A moving tale of fatherly love preceded an astonishing performance that won Simon Cowell’s coveted golden buzzer on Tuesday’s episode of America’s Got Talent.
When pediatric mental health nurse Michael Ketterer nervously took to the stage, he seemed to be like many others saying: ‘My family is my reason I’m here.’
He soon told the amazing tale of how he almost lost his wife and daughter, with ‘signs’ later leading them to adopting five sons — three rescued from a squalid meth lab, one who was homeless, and another with cerebral palsy.
Golden buzzer: Simon Cowell pressed his golden buzzer on Tuesday’s episode of America’s Got Talent for a singing father with a strong devotion to his family
‘My children came out of foster care, and when you’re surviving you can’t dream,’ he told the judges, getting a huge sigh from the audience.
‘That has been one of the most rewarding things — providing them with a home and a safe environment where they’re free to dream.
‘So I’m here because I want to show them that if their dad can live out his dreams then nothing’s impossible for them.’
Michael then started singing To Love Somebody — stunning the room with his beautiful voice and a performance clearly driven by the words of devotion for his family.
Pediatric nurse: Pediatric mental health nurse Michael Ketterer sang To Love Somebody
The heartfelt performance left many in tears, including some of his children watching in the wings.
‘That was absolutely amazingly incredible,’ Mel B told him, adding: ‘You sing from your soul. …Thank you for gracing this stage, thank you. Seriously.’
Heidi Klum, 45, said she was ‘blown away,’ while Howie Mandel told Michael: ‘I feel when I’m listening to you and watching you I just want to be a fraction of the human being that I believe that you are. You’re a great performer, and you’re a star human being.’
Showing support: The singer’s family supported him from the side of the stage along with host Tyra Banks
Standing ovation: Howie Mandel, Mel B, Heidi Klum and Simon gave the performance a standing ovation
Simon, 58, struggled to contain his emotions as he called Michael ‘real,’ smiling as he said ‘sometimes actions speak louder than words’ — standing to press the golden buzzer sending him straight through to the live rounds.
After jumping for joy, Michael’s wife and kids joined him for hugs onstage, with Simon also going up to meet them all, telling Michael: ‘What a fantastic audition. Something about your voice, I genuinely mean this, is special and everything was perfect.’
In moving pre-recorded interviews, Michael told how his wife Ivy almost died giving birth to their first child, saying: ‘The doctor came out and basically told me the woman that I love the most in life and my new daughter, they probably wouldn’t make it through the night. I spent the whole night just praying.’
The moment: Simon said that actions speak louder than words and pressed his golden buzzer
Tender moment: Michael hugged his wife and confetti dropped from the rafters
They survived but were warned if they tried to have more children ‘this would happen again.’
After seven years of it being just the three of them, he said his daughter started having dreams where three boys needed adopting, smiling as he recalled: ‘It took her two years to convince us to adopt.’
‘After we went through the process of getting certified to adopt, our very first call that we got was for these little boys,’ he said, admitting how incredible it seemed as he laughed: ‘I promise I’m not making any of this up!’
Three boys: The contestant told how he adopted three boys after nearly losing his wife and daughter in childbirth
He explained: ‘They were being raised in this horrific environment. There was a meth lab in the home, they didn’t have running water or power, and the youngest, because he was so hungry, had filled his stomach with gravel.
‘He jumped into my arms and said, ”Are you my new daddy?” And I said ”Well you can call me that if you want to.” And he said, ”Ok, I want to call you Daddy.” And that was the beginning of these three boys in our home.’
They then took in another child who was homeless, thinking they were done — with Michael then saying he demanded ‘a sign’ when another call came for a child with cerebral palsy.
Two more: Michael revealed that his family also adopted a homeless boy and another boy with cerebral palsy
‘I got in a car and they had just put up this big billboard and it was the man who had just pushed his son through marathons with cerebral palsy,’ he recalled.
‘And I just broke down because I was like, ”You literally just gave me a sign that this little boy is my son.”
And he admitted that the final addition to the family played a big part on him being on the AGT stage, saying: ‘Me and Rodrigo have a special bond because he absolutely loves music and I love to sing and make music.’
Live rounds: Simon met the family after pressing his golden buzzer to send Michael straight to the live rounds
He added: ‘Every dad likes to think that they’re a hero to their kids. I think like America’s Got Talent could absolutely change my family’s life.’
The night’s other emotional highlight came from another singer with a powerful backstory, with Christina Wells, 42, telling how she gave up her initial dreams of stardom at 19 after getting told she was turned down for an audition ‘because I wasn’t the right size.’
‘I am fat — I am — it’s not an opinion,’ she cried to camera, saying ‘it confirmed my greatest insecurities,’ adding: ‘So I stopped singing.’
Stopped singing: Christina Wells, 42, stopped singing after being told during an audition as a teenager that she ‘wasn’t the right size’
But she said she was compelled to come on the show to show her two sons ‘that nothing — nothing — should prevent you from making your dreams come true.’
The registered nurse burst into tears when she got a huge standing ovation after her performance of Queen Latifah’s I Know Where I’ve Been, with Howie telling her: ‘You just blew your cork off and exploded with what you’ve been doing your whole life! We felt your soul.’
Mel B, 43, then told her: ‘Don’t let anybody’s comments stop you from being you because you are beautiful. And what a voice!’
Getting emotional: The registered nurse burst into tears as the judges praised her performance
Simon, meanwhile, insisted he first started shows like America’s Got Talent ‘because I worked with so many stupid people in the music business,’ asking: ”Who actually thinks somebody’s gonna buy a song because of somebody’s weight? It is ridiculous.
‘The real greats, you don’t think about how much they weigh, what they look like, they’re just amazing, bloody fantastic singers.
‘And you’re one of those people.’
Going blonde: Mel B went blonde for some of the auditions
Two brothers, meanwhile, gave a powerful lesson in refusing to give up — getting through to the next round despite a fall during their amazing acrobatic act.
The Spanish duo Fratelli Rossi were already taking a huge risk by making their first performance after one of the brothers had recovered from ACL surgery on his knee.
The crowd went wild for their circus act where one brother used his feet to repeatedly spin his sibling on top of him — until he slipped and crashed, with Mel asking in a panic: ‘Did he break it again?’
Spanish duo: The Fratelli Rossi brothers took a huge risk performing after one of them just recovered from ACL surgery on his knee
Mel and Howie, 62, passionately tried to persuade them to stop, but the brothers insisting on restarting — getting huge applause as they finished the act this time, with the brother balancing triumphantly on the other’s feet at the end.
‘The fact that it went wrong and then you went again actually made the act even better,’ Simon told them. ‘I was really on the edge of my seat.’
As they got four yeses to get through, Mel purred: ‘I found that absolutely terrifying — but also hot. You’re proper, like, men — I like that.’
Overcame adversity: The brothers faltered during their routine but restarted and nailed it
Other acts who fell did not have it so good, with the judges joking that there were so many mishaps because it was season 13.
‘I think there’s a good chance if we say yes you’ll probably die in the next round,’ Simon told one acrobat who kept falling during a trampoline-and-basketball act, also telling another group of acrobats: ‘It was so badly rehearsed — so many people almost died. I’m doing you a favor by saying no.’
Howie was relieved one act did not have a mishap after Aaron Crow dragged him onstage for the scariest performance of the evening.
Scariest performance: Aaron Crow recruited Howie for easily the scariest performance of the episode
The 49-year-old danger artist from Bruges, Belgium, who first appeared on Britain’s Got Talent back in 2013, stunned everyone when he poured hot wax on his eyes to seal them — then wrapped tape and foil around his head to be completely blindfolded.
He then put a pineapple on Howie’s head, leaving the judge repeatedly screaming ‘No!’ as he pulled out a sword — and accurately cut it in half, leaving the funnyman unscathed, at least physically, as he fell to his knees in shock.
‘You’re walking a little funny, did you poo poo in your pants a little bit?’ Heidi asked Howie, who joked: ‘You know what people are going to be saying tomorrow? How much of an idiot is Howie Mandel.’
Fruit slice: Howie had a pineapple on his head that was sliced in half by the blindfolded danger artist
Too much: Heidi could not contain her excitement while watching the dangerous routine
‘I’ve got to tell you, that takes balls — I wouldn’t have done that,’ Simon told his friend, adding: ‘That was a great act but I think it was even better that you nearly killed Howie. I mean literally, you were two inches away from being dead there.’
All four sent them through, with Mel telling him: ‘You’re mysterious, you had everyone engaged — and you’re hot.’
Arguably the most unexpected performance was Cuban husband-and-wife Celina, 64, and Filiberto, 70 — who broke into a dirty dancing routine that had Mel hiding her face behind her hands and buzzing for them to leave, complaining: ‘Some things should just be done in private!’
Unexpected performance: Filiberto, 70, and Celina, 64, performed a dance routine together
Dirty dancing: The couple grinded and twerked during their routine
It also sparked the most cutting comment of the night, with Howie joking of Mel and her bitter divorce battle: ‘I’ll just be honest with you, her last relationship hasn’t worked out and when she sees this…’
The others loved the act, Ganas Con Canas, with Heidi saying of the couple: ‘I pray I’m going to be that lucky when I get old to find someone to do that with, I really do.’
‘I like things I get surprised by. You surprised me,’ Simon told them.
Mixed reactions: Howie enjoyed the performance while Mel thought it best be kept private
The act that most divided the judges was Japanese duo Yumbo Dump, two Japanese friends who took off their shirts and made a series of funny sound with the help of their bellies.
Simon told them: ‘This is one of the funniest things, and most stupid things, I’ve seen on this show. And you two are hilarious!’
‘I think I was watching a completely different show,’ Mel insisted to boos, having already buzzed for them to leave, but getting outvoted by the others.
Stomach sound: Yumbo Dump took off their shirts and made a series of funny sound with the help of their bellies
Spot on: The duo accurately created sounds after holding up placards describing their intent
Quiet time: Tyra shushed the audience just like Yumbo Dump did before each new sound effect
Third vote: Heidi broke out a new hand signal this season that she uses when casting the third vote for an act
‘I didn’t laugh and I really didn’t get it,’ said the former Spice Girls star.
Howie, meanwhile, was at odds over husband-and-wife singing duo Us The Duo, with Michael and Carissa Alvarado performing a song they wrote as wedding vows.
Howie got boos as he called the song ‘a little coffee house’ and said it was too risky performing self-written material on the show.
Lady in red: Mel stunned in a sleeveless red dress while judging
Original song: The married duo Us The Duo got mixed reviews with Howie calling their original song ‘a little coffee house’
‘I don’t agree,’ Simon snapped. ‘The fact that you did something original makes you stand out, we’re going to remember you. This is a really good audition.’
Howie was outvoted, with Heidi telling the couple: ‘It made me all mushy and gushy inside because you two are so cute and in love and I can see the sparks flying. I think you have a hit right there.’
Lilly Wilker, 11, known as Rooster Roo, amazed everyone with her amazing animal impressions, constantly cracking up into giggles of her own during her act.
Animal impressions: Lilly Wilker, 11, known as Rooster Roo, amazed everyone with her amazing animal impressions
‘That was fantastic!’ Simon told her, also calling her ‘possibly the nicest contestant we’ve ever had’ when she said she would donate the $1 million prize money to hospitals and animal shelters if she were to win.
‘I think America is absolutely gonna fall in love with you, I do, you’re so much fun,’ Simon added.
Japanese diabolo juggler Yusaku Mochisuki, 29, also won over the judges, with Simon admitting: ‘I think a big reason why this went down so well is your personality, Mochi — you’re so much fun.’
Nicest contestant: The sweet girl said she would donate the $1 million prize money to hospitals and animal shelters if she were to win
Juggling act: Japanese diabolo juggler Yusaku Mochisuki, 29, used lights on the wall based around his juggling
His act saw spectacular lights on the wall based around his juggling, with Howie saying: ‘When you think you’ve seen absolutely everything, and then there’s a Mochi and you realize you ain’t seen nothing yet.’
Hip hop dance crew Da RepubliK had been in tears describing growing up in poverty in the Dominican Republic, with the female leader saying: ‘There is no such thing as the American dream in our country, that doesn’t really exist. We just get to see it in movies, y’know?’
They had more tears after their huge ovation — and even more at getting through to the next round, with Howie calling it ‘pure amazing brilliance in dance.’
Dance crew: Hip hop dance crew Da RepubliK grew up amid poverty in the Dominican Republic
Smooth moves: Da RepubliK advanced to the next round after a huge ovation from the audience
While most acts try to flatter the judges, comedian Alex Hooper bizarrely went the complete opposite way — getting buzzed off by Howie, Mel and Heidi after telling spiteful jokes about them.
After telling Howie he looked like a big toe and saying there are no talented people in his native Canada, he turned on Mel and her persona as Scary Spice, saying: ‘The only thing scary about you was your solo career.’
Then with Heidi, he joked: ‘You are magical — four children and yet your body looks like you haven’t paid attention to any of them.’
Comedy routine: Alex Hooper took turns insulting the judges during his comedy routine that only Simon liked
The audience booed throughout, also giving him the thumbs down — and only perked up when it came time to be cruel to Simon.
But Simon laughed along as Alex asked: ‘Didn’t we form this country to get away from Brits like you?’
He then thanked Simon for ‘fixing your British teeth,’ saying: ‘Those things are so straight and white they were just offered positions in Trump’s cabinet.’
Good times: Simon enjoyed the mean-spirited comedy routine including the jokes made about him
Mel eventually went over and pressed Simon’s buzzer for him to stop the act, sending him home.
Simon still insisted: ‘Can I be honest with you? I think you’re really funny. You did make me laugh, even the jokes about me.’
America’s Got Talent returns next week on NBC.
Stop it: Mel pressed her buzzer and also pressed Simon’s buzzer to stop the comedy bit