OXFORD, Miss. (AP) – During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, former boy-band singer Lance Bass agonized over not being able to reach family members in his hometown of Laurel, Miss.

Bass, a one-time singer with ‘N Sync, said three days passed before he learned that his relatives were unhurt but had lost their homes in the disaster.

“It is very devastating, especially having to watch it on television, when you have family members that are being bombarded by the thing,” Bass told The Associated Press.

Bass was among musical artists who gathered Saturday at the University of Mississippi for a nationally televised concert called “Mississippi Rising” to raise money for victims of the hurricane.

“It’s nice to have a voice and to be able to use it in events like this,” Bass said. He was to be joined by Mississippi native Faith Hill, who planned to perform her hit “Mississippi Girl.”

Hill has been active in fund-raising efforts for hurricane victims. Her appearance at a Gulfport shelter singing “Amazing Grace” aired on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and her Web site is filled with messages urging fans to give money to hurricane relief.

The three-hour benefit starring 39 musicians was shown live on MSNBC and aired on commercial television stations throughout Mississippi and Louisiana, and on Mississippi Public Television.

Actress Sela Ward, a native of Meridian, Miss., hoped the event would attract attention for her home state.

“Mississippi desperately needs it. We don’t have the luxury of oil companies behind us like Louisiana. We’re still the poorest state in the nation,” Ward said at a news conference.

Ray Romano, former star of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and his TV mom, Doris Roberts, were reunited at the event. Roberts said before the concert that although she is from the North, she feels that her “soul” is Southern.

Donations will go to the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund, which was started by Gov. Haley Barbour, and to a similar fund in Louisiana administered by Foundations for Recovery.

The concert was organized by two Mississippi natives: Sam Haskell, former worldwide head of television for the William Morris Agency in Hollywood, and Lanny Griffith, a longtime friend of the governor who is chief executive officer of the Washington lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers. Before becoming governor, Barbour was chairman and CEO of the firm.

Other celebrities set to appear included actor Morgan Freeman of Tallahatchie County, Miss., and country singer Steve Azar of Greenville, Miss. Also scheduled to appear were actors Jason Alexander and Samuel L. Jackson and singer Macy Gray.


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