No one expected to hear singing at Cracker Barrel until Akeem Wilson signed up to be a server.
The East St. Louis native loves music. He sings Christmas songs all-year-round, which is why he was caroling in the back of restaurant last summer when a coworker discovered his talent.
“Ever since then, I’ve been the designated person to sing,” Wilson said with a smile. “I get a lot of requests.”
His most requested song during the holiday season is “Jingle Bell Rock.” The restaurant erupts into applause every time he sings it.
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He also sings his owns versions of “My Girl” and “Man in the Mirror” performed by his favorite artist of all time, Michael Jackson.
The first time he performed on stage he was a kid. His cousin encouraged his craft and eventually he auditioned for “American Idol” and “The Voice.” Both shows gave him a chance to perform in the second round, but he’s still waiting on his big break.
“I want people to know my music,” Wilson during a break on his shift.
He wasn’t expecting it, but working at the restaurant has turned into a way to share his gift with others.
General manager Christina Mullenax said customers enjoy the music and regulars know him by name.
But you don’t have to be friends with Wilson to hear a song.
Cracker Barrel customer and Belleville resident Connie Parker fell in love with Wilson right away when she visited the restaurant in November.
Her family chatted up Wilson while he served them country fixings and biscuits. He told them he was working his way through college, then he decided to surprise them with the gift of a song.
“He’s such a nice person in addition to his talent,” Parker said. “So many times you can get a bad waiter.”
Wilson received a standing ovation that day.