Shelbie Zora James Panter, now known nationwide as Shelbie Z, recently competed on the NBC show “The Voice” with her rendition of Gretchen Wilson’s “Here For the Party,” but this wasn’t Panter’s first rodeo.
Panter started out like a vast majority of musical divas, including Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Carrie Underwood — by singing in church.
“I started singing when I was about three. I was in church at Faith Worship Center in Sumiton ... She [my mother] walked up there with me by the hand, handed me the mic, said ‘Shelbie’s gonna’ sing,’ and I started singing,” Panter said with a laugh.
Panter busied herself, while growing up in Sumiton, with different activities and events such as cheerleading, dance and pageants. She has competed in a slew of singing and karaoke competitions, many offering cash prizes. However, her latest accomplishment, besides marrying her boyfriend of four years, Zak Panter, on Sept. 14, was auditioning and performing in front of the celebrity judges of “The Voice.”
“I was planning a wedding in California, and it was really hard. I have never been more frustrated in my life,” Panter chuckled.
Making a last-minute decision to audition, a spontaneous Panter told her mother two days prior that they were going to drive to Atlanta that weekend.
“It had snowed here, and we left the next day, and it was so cold. And dummy here didn’t bring a jacket ‘cause I was just thinking, ‘OK let’s get in the car, let’s go,’ because I left right after work,” Panter said. “So I threw my stuff in the car, we left, and I got out there and I stood on the streets at like 4 o’clock in the morning. My auditions weren’t until 7. I was the second group to go into the room because they take you in by groups of 10, and you all sing in front of each other.
“I was the second person to audition, and I’ll never forget it,” she continued. “I walked in the room, but I was having issues with my cowboy boots. ... Right before I had walked into the room, I was standing there and had put pressure down on my left foot, and my heel broke. I was like, ‘Oh crap!’ So, I picked it up, threw it in my purse and walked in there like nothing ever happened.”
When she finally made it to the “blind” audition, where the coaches — Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Green and Adam Levine — either yearn to turn their chairs around or refrain and remain with their backs to the stage. Not only did Panter bring the house down with her smooth bravado, powerful voice and cute face, but she also caused three out of the four coaches to quickly punch their buttons and turn their chairs around. But Panter already had her mind made up about whose team she would choose to be on.
“Since Season 1, I’ve watched and have said, ‘If I get on there, I’m going to choose Blake.’ I’ve seen the way the other coaches worked, and I’d seen how their coaching style is and stuff like that from TV,” Panter said. “That’s my coach. That’s who I want. I had it set and had made up my mind... Plus, I had no clue what CeeLo was saying.”
Even though she couldn’t spill the beans on this upcoming week’s shows, she did say, however, that if she makes it past the battle and knockout rounds that she will then perform on the live shows. This is where she will need support from not only her fellow Walker Countians but also from the people of Alabama and across the U.S. For now though, she’s just taking it one day at a time.
“It’s pretty much just getting people to vote, if I make it that far. I’ll just keep on grinding the pavement as hard as I can and doing whatever it takes to make this happen,” Panter said.
While she is currently in the area, Panter will continue to work at Mane Attractions in Jasper and help out the community as much as possible. In an effort to raise breast cancer awareness, Panter said she and a group of women have partnered together to create a benefit called Rockin’ Knockers. On Saturday, Oct. 19, at 6 p.m. Panter and other musical guests will be performing in downtown Jasper at Bare Bones Cargo. Tickets are available now.
You can continue to keep up with Shelbie Z’s success by watching her on “The Voice” Monday at 7 p.m. and Tuesday at 8 p.m. on NBC.
“I pretty much just want people to watch the show and vote,” Panter said. “Tell everybody you know, ‘Hey, there’s this girl from my hometown that’s on there. Hey, there’s this girl from Alabama, vote for her.’”