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Fortune to Headline Labor Day Event

August 30, 2017
BY LAUREN MATTHEWS - Editor ( , Wetzel Chronicle

Singer and songwriter Jimmy Fortune will be visiting Paden City for a fourth time, on Sept. 4, when he headlines the town's annual Labor Day event.

Fortune will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. This free concert is sponsored by Gold, Khourey & Turak and the Unions of the AFL-CIO.

Recently he spoke to the Wetzel Chronicle, by phone, about his upcoming visit.

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The Wetzel Chronicle interviewed Fortune a year ago, when he headlined the holiday festival then. Fortune was then described as "grounded, kind, and down-to-earth.

These words still describe Fortune, who is ecstatic about his upcoming trip to West Virginia. He described Paden City as "a beautiful little town."

"Everyone is so nice, and it's so pretty. It's like a big family reunion," he said of his visit.

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 release is "Jimmy Fortune Sings The Classics."

The album features collaborations with longtime friends Ricky Skaggs, The Isaacs and the Voices of Lee. The Gaither Music Group project is available at music retailers everywhere, along with Cracker Barrel Old Country Store locations nationwide.

"These are the songs I grew up on," Fortune said of the tracks on the album. "These are songs I heard on the radio, songs that shaped my life. Everything is on there."

When asked about his favorite track, Fortune answered that though it is hard to pick one favorite, he would choose Michael Murphy's Wildfire.

"It was one of my little girls' favorite songs, when they were little. They loved horses, and so they always wanted me to sing that song. They would say "Sing Wildfire, Daddy.'"

Fortune said he gets tears in his eyes, thinking about the tender moment when he would sing the song to his girls when they were "laying in their little beds at night."

"By the time I got to the end of the song, they'd be asleep."

Another personal favorite from his newest album is "Make The World Go Away," by Eddy Arnold.

"It's the first song I ever heard on the radio, on an AM radio. We didn't have a record player, but my daddy had a '56 Plymouth. We turned on the radio, and I heard that."

Fortune cited Ray Price's "Crazy Arms," along with the Eagles' "Take It To The Limit," as additional favorites.

"These songs just brought back a lot of memories," Fortune said.

One song Fortune will be sure to sing on Sept. 4 is John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads." This song is also on Fortune's newest album.

"I'm a big John Denver fan," Fortune said. He said the John Denver classic has always been a mainstay song of his. "I love West Virginia... on top of the mountains... It's a mystery, a mystic... You can feel it in those mountains the little streams. You stop, and you see that clear water running through the creek. Man, there is nothing like it."

Another Fortune favorite is "Annie's Song," by John Denver.

"One of my wife's best friends... it was one of her favorite songs, and she passed away last year. She wanted us to put that song on the album. It was on there. We got it recorded and took it to her. She got to hear it before she passed away."

Fortune said every song on his new album "has a special meaning."

Despite decades in the music industry, Fortune has no intention of slowing down.

"I like to keep moving. I don't like to sit still too long. I like to recreate things, and I'm always writing things, coming up with new things. I don't know how many CDs it has been since the Statler Brothers retired. I've done a couple of DVDs. The next thing I'll do would be a live DVD of my whole career over the last 15 years, and I want to feature a lot of these things that I had on my new album. It'll be kind of a wrap-up of the last 15 years, and then after that, I want to start over again with brand new songs, and eventually come back to a classics album."

The past year has been a career-defining time for Fortune, who was honored by the Academy of Country Music at the 10th Annual ACM Honors with the "Cliffie Stone Pioneer Award" for his incredible contribution to country music, along with each member of The Statler Brothers. The Gospel Music Hall of Fame hit maker also received his first GMA Dove Award for "Bluegrass Recorded Song of the Year" for the track "Life's Railway to Heaven" featuring The Oak Ridge Boys and found on his previous critically-acclaimed album, Hits & Hymns (Gaither Music Group).

Fortune said he enjoys travelling the country, "getting around and seeing people out there."

"We don't really make cold calls to people for gigs, for jobs. We feel really blessed that people call us and book."

Fortune definitely has a soft spot for Paden City. When asked of other favorite locations, he mentioned Apache Junction, Arizona, which Fortune describes as "one of the most beautiful places in the world." He mentioned, with sadness, a favorite Apache Junction restaurant - Mining Camp Restaurant - that was destroyed by a fire this past June.

Fortune said the restaurant offered "some of the best food you've put in your mouth."

It's important to Fortune to make a connection with the places he performs, the people he meets.

"I feel like if you don't love the people, you are in the wrong business," he said. He mentions how he loves to "get out with the people, sign autographs."

"I enjoy that part of the show as much as anything. I love the smalltown atmosphere, everyone just loving eachother."



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