Blues guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd remembers what it's like. He grew up in Shreveport, La., and has vivid memories of the sky turning a sickly color and the winds suddenly whipping up around his town.
In fact, a few days before Monday's EF5 tornado displaced thousands of residents and took the lives of at least two dozen people in Moore and south Oklahoma City, four tornadoes came within striking distance of Shepherd's northwestern Louisiana birthplace.
“It's kind of part of the ‘Tornado Alley' area,” Shepherd said in a phone interview Wednesday from his home in California. “I have very vivid memories of being a kid and the storms come rolling through town. It gets very quiet, everything looks really green, and then all of a sudden — without any notice, really — the tornadoes come. I remember hiding in the bathroom and doing the drills in school.”
It all struck home for Shepherd. With a concert already scheduled June 7 at the Diamond Ballroom, Shepherd felt the only way to go was to give all he could. Now, his concert will be a benefit show, “We Can Help Moore,” with all proceeds going to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma's tornado relief efforts.
“I don't think we could come there with a sound conscience and not do something to help,” Shepherd said. “So this is completely a benefit concert. I'm not getting paid and my band's not getting paid. We want 100 percent of the proceeds to benefit the community. And that's also why we chose the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, because we wanted it to be a local organization, and I believe 96 cents of every dollar actually goes back into the community.”
From country superstars and red dirt rockers to local art-pop heroes and acclaimed Americana scribes, an array of Oklahoma musicians, venues and even local comedians are planning benefit shows on behalf of victims of this week's deadly tornadoes. Some are converting already scheduled concerts into charity events, while others have been burning midnight oil and social media communication lines to create fundraisers from scratch.
Ada native Blake Shelton told Billboard Tuesday night he and NBC have begun organizing a televised benefit concert. The Tishomingo resident is a celebrity coach on NBC's hit reality show “The Voice.”
“I'm hoping it will raise a lot of money. Obviously it will be televised and will happen really quickly,” he said. While pointing to fellow “The Voice” coach Usher, he added, “I can call in some really big favors.”
Likewise, Toby Keith, who grew up in Moore, told CNN Tuesday night he has fielded numerous inquiries about playing a benefit concert for tornado victims at either the University of Oklahoma or Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Norman resident said he is willing to do so, but plans are still in the works.
“Always when these things happen, music people get together, and I've had 500 text messages from people all over the music world saying ‘What are we doing? You know, we want to help.' That's just everybody's way,” Keith said. “So I've talked to the people at OU; they've called me (about) maybe using the stadium. There's some more people trying to put one on at Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City. So I don't know if everybody's gonna unite. Whatever. I'm in. And Moore knows I'm gonna be here. But hopefully, in the next couple of days we can sort it all out.”
Among the plans
A massive benefit called “Music for Moore” will be staged at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Chevy Bricktown Events Center, featuring JD McPherson, Graham Colton, Parker Millsap, Colourmusic, ADDverse Effects, Evangelicals, Taddy Porter, Hosty, Ramsay Midwood, Beau Jennings & the Tigers, Skating Polly, Jacob Abello, The Damn Quails and DEERPEOPLE. Proceeds will benefit Oklahoma chapters of the American Red Cross.
At the Blue Door, Friday's tornado benefit featuring Kevin Welch, Michael Fracasso and Miss Brown to You sold out in less than 24 hours, even after Grammy nominee John Fullbright had to pull out because of a previous engagement.
Tickets still are available to a Saturday benefit concert at the Blue Door with Fracasso and Miss Brown to You, plus proprietor Greg Johnson has partnered with Ticketstorm.com to let patrons who can't make the shows donate to the cause through Sunday.
“We just figure it's the least we could do. While we've got shows going on, we might as well do what we can to help,” said Johnson, who intends to donate the funds to the United Way of Central Oklahoma's long-term relief efforts.
Fullbright will perform at the Peace, Love & Goodwill benefit show June 8 at the Chevy Bricktown Event Center, along with Tony Lucca, Shane Henry, Maggie McClure and more. The second annual concert originally was intended to benefit Goodwill's scholarship program, but this year funds will be diverted to tornado relief, and the charity will find another way to provide scholarships, said Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma CEO Chris Daniels.
Between show sponsorships and ticket sales, plus change drives at local Goodwill stores, Daniels hopes to raise $100,000 for the Oklahoma Red Cross' relief efforts.
McClure, who is from Norman but lives in Los Angeles, also played last year's Peace, Love & Goodwill show and said her heart has been in her home state while the twisters' devastation has been revealed.
“It's for a good cause anyway ... and last year it was a huge success and just a great event to be a part of. I hope this year is even better, especially with the proceeds now going to the families impacted by the tornado,” she said.
“It was really difficult being away, being in Los Angeles, and watching this on the news and seeing how close to home it was. My family is in Norman, and we have a bunch of friends in Moore and know people whose houses were destroyed. It's just really hit a little too close to home for me.”
The listed concerts are donating all or a portion of proceeds to tornado relief. More concerts will be scheduled. Check NewsOK.com for updates as more benefit concerts are added.