It’s been 50 years since Hurricane Camille hit Nelson County, but for this musician the memories of that night come back at “the snap of a finger.” Through his music, he hopes people will feel like the loved ones they lost haven’t been forgotten.
“It was like something out of a science fiction movie. I don’t know how to explain it. It was a true nightmare,” American country music singer, Jimmy Fortune said, recalling the night of August 19, 1969 when at 14 he watched Muddy Creek by his house grow to 30 feet deep and 100 yards wide. That night he and his family watched a landslide just barely miss their home, and the county lost one percent of its population in a few short hours.
Fortune, a Nelson County native now living in Nashville, will return June 15 to perform at the Rockfish Valley Community Center in Afton from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Blue Mountain pavilion with Bennie Dodd and Joey Davis in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Hurricane Camille.
Jimmy Fortune and Friends are performing songs about Hurricane Camille, including “The Bypass,” written by Davis right after the storm hit, and a new song, “Why Won’t You Leave Me Camille.”
“They are all friends who grew up together playing music in the area. It will be a relaxed atmosphere and will be a lot of fun,” Deborah Harvey, president of the Nelson County Historical Society, said.
Harvey said Fortune, Dodd, and Davis approached the Nelson County Historical Society and suggested a concert in honor of the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Camille. After the date was decided, Fortune began thinking more and more about that night and how everything played out. One night this past April, Fortune said he couldn’t sleep and ended up writing a new song for the victims of Hurricane Camille called “We Won’t Forget You.” Fortune will perform it for the first time June 15.
“It is a song letting the victims know their lives matter and will never be forgotten and I will always be a voice for them,” Fortune said. “It’s a heartfelt tribute to those who died.”
Along with “We Won’t Forget You,” Fortune will be performing a number of new songs including “Thank God for Mom and Daddy” and “Virginia Dreams,” which is about growing up in Nelson County and how Fortune misses it. Fortune said he feels we have a lot to be thankful for in this country and his new CD, “God and Country,” reflects that.
“It’s just us and our guitars telling our story and what the county means to us and the people, what they mean to us,” Fortune said.
Davis said although he and Dodd play together often, he is looking forward to the concert. For Davis, it’s been about 25 to 30 years since he has sung “The Bypass” in public, and even playing the new song “Why Won’t You Leave Me Camille,” he said it’s hard to revisit the tragedy despite the time that has passed.
Davis said the three will perform country-style music and other songs not related to Hurricane Camille, and hope to keep concert-goers entertained.
“I’m excited to be doing this after all the years,” Davis said.
Dodd is also excited about the concert and to have Davis’ song performed again after all these years.
“It really resonated within the community; it was healing. That’s what this concert is about,” Dodd said.
Dodd felt something needed to be done after fifty years and is happy that he, Fortune, and Davis can bring their music to the public and help continue the healing process.
“It’s really come together good. I’m just tickled pink about the whole thing,” Dodd said.
Harvey said the money from the benefit concert will go to the Nelson County Historical Society to help it enhance and expand its Hurricane Camille exhibit over the next few years. Harvey said they want to be able to expand the size of the museum as well as add more interactive exhibits with updated technology for visitors.
As far as the music goes, Fortune, Dodd, and Davis all said they hope the concert helps remind people their loved ones lost aren’t forgotten.
“To us, we will never forget it. It’s a big deal. It was a small area, but a lot of people’s friends and family were killed that night,” Fortune said. “I hope people will come away from this feeling and remembering of the loved ones they lost, friends they lost, and the feeling of, ‘Hey we didn’t forget you and we will never forget you.’”
Attendees are encouraged to bring chairs or blankets to sit on as the concert will be held outside at RVCC. Harvey said an array of food trucks and beverages will be on site the day of the concert. No coolers will be allowed.