A version of this story, which I co-wrote with my excellent colleague George Lang, appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Rock, pop and country acts give their talents and time to help Oklahoma tornado victims
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 EF-5 tornado displaced thousands of residents in Moore and took the lives of 24 people, four tornadoes came within striking distance of Shepherd’s birthplace in northwestern Louisiana.
“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 for 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 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 already 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 the network’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.”
The concert is set for Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena, according to the Associated Press.
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. … 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.”
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, Damn Quails and DEERPEOPLE. Proceeds will benefit the Oklahoma chapter 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 are still available to a Saturday benefit concert 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.