By Brian Mansfield, Special for USA TODAY
Pants on the ground, pants on the groundLookin’ like a fool with your pants on the ground …
The most memorable audition of the new American Idol season has come not from a young wannabe but from a 62-year-old man from Atlanta who once marched with Martin Luther King Jr. for civil rights.
“General” Larry Platt, now 63, had the judges in stitches as he admonished the members of a younger generation with gold mouth grills and hats tilted sideways to pull their pants up.
“I have a horrible feeling that song could be a hit,” Simon Cowell told Platt after his chant, adding, “I don’t think this is the last we’ll hear from you.”
Sure enough, it wasn’t. Pants on the Ground immediately went viral. Within minutes after Idol‘s end Wednesday night, it was Twitter’s top trending term. By morning, there were videos with remixes, beatbox versions and covers of his song online.
And Platt’s phone didn’t stop ringing.
“So many people calling, I can’t keep up with it,” Platt said Thursday afternoon when reached by phone. “Radio stations, TV stations, everybody keeps calling me.”
But there’s more to Platt than a catchy song. He once worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to organize sit-ins in Georgia.
“I went across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on ‘Bloody Sunday’ with Hosea Williams and John Lewis on March 7, 1965,” Platt says. “It was kind of rough in the day. But we didn’t do all this stuff that people are doing today.” Platt refers to himself as a “four-star general in the civil rights movement” and claims that Williams gave him the nickname.
More recently, Platt has become a familiar presence at city council meetings in Atlanta, where he rails against widespread foreclosures in the city’s predominantly black neighborhoods.
Idol judge Kara DioGuardi says the show’s producers didn’t provide many details about Platt before his audition.
“The moment he came in, I thought, ‘I don’t know if he’s within the age restriction …’ ” she says. “He really had a light soul about him. He was joyous.”
Platt will make his first national television appearance since his Idol audition Monday on ABC’s The View. He also says he hopes to record his song.
“I’m going to keep singing Pants on the Ground,” he says. “It’s not the way it’s supposed to be, kids walking around here with their pants all hanging down, calling themselves ‘gangster’ and everything. I don’t like it.”