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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fans of "American Idol" eliminated Texas oil rig worker Michael Sarver from the show's eighth season on Thursday, casting the fewest number of votes for his rendition of the Motown hit "Ain't Too Proud to Beg."
Sarver, 27, from Jasper, Texas, lost after what host Ryan Seacrest set was a record-setting 36 million-plus votes cast on the hit television talent show, and the judges opted not to use their once-per-season veto to keep the burly singer.
"Michael, you're going home -- sorry," said Simon Cowell after a conference by the judges that sent the show into overtime. Sarver performed his version of The Temptations song on Wednesday during the show's Motown-themed performances.
"American Idol" pits aspiring singers against each other in a series of competitions that focus on a musical theme each week. It is the most watched TV show in the United States, with more than 24 million viewers per episode broadcast by the Fox network, a unit of News Corp.
Sarver was gracious in defeat, noting "I'm going on tour," referring to the summer "American Idol" tour by the top 10 contestants.
The show's judges were unanimous in giving Sarver's singing the thumbs down, with even normally gentle Paula Abdul saying it "was a tough performance." Cowell said: "It just wasn't good enough."
Scott MacIntyre and Matt Giraud, both 23, rounded out the all-male group of bottom-three finishers. The remaining finalists include Adam Lambert, Anoop Desai, Danny Gokey, Kris Allen, Lil Rounds, Megan Joy and Allison Iraheta.
Joy's performance was slammed by the judges this week and observers thought the tattoed blonde could be eliminated.
The Motown shows were mentored by Smokey Robinson, a singer and songwriter dubbed the "King of Motown," who performed a duet of "You're The One For Me" with Joss Stone. Stevie Wonder also delivered a medley of Motown hits.
Another highlight of the live broadcast was an appearance by Ruben Studdard, the winner of the show's second season. He sang "Together."
Past winners including Kelly Clarkson and several runners-up, such as Clay Aiken and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, have gone on to lucrative music careers as well as appearing in films and on Broadway.
The winner of "American Idol"'s eighth season will be announced during a live finale later this spring.
Editing by Paul Simao