Musician who began locally to be honored

Published 12:45 pm Tuesday, September 24, 2013

BRANDON – A Mississippi man who got his professional start in Brookhaven will be honored Saturday night, Oct. 5, by the Brandon Opry in the Brandon Municipal Auditorium.

The Opry will honor the legendary Thomas “Fender” Fortenberry of Prentiss, for his more than 70-year commitment, service and dedication to country music in Mississippi, which is still going strong, according to a press release from the Opry.

Fortenberry began his passion for country, bluegrass and gospel music as a member of his family band at the age of seven performing over the airwaves of AM radio from Brookhaven.

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Since that time, he has gone on to play countless shows throughout the southeastern United States and to back many stars of country music, and The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, including Loretta Lynn, Lonzo and Oscar, George Morgan and even a cherished a one-night fill-in with his hero, Earnest Tubb, as an honorary Texas Troubadour when he covered for an ailing bass player.

Fortenberry was the 1965 Bass Player of the year as the result of a nationwide contest that he won in Atlanta, Ga., pitting him against a multitude of players from all over the country. From that honor came a cameo appearance on the television show, HeeHaw.

The doors open at the Brandon Opry in the Municipal Auditorium Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. with a meet and greet, and beginning at 6:30 p.m., the Brandon Opry stage band will kick off the show with a 45-minute set.

Then at 7:30 p.m., Fortenberry will take the stage with Country Jack Harper, and fans will be able to watch “The Legend” in action, doing what he does best, “walking and talking” the Fender bass guitar.

A part of Fortenberry’s legend and a little known fact is that he was the very first to own a Fender electric bass guitar in the state of Mississippi, according to the Opry release.

Tickets for the Oct. 5 special event are only available at the door at a price of $5. Concessions are available, and dancing is encouraged on the huge dance floor. All ages are welcome. Further information is available at (601) 992-4716.

The Municipal Auditorium is located at 1000 Municipal Center Drive, Brandon, MS 39042, inside the city of Brandon Municipal Complex.