Lifestyle & Human Interest

55-Year-Old Janitor Shocks 'America's Got Talent' Judges with 'Genuinely Special' Performance, Earns Rare Golden Buzzer


Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.

Steve Perry didn’t reunite with Journey last month for an episode of “America’s Got Talent,” but an unassuming middle-school janitor named Richard Goodall did a phenomenal job of filling in for him.

Goodall stunned the audience and the show’s judges and even earned a rare “golden buzzer” from model and judge Heidi Klum.

The 55-year-old custodian from Terre Haute, Indiana, joined the NBC show for its 19th-season premiere and crushed a rendition of Journey’s smash 1981 hit “Don’t Stop Believin.’ ”

When introducing himself to the show in a pre-taped interview, Goodall explained that he spent his time belting out songs while keeping a school in the Midwest clean for students, staff and administrators.

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The shy man, who said he was waiting to call his fiancee after his performance, told show host Terry Crews in an interview that he lived a simple life.

“I’m not a fancy person. I take out the trash, I wipe off the tables, I sweep the floors. I’m just having fun, and I’m trying to make people happy,” Goodall said.

He said he loved to entertain people, especially kids who attend the school that employs him.

Once he took the stage, the tension was palpable. Goodall humbly told judge Simon Cowell he was glad to be there and that his dream was to become a singer.

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“I love to sing,” he said.

After Goodall said that very few people knew he had traveled to the Los Angeles area to audition for the show, the iconic piano intro for what is perhaps Journey’s most recognizable hit began to play while a “nervous” Goodall waited to deliver the opening line.

His voice sounded as though it was borrowed from Perry.

Goodall’s opening line — “Just a small-town girl” — earned immediate applause and elicited shocked looks from judges.

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After nailing the song, Goodall stood on stage and waited for feedback from judges Cowell, Klum, Howie Mandel and Sofia Vergara.

The show’s live, studio audience also chanted his name and gave him a standing ovation.

After Cowell explained that Goodall’s performance was “genuinely special” and designated him a “hero,” Vergara also praised him.

“This was an amazing surprise,” the former “Modern Family” star said.

Mandel then opined that the humble janitor from Indiana had “cleaned up.”

Klum put an exclamation point on the moment when she said Goodall moved her, or as she put it, “You knocked me off my feet.”

“Now, this is what I’m going to do for you because I love you,” she said as she smashed her golden buzzer – signifying an amazing performance that elevated Goodall directly from auditions to the live shows.

As she embraced him on stage, Klum told Goodall, “I can’t wait to see what you’re gonna sing next.”

Goodall explained that performing for the show’s audience and judges was not only a dream come true but that to achieve it, he had to board an airplane for the first time to get to California.


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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.