Fortune Returns to Paden City
Despite possessing a highly impressive and respected career in the country and gospel music scenes, Jimmy Fortune remains grounded, kind, and down-to-earth – easy to talk to. In fact, the former Statler Brother is returning, for a third time, to Paden City, West Virginia – what he likens to as “the heart of America.”
Fortune will headline the town’s Labor Day festivities on Monday, Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m.
“This is what I love about where I’m at in my career,” Fortune said of his upcoming trip to Paden City. “I can come to small towns and get out and meet, and mingle and talk to the people. I get to say ‘thank you’ all over again.”
Fortune was a member of the legendary Statler Brothers, which reigned in country music for an impressive 40 years. The Statler Brothers is also considered the most awarded act in the history of country music. Fortune spent 21 years with the group, until its retirement in 2002. During his tenure with the group, Fortune wrote the No. 1 hits “Elizabeth,” “My Only Love,” and “Too Much On My Heart.”
He also wrote the Top 10 hit “Forever,” and he co-wrote “More Than a Name on the Wall,” which was a Top-10 hit as well.
During Fortune’s time with the group, the Statler Brothers had 22 singles chart on the Hot Country Songs chart; 15 of those singles were Top 10 hits.
The Statler Brothers were also CMA “Vocal Group of the Year” winners. The group was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 2007 and were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.
And though the Statler Brothers retired in 2002, Fortune has continued to pursue his musical talents.
Fortune’s latest solo release, Hits & Hymns, debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard Country Charts. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Southern Gospel Album chart, and No. 6 on the Billboard Contemporary Christian Album Chart. The DVD special, which accompanies the album, debuted at No. 1 on, both, the Billboard Music Video chart and Christian Music Fideo chart.
Of Hits & Hymns, Fortune noted that he teamed up with Bill Gaither. “We sat down and talked about doing a record and DVD for his label. He wanted it to be a carryover, from when I wrote with the Statler Brothers.”
Hits & Hymns describes the album perfectly. It features Statler Brothers hits such as “Elizabeth,” and “Too Much On My Heart.” However, it also features hymnal favorites such as “Rock Of Ages,” “Precious Memories,” and “Just A Closer Walk With Thee.”
When asked what his favorite hymn is, Fortune said he has a few favorites – “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Rock of Ages.”
“I guess there is never one that could be written better than those,” he noted.
“John Newton, of course, wrote Amazing Grace… To listen to that song, it’s all about grace. When you stop and think about life, if it wasn’t for God’s amazing grace, no would have hope. The song is just coming from a thankful heart. If I had to say there was one that was a favorite, it would be Amazing Grace.”
Gaither and Fortune also agreed to include the song “More Than A Name On A Wall,” which was refused radio play at its release by two stations due to being controversial.
“I pay tribute to veterans, and I get to say ‘thank you’ to them, and this song allowed me that opportunity,” Fortune said.
“I went to Washington, D.C. years ago and saw the memorials there, and I saw the Vietnam Memorial. I saw those 60,000 names. It hit me. It was a profound statement. One name was stacked on top of one another. When you see 60,000 names, you see how big that wall is. You see and hear the stories of mothers and fathers, sisters and friends. They come to the wall and share their story, and you realize that profound statement is more than a name on the wall.”
“(More Than A Name On A Wall) is a really powerful song that has meant a lot to veterans… Hearing some of those stories… they are heartbreaking… When you write something like (More Than A Name On A Wall), they realize that hey, someone really cares. They realize that people do care. They meant something to this country and always will.”
Fortune, throughout his Statler Brother and solo careers, has travelled all 50 states. At the time of this interview, he noted that he had recently visited Minnesota, Washington, Alaska, Washington again, and Montana.
When asked what his favorite place across the states is, Fortune noted that he was recently impressed by Montana Music Ranch in Livingston, Montana.
“It is right outside of Yellowstone Park. The venue is like a big barn, and it’s turned into a theatre. The theatre seats about 500 people. The back of it opens and there is a terrace, and a hillside… people bring blankets and picnic. It looks into Yellowstone park. People are so nice, and it is just a great place to play. One of my other favorite places is a place out in Arizona. It’s a place called Apache Junction. It’s beautiful scneery out there… I just have a weakness for the West.”
Fortune himself grew up in Virginia. He noted that he grew up in the area where the television show “The Waltons” took place – the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“As a matter of fact, I got to know and became friends with Earl Hamner, Jr., the writer and creator of The Waltons,” Fortune explained, adding that Hamner passed away a few months ago.
“I really miss him,” Fortune said, noting that while we all learned about Hamner’s life through his book and subsequent series, Hamner got to hear about his childhood and life “through my songs, through me talking about them.”
“I had a wonderful childhood growing up in Virginia,” Fortune said.
And Fortune never seems to forget that either. When talking about “the heart of America,” he noted that he is honored and thankful to those he meets in the smaller towns and areas, such as the one he grew up in… and Paden City.
“When I get to come to these small towns in America, to come back and say ‘thank you’ again from myself and the Statler Brothers… seeing a lot of those fans and meeting new fans as well, I love it… People are thankful that you don’t forget and come back, and let them in on where you are going.”
Fortune said, also, that he keeps up with the Statler Brothers.
“They’ve had some ups and downs, but they are doing really well. I just got off the phone with Don (Reid) a little while ago, and we try to keep up with eachother. We still keep in touch. I want people to know they are doing fine, and I’d like for people to know that they always tell me to say thank you for them.”