Cool doesn't have any signs boasting it's the "Home of Casey James." It doesn't need to.
Everyone here knows him, or at least knows someone who does.
"It's a small place," says Casey's mom, Debra James, who left Cool for a spell but has moved back. "I'll go somewhere, and it'll be, 'Oh, my son went to school with [him]' or 'My cousin dated his best friend's sister,'" she says with a laugh.
What has surprised her, though, is the age range of Casey's fans.
"One of my friend's grandsons, he's 4, and his whole room is Casey James," Debra says, adding that she also knows a man who is taking his 9-year-old special-needs daughter, who is crazy about Casey, to the Billy Bob's show Friday. "And then there are some people who are coming to Billy Bob's who are upper 70s, close to 80."
Cool is a modest little town about 40 miles west of Fort Worth on U.S. 180 in the rolling hills between Weatherford and Mineral Wells. (Chartered buses from each will take fans to the Billy Bob's show.) According to the city-limits sign, the population is 263 -- and Belle K. Brownlee, who manages the Community Center there, says 300 to 400 people showed up at the community center when James came for a hometown visit during James' stint on Idol.
"He's still a very viable interest out here," says Brownlee. "I know ... there are lots of folks out here that have already booked to go see him at Billy Bob's. If he came back through here, he would definitely be front and center of all of our interests and everything."
Some things have changed since James ended his Idol run in May 2010. The Cool Cafe, the only diner in town back then, has closed, and now the town has two cafes, Sissy's on the main drag and Dee's on Farm Road 113, near the community center.
But one thing that hasn't changed is that people who have moved there say they like the rural life -- even Weatherford is getting too busy for them. It was that peaceful atmosphere that attracted Debra James to Cool when Casey was about 6.
Just south of Cool on Farm Road 113 is the slightly larger Millsap, where James went to school while he was growing up. Jerri Aaron, who taught him in elementary physical education from second to fifth grade, has followed his career and says that James still get buzzed about a lot in Millsap.
"Millsap has a chauffeured bus planned to take several people over to the Billy Bob's show," Aaron says. "And I personally made a trip to Tulsa, Okla., to see him."
Aaron, who recently retired after 28 years of teaching, remembers James as a good pupil, very happy-go-lucky and always with a smile on his face. "I don't remember him singing," she says. "But I know that he loved to watch TV. I worked real close with the music teacher, and on Fridays sometimes, we would show musicals. You know, Mary Poppins and stuff like that. He was so intent on watching the TV, and I didn't know till last year, when he did an interview on Good Morning America, that he didn't have a TV growing up. That's why he loved Fridays so much."
When James was on Idol, much was made of his being from Cool (and from Fort Worth), but Millsap got its props in the homecoming episode, in which James also made an appearance before fans at Millsap High School.
"I think the actual mileage sign [between Millsap and Cool] says four, but you can't really tell where one ends and the other one begins," Aaron says. "It's just country homes alongside the road every half-mile or so. But Millsap claims him. I know on American Idol he says he lived in Cool, but all the action goes on in Millsap."
Although James still hasn't released an album or even a single, that's not a big concern for people in either town.
"I think they understand the process he has to go through," Aaron says. "We're disappointed that we don't have him all to ourselves anymore, but we know that it's going to take a while. And a lot of people keep in touch with him through Twitter, through his mother. She has a Twitter account, so that keeps everybody updated a lot."
Brownlee says she thinks he is just waiting to get things right, to do the things that best show off his blues-influenced singing and guitar-playing strengths. And that maybe he just wasn't "Hollywood" enough for Idol.
"I think it's due to the fact that he was pushed, with American Idol, as less of a singer and more of a backup performer," Brownlee says. "That really diminished some of his qualities. The people that he was up against, I don't think had any more talent than he did. I think it was just that they were a little more -- I don't know, bizarre."