Going to Presleys’ Country Jubilee is more than going to a show, it’s an experience that is unequalled in Branson. Where else in Branson can you see three generations of performers spanning from today back to the original cast who opened “Branson’s first show on the Strip” in 1967? In what other theatre in Branson can you walk into a lobby that’s as comfortable and inviting as Presleys’, join in a live gospel sing along, and enjoy the smell of roasting “Glazed Almonds and Pecans” made from a “secret” recipe developed by “Cecil,” Eric Presley?
Obviously the way the questions are crafted, the answer is, “None,” but that’s the point. From its lobby to the show itself seeped in history and talent, there is nothing else in Branson offering the total entertainment experience for the whole family that a night at Presleys’ Country Jubilee offers. Its unique hilarious comedy, with a familial flair, combined with some of the best vocalists and instrumentalists in Branson, colorful costuming and great production provides an entertainment experience that demonstrates why this show has achieved legendary status and has been a consistent favorite of Branson audiences for over 47 years.
Since the Presleys’ opened on the Branson strip, Gary Presley, known on the stage as “Herkimer,” has been performing his unique blend of Ozark comedy. In combination with his son, Eric, “Cecil” in the show, their comedy is a unique blend of Ozark humor, one liners, action and skits that always seem to be relevant to current events and keeps the audience, kids and adults alike, laughing throughout the show.
Jay Wickizer, one of the shows vocalists, acts as the “straight man” or go-between in much of the comedy. One of my favorite comedic moments was the reconciliation of Herkimer and Cecil and what “being ‘open’ to reconciliation” meant to them. Another was the skit when young Master Benjamin Presley, the son of Eric, appeared as “Cecil Jr.”
The show is a well-coordinated mixture of music and comedy. Its format of one or two musical numbers followed by a comedy segment, coupled with the variety of ways each is performed, holds the audience’s attention, including kids, throughout the whole show. From their all cast opening number, “Take Me Back To The Country” to their finale, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” the music in this show, while definitely favoring country, has something for everyone including gospel, rock and roll and more, all performed by superb musicians and vocalists.
To say the vocal performances were outstanding would be an understatement. The shows vocalists Ambrus Presley, Kimberly Barber, Devonna Wickizer, Lauren Presley, Jay Wickizer, Tim Gregg, Chuck Crain, Scott Presley and Bruce Haynes performed a range of music in a variety of ways, solos, duets and quartets. A few of my personal favorite vocal highlights would be the performance by the Gospel Quartet composed of Jay Wickizer, Tim Greg, Chuck Crain and Bruce Haynes; Kimberly Barber’s performance of Patsy Cline’s hit “Crazy;” the duet by Jay and Devonna Wickizer of “Together Again” and Ambrus Presley’s performance of “Over The Rainbow” from the “Wizard of Oz.”
Over six years ago someone told me that I had to hear “Ambrus” at Presleys’ sing “Over The Rainbow.” Since then she has married John Presley, had a son and is expecting again in March of 2015, but until now, although I have heard her sing countless times, I had never heard her sing that song. It was worth the wait!
The shows band is composed of Steve Presley, Drums; Scott Presley, Guitar and Fiddle; Greg Presley, Harmonica; John Presley, Piano and Keyboard; Bruce Haynes, Bass Guitar; Kevin Clemens, Steel Guitar and Cortland Ingram, Fiddle. Absent, but there in spirit, after over 25 years of never missing a performance, was Mark Walker, who played Fiddle, Guitar, Banjo and Saxophone and is recovering from a recently suffered stroke. Godspeed, Mark.
The band and vocalists just blend together so beautifully and comfortably, whether it’s the band accompanying the vocalists, featured as part of a vocal performance or an instrumental solo. From many, here’s a few of my favorite “instrumental” highlights. Every time I hear John Presley on the piano I am amazed and this was no exception. I just loved his performance of the Floyd Cramer medley. Two others would be the cast’s performance of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” featuring Cortland Ingram on the fiddle and Greg Presleys’ performance on the harmonica. Wow can he ever play!
Alone, its origin and the faithfulness of four generations in maintaining the traditions and heritage of that origin make the Presleys’ Country Jubilee unique. Combined with the shows genuineness, the talents of the Presley family and the shows other cast members, its musical variety, the uniqueness and humor of its comedy, and their blending into a show that seamlessly flows from one entertaining segment to another there can be only one result; an evening spent with the Presley family and their cast will be a special unforgettable Branson entertainment memory.
For additional information on Presleys’ Country Jubilee or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.