Podcast with former Statler Brother Jimmy Fortune, who plays on Saturday with Dailey & Vincent at New River Community College
It’s one thing to join a longstanding band, replacing a key voice from that band. It’s another thing to keep up the same success once the original formula has been tweaked. And it’s another thing still to contribute the kind of original songwriting that goes so far as to elevate the band’s status, keeping it relevant.
That’s what Jimmy Fortune did when he joined the Statler Brothers. Fortune was a guy with two jobs and a cover band at night when some pals called him to come to Wintergreen Resort in 1982 to sing some songs with them. As fate would have it, Statler Brother Lew Dewitt was in the house that night.
DeWitt, who had to quit touring with the act due to Crohn’s disease, heard Fortune sing and immediately thought that he had met the newest Statler Brother. He turned on the band — actual brothers Don and Harold Reid, and Phil Balsey — to this new voice, and Fortune joined the act.
But he did more than fill a vocal slot onstage. The next year, Fortune’s first-ever song — that’s right, the first song he ever wrote — “Elizabeth,” became a No. 1 hit, ending any thought about the band’s future with the new guy. The show went on for 21 more years.
Fortune, who meets up with Statler fanatics Dailey & Vincent for a Saturday show at New River Community College, remembered how it happened.
“I found myself with a little time, sitting around and going, man, I’m with the most awarded act in the history of country music, when every time we record an album, it seems like you just tell ‘em what single you’re gonna release and it pretty much goes on up the charts, you know,” Fortune said.
“I looked at that as an opportunity. I went to Harold, Phil and Don, I said ‘Look, I haven’t written a song before, but I know that Lou wrote, and Lou is a great writer. … If I write a song, would you guys record it?’”
“And Harold looked at me and said, and I’ll never forget this, [Fortune drops his voice in an attempt to affect Reid's bass voice], ‘Well yeah, little buddy, if it’s good enough.”
But Fortune’s favorite song that he penned for that act is “More Than A Name On A Wall.” Hear him discuss that one and her more about the Statlers, Fortune’s solo career, Dailey & Vincent and more on this podcast. And by the way, the sound bite that starts this ‘cast is the Dailey & Vincent version of “Elizabeth.”