Vazquez Drops Out Of 'Idol,' Smith Returns

Mario Vazquez, one of the 12 singers chosen by viewers to compete for the fourth "American Idol" title, abruptly dropped out of the competition over the weekend.

Mario Vazquez, one of the 12 singers chosen by viewers to compete for the fourth "American Idol" title, abruptly dropped out of the competition over the weekend. A consistent performer through the audition rounds, Vasquez cited "a personal family thing" as his reason for pulling out at the dawn of the show's finalist rounds.

Nikko Smith, who was among the contestants voted out during last week's last semi-final round, will apparently take his place. Although at deadline there is no mention of Vazquez's exit on the "Idol" Web site, his picture and bio are gone from the list of finalists, while Smith's information is now included.

Vazquez broke the news in an interview with TVGuide.com, saying that he had to "take care of some personal issues with my family in New York. And with 'Idol' being a live show, it just wouldn't have worked out schedule-wise.

"I'm healthy, I'm fine," the 27-year-old singer added. "It's just a personal family thing. My family is my top priority."

Smith, a strong R&B singer who is the son of baseball hall-of-famer Ozzie Smith, presumably netted more votes than Travis Tucker, who also exited the show last week. Smith performed the songs "Georgia on My Mind," "Let's Get It On" and "Part Time Lover" in the semi-final rounds.

The replacement of an "Idol" finalist is not unprecedented. As last year's third season was still in its semi-final rounds, Donnie Williams was removed from the show following an arrest for driving under the influence in California. George Huff was recalled and advanced about halfway through the finals.

In November, Huff released "My Christmas EP!," a five-track seasonal disc through Christian label Word Records. A full-length non-holiday debut is due sometime this year.

During the early rounds of the second "Idol" season, producers yanked a pair of contestants for failing to disclose arrest records. A third hopeful was pulled when it was revealed she had posed for an adult Web site.