In the above clip, Rimes wins over the judges and host Ed McMahon with a cover of Marty Robbins' hit song "Don't Worry." The Robbins original's guitar fuzz accompaniment gives way to the in-house orchestra, but that didn't distract from the Jackson, Mississippi native's first chance to prove she was a superstar in waiting.
She beat out 11-year-old Levi Garrett and his rendition of Lee Greenwood's "Going, Going, Gone." Garrett would go on to perform in Mesquite, a band named for his hometown in Texas, with The Voice winner Craig Wayne Boyd.
As would happen for Britney Spears in 1992, Rimes' reign as a Star Search champion was short-lived. Neither talent won their respective season's grand prize.
Lucky for us, Rimes had something more important in common with Spears-- Much bigger things were in store by the end of the '90s. In 1996, Rimes arrived in the mainstream with her Billboard chart-topping debut album Blue. At age 13, she joined country music's legacy of child stars, which included Tanya Tucker, Brenda Lee and even Marie Osmond. In 1997, she became the youngest person to ever win a Grammy Award, picking up Best New artist, Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
Star Search was a better sign of pop success to come than any musical talent show before or since, with other past competitors including Christina Aguilera, Beyonce (performing with Girls Tyme) and Justin Timberlake (as pint-sized cowboy Justin Randall). It also benefitted Nashville greatly by pointing record execs to not just Rimes but also a season champion from the '80s, Sawyer Brown, plus her fellow country singers Billy Dean, Phil Vassar and Ty Herndon.
To hear a truer to the original rendition of "Don't Worry" (and for a firm grasp on why young Rimes earned Patsy Cline comparisons), check out her covers-heavy self-titled album from 1999.