapman’s Music in Lone Oak. His abilities were such that Chapman eventually put him on the payroll teaching guitar lessons. Like many young local musicians, Lee performed at the Kentucky Opry in Draffenville as a teenager when he was sharpening his musical teeth.

  Lee also worked as a worship leader in local churches. In high school, he led worship services at First Missionary Baptist in Benton and while a student at Murray State University, he worked at Hardin Baptist Church playing guitar and leading the congregation in contemporary gospel music.

  After graduating from Murray with an undergraduate degree in communications and a master’s degree in internet marketing, Lee met his wife and moved to Owensboro. He began writing music and traveled to Nashville regularly, cultivating connections in the country music business.

  “I had an opportunity that went south and decided to give up the music scene,” he recalled. “We wanted to live in Florida so we chose a city (Ormond Beach) and moved there. We didn’t know anyone there but it was a good choice. We’ve got a good group of people around us.”

  Lee said he hadn’t been involved in music for the past five or six years. But last August, he got an unexpected call from a producer with The Voice that propelled him back into the business.

  “Out of the blue, they reached out after seeing a video on line of my music from several years ago and invited me to come audition for the show. I went to L.A., did an audition and got invited to come back and do the blind auditions,” said Lee.

  Lee was first selected by coach Blake Shelton in the blind auditions, and later stolen by Kelly Clarkson.

  After his performance of Thomas Rhett’s ‘Die a Happy Man’ last week, Clarkson called him “the best country singer on the show” and noted his “ridiculous talent.”

  Lee’s parents, who still live in Benton, were among the members of the live audience in Los Angeles last week. They have plans to return if their son makes it among the final eight contestants.

  “Being in the audience was such an experience and honestly a little overwhelming,” said Melanie Scharmahorn, who works as a library media specialist at South Marshall Middle School.  “It was a major production.”

  She and members of the family have placed The Voice banners featuring a picture of their son in locations across Marshall County to help raise awareness which will hopefully result in votes from hometown supporters.

  “There for awhile it was hard to get people on board, but now that he’s done so well it’s really caught on and the local support is picking up,” said Scharmahorn.

  Lee said he is grateful for the support of his hometown which includes not only votes from those who have jumped on the team Kaleb fan base, but also the local businesses who are working to raise awareness of his run on the show.

  The Moors, where Lee worked as a marina hand as a 16-year-old, is offering a Kaleb Lee Special in the restaurant. It includes his favorite meal--a ribeye steak and baked potato.

 Tonight, Kaleb Lee supporters are invited to attend a watch party of The Voice at Fast Eddie’s in Fairdealing when he will learn whether or not he advances to the next round of competition.

  Lee said he is planning a trip to Benton the first week of June and hopes to perform at an as-yet-determined venue, sign autographs and thank the community for their support.

  The Voice finale will air May 22.

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