December 09, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

”Making the Band?” A joke. ”American Idol?” Child’s play. Get ready for the next generation of TV talent shows: the search for the first openly gay male country singer. Veteran songwriter Larry Dvoskin started a nationwide quest last summer with an ad in Nashville Scene headed ”Gay Country Singer Wanted.” He continues to recruit contestants at coolguymusic.com, and aims to have 30 worthy finalists in time to appear on an ”Idol”-style series he hopes to produce in summer 2003. The show’s winner will receive a record contract and major-label distribution. ”The response has been tremendous,” says Dvoskin, who has received thousands of inquiries. ”I’ve had people call me up and say, ‘Hi, my name is Gaylon Jennings’ or ‘George Un-strait,’ but most people have taken it seriously — well, seriously enough. It’s an idea whose time has come. Once there’s one Jackie Robinson, it opens the door for future generations.”

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