EXPIRED: 08/31/09 – Jesse Fortune, 79, sang with the best & could have been huge in Blues, but instead he was a barber. He once rejected an opportunity to tour Europe ‘cause he didn’t want to disappoint his regular customers.
Born in Macon, Mississippi in 1930, Fortune grew up in Hattiesburg. He moved to Chicago in 1952 and, influenced by the vocal style of B.B. King, began singing with guitarist Little Monroe. Through the ensuing years, Fortune also worked with Buddy Guy and Otis Rush before he was “discovered” by musician, songwriter, and producer Willie Dixon.
Dixon put Fortune in the studio in 1963, and the singer cut four songs for the USA label, including his signature tune “Too Many Cooks,” which was written by Dixon and later covered by Robert Cray. When little or nothing happened with the songs commercially, Fortune largely retired from recording, preferring to perform locally and work in his barber shop. He once turned down an offer to perform in Europe because he didn’t want to disappoint his regulars.
In the early-1990s, Fortune hooked up with young guitarslinger Dave Specter and his band the Bluebirds, a partnership that resulted in Fortune’s lone album, 1993’s Fortune Tellin’ Man, which was released by noted Chicago blues label Delmark Records.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Fortune was performing at Gene’s Playmate Lounge when he had a heart attack mid song. Fortune was reportedly planning on recording another album at the time of his death but was jaded by the music industry, and supposedly never made a dime off of Cray’s version of “Too Many Cooks.”