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'American Idol' -- The Cowboy Deception

2/3/2011 11:20 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF

John Wayne is not who he appears to be ... at least, he's not the innocent, never-left-the-ranch, amateur singer he was made out to be on last night's "American Idol."

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Turns out, 23-year-old John Wayne Schulz has a pretty impressive past in the music world -- a past "Idol" producers conveniently neglected to mention when they painted him as an "aww shucks" wannabe who finally stumbled off the family ranch for the first time in his life to try out for the show.

JW not only released an album by the time he was 14 years old -- one of his songs was considered for 7 Grammy nominations!!!!

The CEO of John Wayne's old record label tells Billboard.com John only recorded that one album -- explaining, "He's of Mormon faith, and he had to go on his church mission. He was gone for two years, and we just weren't able to reconnect once he returned."

020311_american_idol_video_2Apparently, it's easier to connect with the folks over at "A.I."


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