Jimmy Fortune Interview - Still Singing the Classics
Tim had the opportunity to interview Jimmy Fortune on August 11, 2017 in advance of his September 14 show at Mill Town Music Hall in Bremen, Georgia. Jimmy was a long time member of The Statler Brothers and now has a flourishing solo career. He recently released an album called Jimmy Fortune Sings the Classics.
Tim: I’m really happy to talk to you. You’re coming to Bremen, Georgia at Mill Town Music Hall, September 14th. Is the show going to be focused on a lot of the songs from the new album, or are you going to go through all of your hits? What can people expect from the show?
Jimmy: Well, what I usually do is I pay tribute to my brothers Hal, Phil, Don and Lew (Statler Brothers). I pay tribute to those guys in my show because they are a big part of my life. One of the biggest parts of my life is the Statler Brothers, so I go back and play some of the songs I wrote for them like, “Elizabeth", "My Only Love”, “Too Much on My Heart”, “More Than a Name on a Wall". And then I throw in some standard Statler Brothers songs like, “Flowers on the Wall” or “Bed of Roses” or “Go to my Grave Loving You”. Also, I will feature my new album, The Classics Album and feature some songs off my Hits & Hymns album, which is a lot of the hymns I grew up with. And a lot of my show is patriotic, a tribute to our veterans that have done so much for us. It’s my life in a concert.
Tim: That’s really cool!
Jimmy: The Statler Brothers are such a big part of my life - I surely couldn’t leave that out.
Tim: Did you start with them in 1982?
Jimmy: Yes, 1982. I came to fill in for Lew DeWitt. He was suffering from Crohn's disease. I came to fill in for him for about 6 months, and later he asked me if I could do it full-time because he didn’t think he could take the road anymore. I said, "Yeah, I’d be an idiot to turn it down” - so, I owe Lew a lot. He passed away back in 1990. He eventually needed a heart transplant.
Tim: Aww, that’s terrible.
Jimmy: He wrote “Flowers on the Wall".
Tim: Yeah, I saw that was on the Jimmy Fortune Sings The Classics. I love that song, and I was born in 1960. When did that song come out?
Jimmy: That song was a recorded in 1964 - it actually beat out The Beatles for a Grammy in 1965.
Tim: I love that song.
Jimmy: It was a true song - Lew DeWitt worked at a mental institution and he wrote that song from a personal experience. It’s pretty cool that it’s a true story.
Tim: Wow, that’s really interesting! I had no idea!
Tim: Your new album, Jimmy Fortune Sings The Classics came out in April, right?
Tim: What are some of the songs that you have on that album?
Jimmy: Well, those songs kind of shook my life. I put out the word to the fans that I was going to do an album like that, and I wanted their input. People wrote in about songs they wanted Jimmy Fortune to sing, so these songs counted up with the most votes. One of the first songs I had heard on the radio was a hit from Eddie Arnold called “Make the World Go Away”. In my daddy’s ‘56 Plymouth, he had a radio and that was the only way we could hear music at that time. And songs like, “Crazy Arms” from Ray Price and songs that go all the way to The Beatles, “Yesterday".
Jimmy: And Glenn Campbell’s, “Southern Nights". And he just passed away.
Tim: Yeah, I know.
Jimmy: He was one of my favorites.
Jimmy: And then, songs from the Eagles - they are one of my favorite groups. Their first number one hit was “Take it to the Limits", that’s on there as well. A song by Simon and Garfunkel, “Bridge Over Troubled Water".
Tim: Yeah, that’s an awesome song.
Jimmy: That’s just a few on there. Those songs really did shape my life and when I hear about people buying the CD and having it - and they listen, it takes them back. I have always kind of frowned on people that did other people’s albums, but it’s been so long and you haven’t heard these songs with another voice on them - I’m thinking people like that. They are a fan of what you do, and want to hear you sing these songs.
Tim: I think, in just listening to your voice I can picture you singing those songs and think - “he’s going to nail this song." They seem to fit you really well.
Jimmy: There’s a song on there from Michael Martin Murphy called, “Wildfire”, which was my little girls’ favorite song growing up. They wanted me to sing that song when I put them to bed at night. There’s some John Denver hits on there, “Country Roads Take Me Home”. These are songs that have a special meaning to me as well.
Tim: Is there one that is your favorite on the album, or are they all up there?
Jimmy: Well, to me they all have a place with me. I try to pay tribute to the original song and put myself into it as well. I think when people listen, they are going to hear that - and they are going to feel it. It was so much fun to do. I wish I could do another one right now, because really - honest to God, I could have had a hundred songs I could have put on there.
Tim: Maybe you will have Volume Two coming up soon.
Jimmy: I’m sure I’ll do that. I want to do a live DVD of the last 15 years and I also want to put all of these songs on there. But I also want to go over the last 15 years of my career and go back and do some of the things I did with the Statlers - just an overall cap of the last 15 years of being on my own and doing a live DVD as my next project.
Tim: That would be really nice - a live DVD would be cool.
Tim: Going back looking over your career, is there one song that you think is the most meaningful song that you have ever written, or does that change depending on your time in life?
Jimmy: Well, of course “Elizabeth” was the song that got me out there. It was the first song I wrote with the Statlers. It was a number one song of the year and a big song that is still out there today. The song that probably means the most to me was a song that I co-wrote with a friend of mine. The song was “More Than a Name on a Wall”, which pays tribute to our veterans - men and women who served. I made a trip up to Washington D.C. years ago and visited the Vietnam Memorial to see it for the first time. I stood there and listened to a mother talking to the wall as if she was talking to her son. I wrote a song about that. “More Than a Name on a Wall” just hit me as a profound statement and I knew that song had to be written. The song has made such an impact on my life, but not only mine - all of these veterans come up and share their stories with me about what they went through and how they are doing now in their life. That song kind of bridged a gap, there had been a lot of healing for people. That song probably means more to me than any that I have written.
Tim: I would think so. It has an impact on other people, so that’s got to be an amazing feeling to know what you’ve written out of your heart has a positive impact on others.
Jimmy: You always know those songs that God has His stamp on it. They are the ones that move people spiritually and a lot of those are the ones you look at and go - “I really just didn’t have much to do with that, God did it all Himself.”
Tim: That’s so true. I know faith is a really important part of your life. It’s obvious through your music and who you are.
Jimmy: Thank you for saying that. I really appreciate it.
Tim: You’re welcome. Are you on TV much now? The Statler Brothers had a show for a while, didn’t they?
Jimmy: Yeah, back in 1991-1997 it was the number one rated television show on TNN - for seven years. It was a lot of fun doing that. I do a lot of shows now, “Country’s Family Reunion” and I do some Gaither programs with Bill Gaither, so I’m out there doing quite a bit. Also,“Larry’s Country Diner” and road shows. Lately, I have been getting a lot of attention from these last two CD’s that Jimmy Fortune’s Hits and Hymns and the new Classics album. It’s kind of plowed a lot of new ground for me. Things have really taken off in the last couple of years.
Tim: I saw where you are touring a fair amount right now. I think you have 10-11 shows in September. Is that fairly typical for you or is this a really busy time?
Jimmy: Yeah, I try to take time for family as much as I can, because I missed a lot when my kids were growing up. I try to get as much of that in that I can with my grandchildren. I only take on as much work that I feel comfortable with, so I am pretty busy. I have a hard time saying no to things, but I make myself, and my wife does it for me. She knows I need that time for family things, because family is so important.
Tim: Is your wife’s name, Nina?
Tim: Because I was looking at your website and she does a really good job of replying to people when they post comments and messages. I saw her name on there a lot. That’s really neat that she’s taken on that role.
Jimmy: Yeah, she does. If it wasn’t for her I couldn’t do this, because she allows me the time to go visit with my children and family. She and I don’t have any children. We were married about 19 years ago, but we never had any children. I had children previously and she really helps me and allows me to do that. I appreciate her because if it wasn’t for her, I couldn’t do it.
Tim: We are really excited that you are coming to Bremen and that will be the 14th of September. Is there anything else important that you would like people to know?
Jimmy: No, no. I just love to be there. We sign autographs after every show and get out there with the people and meet and greet. I do not charge for the autographs. I heard about somebody doing that the other day and charging something ridiculous for an autograph. Ha ha
Tim: Haha. I’m sure there will be a lot of people coming up to see you and saying “Hi”. It’s a really neat venue. Have you done a show at Mill Town before?
Jimmy: Yeah, yeah it’s a really beautiful venue.
Tim: Yeah, and it’s intimate.
Jimmy: I love coming there. I did it once before.
Tim: I really appreciate your time and thank you for taking the time to interview with me.
Jimmy: Absolutely, buddy! Anything you need just let me know! Get back in touch!
Tim: Okay, thank you so much!
Jimmy: Thank you brother, God bless you.
You can read other interviews we have done at www.newsandviewsusa.com/interviews