On April 27, 2011, a deadly tornado outbreak struck the deep South, taking at least 280 lives across 6 states. More than two-thirds of those deaths occurred in Alabama. Parts of 31 counties were utterly destroyed. One of the hardest hit cities in Alabama was Tuscaloosa. Entire neighborhoods were decimated by a tornado that spanned a half-mile with winds that likely exceeded 200 mph. At least 53 people died in that tornado, many more injured, and so many more left without home, possessions, cars, jobs…
Among the first to arrive in Tuscaloosa that night was the Montgomery Fire Department. They arrived around 11:00 pm and worked tirelessly along with other local Fire Departments to offer aid to the survivors and help search for those who were missing.
A short time after, Alabama native Keith Moody contacted Vinnie, the owner of the Rock Bottom American Pub in Montgomery, to set up a benefit. That was the same day that Vinnie had opened a notebook to start brainstorming ways to help the tornado victims. Together, they set up a benefit concert to be hosted by the Rock Bottom to raise money for the American Red Cross, with 100% of all donations to be given to the Red Cross to help with the clean up efforts in the wake of April’s tornadoes. At one point in the planning, as Vinnie told me, he had to stop calling bands because everyone he contacted was more than eager to come out and play.
In all, 12 acts – 6 acoustic and 6 bands – were scheduled to perform. This included musicians from all over the Deep South; some, like the Keith Moody Band, from as far as Nashville. The bands included: Wes Darnell, Wax, The Keith Moody Band, Leg-N-Liquor, Benny & the Jets, Mama Said, Blanton, Sam Marshal, Angels Landed, Lucky, Charlie C and the Cuzamatics, Zac Young, and Nick Gill. Instead of a cover charge, those who came were asked to make donations.
The music was, simply put, amazing. As promised, the music was non-stop from noon until the end of the night. While the bands inside were setting up or tearing down, you could venture onto the patio and listen to acoustic sets. Every single artist there had terrific talent, and I was amazed by the pure energy of some of them, especially by Benny and the Jets and Charlie C and the Cuzamatics. I also found a new obsession with the Keith Moody Band, as they played primarily originals (something I’ve been dying to hear since I moved to Montgomery). The night was brought to a rocking finale with the ever talented Mama Said.
However, as talented as everyone was, one of the musical highlights of the day came when the vocalist of Legs-N-Liquor invited a little girl up to the stage to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” between bands. This little girl, along with another who was too shy to get up on stage, danced their little hearts out to Legs-N-Liquor, and even had the chance to go up on stage and dance with the vocalist on one of the songs. The entire bar melted at the girl’s sweet voice as that short song whispered out over the sound of cameras snapping.
The musicians weren’t the only ones raising money for the Red Cross. The bar owner’s 6-year-old son, Riley, also played a huge part in raising money by setting up a lemonade stand inside the bar. That’s right, this benefit concert had it’s own lemonade stand! On a hot May day in the Deep South, with temperatures climbing into the upper-90s, that cool, quenching lemonade hit the spot. In all, this little entrepreneur sold 102 lemonades. At 50 cents a glass, he earned $51 dollars for the Red Cross.
The benefit concert was an outstanding success. Over $3,000 were raised. This was the second of Keith Moody’s three benefit concerts, the one before in Franklin, TN, and the next will be on Memorial Day in Fairhope, AL.
The tornado season isn’t over yet. Just this past Sunday, a monstrous F-5 tornado ripped through Joplin, MO, taking over 100 lives, making it the deadliest tornado since 1953. Already, at least 487 people have lost their lives to tornadoes this year alone, and many more have lost their homes. It’s never too late to volunteer or donate to help the victims of these disasters.
The Red Cross is always taking donations. Or if there’s a different charity you’d rather donate to, go for it.
Until next time, stay safe and keep rocking!