A true motivational story with a good ending

Here's the motivational story of Terry Fator.

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He is also known as "The Human Jukebox".

Terry is a ventriloquist, impressionist, comedian, and singer from Mesquite, Texas.

Fator is capable of doing over 100 ventriloquial impersonations, and uses 16 different puppets in his act.

He was the winner of Season 2 of America's Got Talent, and received the million dollar prize. The following year, he was signed on as the headliner at The Mirage hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Watch this motivational video and then keep reading the rest of his amaxing story.

Motivational Video

Terry Fator was born June 10, 1965 in Mesquite, Texas. His mother is Marie Sligh, a real estate agent. Marie Sligh's husband, David Sligh, is the uncle of Chris Sligh, an American Idol season 6 finalist.

The beginning of Fator's ventriloquism career dates back to when he was in fifth grade.

While searching for a book for an assignment on Valentine's Day, he came across a book about ventriloquism. Fator checked out the book and started learning about ventriloquism. What a motivational story!

A few weeks later, Fator purchased a Willie Talk dummy from Sears and soon won a $25 prize for a performance at a church picnic.

Fator got his first ventriloquism dummy when he was ten years old. Throughout his childhood, Fator entertained family and friends with his ventriloquism and did impersonations of singers and actors.

When Fator was in sixth grade, he appeared on a popular children's show in Dallas called Peppermint Place that starred "Mr. Peppermint" Jerry Haynes.

Fator was able to save his money and got his first professional ventriloquism dummy when he was eighteen.

Fator says he found he had the ability to impersonate singers by practicing ventriloquism while driving his car. "One of my motivational curiosity and the reasons I learned how to sing as a ventriloquist was because I like singing in the car," Fator says, "I’d see other people singing in the car, and they looked goofy, so I’d do it without moving my lips."

His first motivational tour

Fator got his start touring as the lead singer of a band called "Freedom Jam" in 1987-88, produced by Young American Showcase. They performed at over 200 high schools and middle schools across the United States, averaging three performances per school day.

In mid 1988, he was the lead singer of a show band called 'Texas the Band' when he was 20, and incorporated his puppet Walter T. Airedale into his shows. Fator's band at one point was about to sign with a major record label and one of the label's representatives came to hear the band.

Fator sang the songs impersonating the original vocalists. "He told me 'you gotta stop doing those impressions,' and wanted me to sing in my own voice," Fator says, "I tried it for a few weeks, and absolutely hated it. We told the record company 'no thanks.'"

A motivational boost to help Fator revamp his Act while combining Singing and Ventriloquism

Fator left the band and did a solo act combining comedy and ventriloquism but for many years had little success.

"Fairs would stick me on a little stage in the back of fair and have me do three shows in the hottest part of the afternoon," says Fator. "I had heat stroke a couple of times, almost passed out."

In May 2007, before appearing on America's Got Talent, Fator was performing at a fair near Houston, Texas and only one 12 year old boy was in the audience.

Discouraged, Fator contemplated pursuing another career, but his family encouraged him to hang in there. Terry entered the America's Got Talent competition with the hope that the exposure if he made it to the Top 20 might help his career and cause people to want to attend his shows. But Fator says the low point of his career was when he appeared at a 1,000 seat theater and had only one customer.

Fator's success stems from combining comedy, singing and ventriloquism and it wasn't even his idea.

Fator had been the lead singer in a band and often did impersonations of singers like Garth Brooks, Etta James, James Taylor and Dean Martin while ventriloquism was just a comic side gig for Fator. Per the motivational suggestion of his manager, Fator decided to join his two talents, ventriloquism and impersonations.

A motivational boost

"I had one of my characters sing Garth Brooks' Friends in Low Places and the audience went bananas," Fator says, "Boy, that was where my life changed."

After his initial success Fator revamped his act. "It took me six months and I completely rewrote the show," says Fator. "It was then that people really noticed and I started getting standing ovations at the end of every show."

Prior to winning "America's Got Talent," Fator was an opening act for Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Neal McCoy, and Styx. Fator also made corporate motivational appearances at General Motors and AT&T.

Motivational Success on America's Got Talent

Terry Fator appears at the "Poncan Theater" in Ponca City, Oklahoma on May 6, 2008 with his character Winston the Impersonating Turtle. Winston was inspired by Kermit the Frog.

"Originally I had a Kermit the Frog puppet and I would have (him) sing 'Rainbow Connection,'" says Fator.

Terry Fator with his character Julius. Julius was a favorite when Fator appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show. "As soon as I brought out Julius, she had this look on her face, wondering what I was about to do," Fator said. "Once I started into Marvin Gaye, she fell out of her chair."

Terry Fator with his character Walter T. Airedale. Airedale, a country singer, is the puppet that Fator has had the longest.

Terry Fator with his character Maynard Thomkins. "Maynard Tompkins is an Elvis impersonator -- the only impersonator in the world who does not know any Elvis songs," says Fator. Before appearing on America's Got Talent, Fator had almost given up on achieving success in show business as a ventriloquist.

"It wasn't easy trying to keep going all these years, and by the time I was in my late 30s, I wasn't sure it was ever going to happen," says Fator.

On June 19, 2007, Fator made his first national appearance on America's Got Talent. Fator never dreamed that he would win the show. "Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would win that show," says Fator.

"Essentially I auditioned because the guy that was the ventriloquist the first season got on ('The Late Show with) David Letterman.' ... So I figured I'd do three episodes like he did and end up on 'David Letterman.'"

After winning the show Fator actually had to turn the Letterman gig down four times before he could appear. "My schedule got so packed, and it broke my heart every time I had to turn him down," Fator says.

When Fator first came onstage judge David Hasselhoff said "Oh, no, a ventriloquist."

"I was thinking, there's no way I would win," Fator says. "I gave myself zero percent [chance]." The judges, Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and David Hasselhoff, loved Fator and he won the competition. Judge Piers Morgan told Fator "You’re a great impersonator, a great singer and a great comedian." "You put a twist on the whole being a ventriloquist thing," added Judge Sharon Osborne.

Even Simon Cowell approved. "Simon Cowell said I was one of the top two entertainers on the planet," says Fator. "And getting a compliment from Simon Cowell, well, not many people get a compliment like that."

After Fator won the $1 million prize, he bought his wife an expensive wedding ring and a dream house near Dallas.

On May 13, 2008 it was announced that Terry had signed a five year deal to perform nightly at The Mirage Casino and Resort in Las Vegas. He will replace headliner Danny Gans and the theatre will be renamed the Terry Fator Theatre. Reportedly the deal is worth an astounding $100 million with an option to extend another five years making the entire deal worth over $200 million. This would be one of the largest entertainment deals in Las Vegas history.

Fator announced in July 2008 that he is at work on a book. "I never thought in my whole life I would write a whole book. ... It's called 'Who's the Dummy Now?'"

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~ Just Imagine Your Success,


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