You could fill a book with everything 82-year-old John Hetlinger has done in his life, but it was an unexpected performance on primetime television that’s given him more than his 15 minutes of fame.

“I served in the Navy four years,” John said. “Two years in a patrol squadron in Okinawa.”

John was a Navy pilot, later a minister and then an aerospace engineer for Ball Aerospace in Boulder where he worked on a team that made repairs to the Hubble telescope.

“The Lord has led me through some exciting times,” John said.


After Tuesday night’s broadcast of America’s Got Talent, John might consider adding another chapter to his book. The 82-year-old’s jaw-dropping performance of “Bodies” by heavy metal band, Drowning Pool, brought the crowd to its feet.

“I didn’t know two and a half thousand in the audience would react the same way that 30 drunks in the bar do, but they did!” John said.

PERFORMANCES: See our first story about John HERE

John describes his singing style as “loose” and “casual.” His favorite part about singing heavy metal is the reaction he gets from the audience.

“Everybody seems to think it’s great that an old man is screaming ‘let the bodies hit the floor!’” John said.

John didn’t start performing until later in life. He auditioned and sang during talent shows on cruise ships in the 90s and later got hooked on karaoke. A DJ at a bar in Albuquerque convinced him to give heavy metal a shot. He’s been singing “Bodies” for a couple years now. He also has Rob Zombie’s “Dragula” in his repertoire.

“He likes attention,” John’s wife, Marcy, said with a smile. “He’s the youngest of five kids.”

If John Hetlinger was looking for attention, he certainly got it. His America’s Got Talent audition was posted to YouTube and Facebook and has been viewed millions of times. Even Drowning Pool saw the performance and reached out to John on social media.

“Shout out to the 82 year old dude that sang ‘Bodies’ on America’s Got Talent,” John said, reading a Facebook post by Drowning Pool. “You are welcome to join us on stage anytime!”

John described the response he’s gotten from fans as “unimaginable,” and he’s having way too much fun to let any of the critics bother him.

“There are reviews in all the heavy metal magazines and all over the world, but they include statements like, ‘well, admittedly he doesn’t sing very well,’” John said with a laugh.

Marcy Hetligner contends her husband really does have a good singing voice, underneath all of that screaming. She’s the one who convinced him to audition for America’s Got Talent.

“Marcy has told me for years while we were watching that I should be on there,” John said. “So, I took her advice and figured, why not?”

The 82-year-old heavy metal headbanger made it through the first round of auditions on America’s Got Talent, and can certainly add another chapter to his life story.