“In a town like Branson with nearly 100 live family shows of every type, from the Acrobats of China to the biblical spectacular Jonah and music shows from Clay Cooper’s Country Express to The Haygoods, Shoji Tabuchi and many more; one might wonder what a ‘paradigm’ show is,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing, of the Branson Tourism Center. “It is a show that is ‘a model or pattern that may be copied,’” she added.
When Presleys’ Country Jubilee opened in 1967 on Highway 76 just outside the limits of the city of Branson little did its principals know that it would be the first show on what was to become the famed “Branson Strip.” What they did know however, as did the Mabe family who started the first show within the Branson city limits, The Baldknobbers Jamboree, was that audiences enjoyed their mixture of segments of country, gospel and patriotic music interspersed with segments of comedy between each musical set.
That paradigm of music and comedy, modified to remain current and relevant has served, not only the two shows that established it very well, but a number of other Branson shows as well. Steve Presley, one of the original cast members of Presleys’ Country Jubilee has pointed out that although the paradigm is the same today their music and comedy is constantly being updated to keep the show fresh and exciting. He reminded me that their weekly TV show Presleys’ Country Jubilee on RFD TV gives them the opportunity to update their show with fresh material virtually at any time throughout the season.
The original Branson paradigm shows included a mixture of music that was country based, gospel and patriotic along with hillbilly themed comedy and they still retain that heritage. Now folks, that doesn’t mean the comedy is not relevant to today. Gary Presley, “Herkimer,” in the show, might be dressed as a hillbilly, but much of his comedy material is about as hillbilly as tonight’s six o’clock news and, no matter what, he and his son “Cecil,” who is actually his real life son Eric, will have you and your whole family laughing until you are “in stitches.”
Although still following that basic paradigm, some of today’s Branson shows do so with music that is not based primarily on country but crosses many different musical genres and comedy that is not remotely related, costuming or otherwise, to any hillbilly heritage. These would include shows such as the Grand Jubilee, Pierce Arrow, Duttons, it at the Hughes Brothers Theatre and others.
Interestingly, the very thing that served as the basis for the paradigm that started and nurtured Branson’s live entertainment industry in its infancy is the new paradigm of today’s Branson shows, “what their audiences enjoy.” That paradigm is the basis for almost 100 live shows being offered on a daily basis during the season giving Branson visitors new and constantly evolving shows providing and a choice of live family friendly entertainment that is unrivaled by any travel destination near Branson’s size and perhaps anywhere.