Elberton’s Jonathan Fortson touring the world as gospel group’s drummer
Anyone who has ever sat in a room with a musician can tell you a true musician sends out a certain vibe.
We’re not talking about people who play music or even those who may play music for a living.
We’re talking about those who were born to play music - the ones who have music so deep in their soul it’s a part of their very existence and it seeps out to those around them.
Jonathan Fortson is one of those people.
Jonathan grew up in Elbert County, went to Elbert County schools and eventually graduated in 2010.
While in high school Jonathan was a part of the Elbert County marching band, the jazz band, the concert band and the symphony. Basically, if there was a school band playing, Jonathan was there.
Of course, his playing did not begin in high school. It began much earlier.
Jonathan has been playing drums for about as long as he could talk, picking up a set of drumsticks when he was about two years old.
His father and mother were musically inclined as well as his siblings so music was a natural part of his life growing up.
While Jonathan admits he did not always make the right decisions growing up in Elberton, he credits the drums for keeping him focused and putting him back on the right track.
“I made some mistakes and I made some bad choices growing up,” said Jonathan, “but the drums kept me off the streets and it kept me out of trouble.”
After graduation Jonathan got a job working at a factory in South Carolina and was making decent money. He was also playing drums whenever he got the chance.
Christian gospel artist Eddie James had been invited to Celebration Outreach Center and Jonathan went to the service. While at the church, Jonathan and some friends were jamming and Hearing Jonathan on the drums, James walked in and said, “Who are you? Where did you come from?”
Jonathan introduced himself to James and the singer told him, “God is going to take you somewhere.”
James was scheduled at Celebration Outreach Center a couple of years later, and Jonathan went to that service as well. A friend asked him if he was still playing drums and, of course he was. The friend told Jonathan that James was looking for a drummer and he had been recommended.
“I walked into the room where Eddie was and he said, ‘Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you.’”
James offered the drumming gig to Jonathan, but it was not an easy decision. He had a good job and things were going well for him. He wondered if he could just pack up his things, go on the road and leave his family and home town behind.
In the end Jonathan’s dream of being a professional drummer won out and he joined Eddie James and his ministry.
Over the past two years Jonathan has toured with James, not only across the United States but around the world to places such as Ireland, England, Germany, Romania, Scotland Belgium, the Philippines and many other locations.
While his first year on tour with James he spent over 300 days on the road, the ministry has taken a little more time as they prepare to release a new album.
The album should be released in February.
For those who wonder what the average day on the road with Eddie James is like, it’s not for everybody. The group will get into town and grab lunch.
After lunch the group goes to the location they will play, set up all of the equipment and run through sound checks. After sound checks they may work on a few pieces of music.
A short time later the service will start and many of them last four to five hours. After the show the equipment must be broken down and put away. Dinner usually comes very late in the evening and if they are lucky, members will get to bed by midnight, possibly later.
Depending on where their next booking is, the group can load up as early as 3 a.m. and hit the road for the next city.
So, if and when Jonathan has a day off, what does a man like him do? “I’ll usually sleep some and I’ll practice some rudiments or something on the drums.”
For Jonathan, drumming is not just a hobby. It’s a lifestyle.
Eddie James is not disappointed in his choice to hire Jonathan to play drums. In fact, the Christian gospel singer had some very flattering words about the man who keeps the beat for the band.
“Jonathan is one of the best drummers I’ve ever played with,” said James. “Jonathan has become the the talk of music circles all over America.”
But James went further than just his talent when talking about Jonathan. “Jonathan has a kind heart and an amazing spirit. He is exceptional both in his craft and in his character!”
Jonathan has not forgotten where he came from, nor has he forgotten the struggles he went through in making decisions that would affect the rest of his life as he grew up.
He already knows the danger of making the wrong decisions and offered some words of hope to those coming after him.
“Stay away from the wrong crowds and get involved with positive people who will have a positive influence on your life,” said Jonathan. “You should also be a positive influence to someone else. Others are watching you.”
As for finding a person’s place in the world, Jonathan simply said, “Whatever your passion is, do it.”