Katie Cline, Editor-in-Chief
“Take me back to Jacksonville / Drive me up Mountain Street / Lead me into old Paul Snow / And show me to my seat” are a few of the lyrics from Riley Green’s song “Bury Me in Dixie,” a tribute to his home state of Alabama and his hometown of Jacksonville.
The country singer, 29, who signed a contract with Big Machine Label Group out of Nashville in February, was born and raised in Jacksonville and played as a walk-on quarterback for the Gamecocks from 2008-2010 before leaving school to pursue music. His fond memories of the Jacksonville led him to perform a benefit concert at the Iron City music venue on Friday, March 30, less than two weeks after an EF-3 tornado struck the town.
“I was in Nashville when the tornado came in, and it was a pretty nerve-wracking time,” Green said during an interview with AL.com. “I got back to town [on March 22], and pictures didn’t really do it justice. Not being in town, not able to get out there with a chainsaw, clearing roads … As a singer-songwriter, I started to think about what I could do.”
What he could do was a concert. For Green, whose house in town was not damaged, the need to help was personal, because, as he told AL.com, he knew people who were not as lucky as he was.
“Several folks I went to high school with lost their houses,” Green, who graduated from Jacksonville High School in 2007, said. “It’s amazing that no one was killed. I had friends driving tractors down (state highway) 21, to go help out.”
Green and special guests, singer-songwriters Kyle Coulahan and Adam Hood, raised $50,000 for tornado relief efforts and presented a check to JSU representatives that evening.
“It’s going to be years and years until the city looks like it used to,” Green said. “This is just a small drop in the bucket of what it’s going to take to bring the city back. I just know that if we sell this place out, it’s going to help.”
Back in Jacksonville, local bands put together their own benefit concerts. Because storm damage was concentrated on the north side of town, shows could still be held at regular locations, like Brother’s and Pelhams bars.
The same night as the Riley Green concert, Birmingham-based band Valet Only joined with bands Peach Avenue and Bible Belt for a concert at Brother’s bar.
JSU junior Andrew Panik organized the concert. Panik is a member of Valet Only with fellow student Austin Snow and their friend, Reese Massey. Panik, Snow and Massey make up three-fifths of Bible Belt, along with another JSU student, John Mark Jones, and Timothy Wardlow.
Panik also organized a second show in Gadsden on March 3. Tips were collected at the show, and, in total, $385 was raised.
“The shows on Friday and Saturday night were actually already planned about a month prior,” Panik explained. “The three bands are comprised of some of my favorite people, all local-ishmusicians. After what happened we all, almost without saying, agreed to donate any money we made to the relief fund, [and] the guys at Brothers were cool enough to give any money made at the door to the relief, too.”
With students back on campus and classes begun again, there is one more concert coming to town. Gadsden’s southern rock band The Tuckahoe Travelers will perform with singer-songwriter Aaron Hudgins on April 13 at Pelhams. All proceeds will benefit the ongoing relief efforts.