Sixteen years ago today, on July 17, 2006, Kellie Pickler had one good reason to celebrate: It was on that date that the North Carolina native signed her first record deal, with BNA Records, only a few months after her elimination from American Idol.

Pickler first stole America's hearts while appearing on Season 5 of Idol. The country star sang before the show's three original judges, Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, performing songs from multiple genres, such as Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About," Stevie Wonder's "Blame It on the Sun" and Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight," before being eliminated and placing sixth on the TV singing competition. Although Pickler used her time on American Idol to show her versatility, her heart was always in country music, which is why she relocated to Nashville following her time on the show.

Only two months after signing with BNA, Pickler released her debut single, "Red High Heels;" her debut album, Small Town Girl, was released that October. "Red High Heels" landed in the Top 15, as did Picker's follow-up single, "I Wonder;" a third single, "Things That Never Cross a Man's Mind," earned a Top 20 spot on the charts.

“The first album was so extremely rushed,” Pickler tells The Boot. “I was in the middle of the American Idol tour, and my producer would fly all over the country to wherever I was that night. And I’d come off the stage, get in the car and run to the nearest studio … Everyone can’t believe it when I tell them this, but the songs I did write on the first album — "I Wonder" and "Red High Heels" — I actually wrote over the phone!”

Pickler followed up Small Town Girl with her eponymous sophomore album, released in 2008, which gave her the platinum-selling single "Best Days of Your Life," and 100 Proof, which was released in 2012. After the release of 100 Proof, Pickler left BNA Records and signed with Black River Entertainment; she released one album with that label, The Woman I Am, before parting ways with the organization in June of 2016.

Pickler has remained in the spotlight, however, focusing on her TV and acting career. From 2017 through 2019, she hosted two seasons of the daytime TV talk show Pickler & Ben, and has appeared in numerous TV movies, including Christmas at Graceland.

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