BY VICTORIA HENLEY
Effortlessly smooth vocals, an engaging stage presence, and an uncanny ability to connect with audiences through songwriting, are just a few of the myriad of reasons that the iconic country/gospel group, The Statler Brothers, welcomed Jimmy Fortune to their group in 1982.
Upon initially joining as a temporary replacement for Lee DeWitt, who was suffering from the debilitating Crohn’s disease at the time, Fortune subsequently was officially hired as a full time member and swiftly proved to the public that he had well-earned his spot as a principal member.
During his 21 year career with the legendary group, Fortune penned numerous chart topping, number one hits including, “Elizabeth,” “Too Much on my Heart” and “My Only Love.”
Throughout their illustrious career, The Statler Brothers enjoyed special appearances for their friends, Ronald Reagan and Elizabeth Taylor, collaborations with The Beatles, and a successful run of their very own television program “The Statler Brothers’ Show,” which aired on The Nashville Network for seven consecutive seasons, debuting in 1991 as the highest rated show for the network.
Fortune enjoyed performing on gold, platinum and double platinum albums with the group, experiencing massive success not only with the public, but also with the critics, as the Statler Brothers were inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame and the Country Music Association Hall of Fame and received a plethora of additional awards and accolades.
Fortune was not ready to step away from the music industry when the Statler Brothers announced their retirement in October 2002; therefore, he decided to embark on his own solo career, allowing his signature, stellar songwriting abilities and vocals to take center stage.
Admittedly a bit nervous to embark into the uncharted territory of building his solo brand and “starting over again,” Fortune got to work, booking venues, arranging collaborations and releasing singles, this time simply as “Jimmy Fortune.”
Fortune’s solo works were extremely well received by his peers and fans and following the success of his initial solo CD (the aptly titled) “When One Door Closes” in 2003, he went on to release the equally popular Christian album “I Believe,” a Christmas CD, “Feels like Christmas” in 2006, as well as several country CDs and live concert DVDs.
I received the opportunity to interview this decorated singer/songwriter prior to his March 25 performance at The Grand Theatre in Fitzgerald GA (a beautifully renovated Art Deco style theatre located in the heart of the eclectic and innovative city of Fitzgerald, Ga.), where we discussed his storied career, his songwriting process, and why “retiring” just simply isn’t for him.
Be sure to subscribe to “Backstage Pass” on Apple, iTunes, the IHeart Radio website, or wherever you get your podcasts to hear the full interview, once released.
Fortune remained equally as engaging and personable throughout his two hour (nearly sold out) set as he was during our one on one interview, performing some of his best known hits including the heart-wrenching, patriotic “More Than a Name on a Wall,” “Elizabeth” and “Too Much on My Heart” as well as some his greatest hits for the Beatles and rousing renditions of other artists’ hits, including “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver.
Fortune quipped during his set that his mom mentioned to him that having a CD available at Cracker Barrel would mean that he truly “made it,” and now, he has enjoyed the success of several “Best Seller” CDs at the popular restaurant franchise.
Always infusing down home humor into his set, Jimmy joked that he was known as “the little guy on the end” when performing with The Statler Brothers, and now he is “the little guy in the end” as the last performer in the since-retired group actively working within the music industry.
You can follow Jimmy Fortune’s upcoming appearances, album and single releases, and more on the pages listed below, and be sure to also connect with the Grand Theatre in Fitzgerald for an exciting and line up of theatrical productions, concerts, community events, and more!