Category Archives: Branson Shows

Did you know these 12 interesting facts about the Million Dollar Quartet?

The Million Dollar Quartet David Brooks (Jerry Lee Lewis) left, Sarah Tweedle (Dyanne), Brad Waters (Carl Perkins), Austin Wilson (Jay Perkins, Bass Player), Tyler K. Hunter), Elvis Presley (Tyler K. Hunter), and  Cliff Wright (Johnny Cash.)

The Million Dollar Quartet David Brooks (Jerry Lee Lewis) left, Sarah Tweedle (Dyanne), Brad Waters (Carl Perkins), Austin Wilson (Jay Perkins, Bass Player),  Elvis Presley (Tyler K. Hunter), and Cliff Wright (Johnny Cash.)

You might already know that the Million Dollar Quartet is a Tony Award winning musical that is one of Branson’s most popular shows, but did you know that it is based on an actual, one time impromptu, event involving four young performers, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, in the early stages of their career?

How many of these 12 questions about that event and the musical Million Dollar Quartet do you know the answers to?

1.When did it take place?
Answer:  On December 4, 1956.

2. In what city did it take place?
Answer: Memphis, TN.

3. Where did it take place?
Answer: In the storefront recording studio of Sun Records.

4.Who was there?
Answer: Sam Phillips; the owner of Sun Records; Carl Perkins, Sun recording artist, who was in the studio along his brother Jay on bass, and drummer, WS “Fluke” Holland to record “Matchbox;” Sun recording artist Jerry Lee Lewis, who was there to play piano for the Perkins recording; Sun recording artist, Johnny Cash, who came in to observe the recording session and talk with Sam Phillips; RCA and ex-Sun Recording artist Elvis Presley, who just dropped by with a girl he was seeing at the time, Marilyn Evans; and sound technician Jack Clement, who was there to record the session. Bob Johnson, the entertainment editor of the “Memphis Press-Scimitar,” who was invited over by Phillips after the jam session had started, and was accompanied by a  photographer.

5. What happened?
Answer: After Elvis showed up, near the end of Perkins recording session, they just started talking, playing, and singing. The resulting impromptu jam session was a unique one-time event that would have gone unrecorded, but for the foresight of the sound technician Jack Clement.

6. What part did Jack Clement play in the event?
Answer: According to Clement, as the jam session got underway, Sam Phillips was in a nearby restaurant, and he decided that he would be remiss if he did not record the session, so, without anyone’s knowledge, he did.

7. If everything was so informal how did the session get the name, “Million Dollar Quartet?”
Answer: When Phillips discovered the jam session going on he called Bob Johnson, the entertainment editor of the “Memphis Press-Scimitar,” who came by with a photographer. The next day he published an article entitled, “The Million Dollar Quartet,” along with a picture of the foursome gathered around the piano which included Marilyn Evans sitting on the end of the piano.

8. What happened to the recording?
Answer: Because no one knew that Clement had recorded the session and in spite of “The Million Dollar Quartet” news story, the recording went, unnoticed, into the Sun Records “library,” where it remained for decades until discovered by a new owner of Sun Records as they worked through the contents of the library. It was recorded and released in Europe in 1981 and in the United States in 1990.

9. When and how was the musical The Million Dollar Quartet created?
Answer: In 2007, the stage musical Million Dollar Quartet, written by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott, and based on the music and events of the original “Million Dollar Quartet” jam session, premiered. Since then, this smash hit musical, has played in Chicago, Broadway, Las Vegas, toured extensively in the US and internationally, and has a production in Branson, Missouri, at the Welk Resort Theatre.

10. Why is the name of the girlfriend of Elvis in the show named “Dyanne,” instead of Marilyn?
Answer: Marilyn Evans, literally disappeared “in plain sight” for over 52 years and, although “Dyanne” sings in the show, in real life, Marilyn did not and, except for being the date of Elvis, did not play a significant role in the events of that night. At the time the show was developed no one knew where she was so the fictitious “Dyanne” was developed to fill her expanded role in the show.

11. What happened to the real Marilyn Evens?
Answer: Marilyn Evans, now Marilyn Knowles-Riehl, was one of the few women associated with Elvis Presley who did not seek any fame or advantage from it. She placed no big significance on the event and, when the relationship with Elvis was over within a few weeks, moved on with her life, enrolled in the University of Utah within the year, got married, raised a family, and among other things was the director of the Fresno Ballet for 13 years. For over 52 years she gave the event very little thought until 2008 when she read a story about why the Million Dollar Quartet show had to create a fictitious girl-friend, named “Dyanne,” for Elvis in the show.

12. What can someone attending the Million Dollar Quartet expect?
Answer: An awesome entertainment experience! When I first saw the show I wrote, “Over the last three decades, I have seen many Branson shows of all types, but never one like the Million Dollar Quartet! An outstanding cast, timeless music that everyone knows, and a great storyline combine with the show’s unique set and great production to create an incredible entertainment experience for the whole family that should not be missed.
“Obviously, with the recording icons being portrayed and the music being sung it takes some special entertainers to pull it off, and the cast of Million Dollar Quartet does just that and then some. Tyler K. Hunter as Elvis Presley, Cliff Wright as Johnny Cash, David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, and Brad Waters as Carl Perkins do an exceptional job with hits such as Matchbox “That’s All right, I Walk the Line Ghost Riders in the Sky, Hound Dog, Peace in the Valley Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Blue Suede Shoes, Who Do You Love, and many more. From among many, two of my personal favorite musical highlights were Ghost Riders in the Sky, sung by Johnny Cash, and Peace in the Valley, not only because of the way it was sung, but how the storyline beautifully brought each of those in the jam session personally into its performance.
As timeless and wonderful as the music is, it is the storyline, the historical moment it describes, and the way it is artfully woven into the musical tapestry surrounding it that makes this such an entertaining show. Derek Garza as Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records, the man some call the “Father of “rock n’ roll,” and the person who actually set the circumstances in motion that resulted in the jam session, does a superb job of dramatically narrating the story and tying its diverse elements together in a manner that kept me keenly invested throughout the entire performance.”

For additional information or tickets for Million Dollar Quartet please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com http://www.bransontourismcenter.com/

 

Does anything say Branson more than these six epic attractions?

Three of Branson's epic attractions, Silver Dollar City's iconic Wildfire Coaster with an incredible view of Table Rock Lake, the Sight & SoundTheatre, and the Titanic.

Three of Branson’s epic attractions, Silver Dollar City’s iconic Wildfire Coaster with an incredible view of Table Rock Lake, the Sight & Sound Theatre, home of “Moses,” and the Titanic Museum Attraction.

“Branson is blessed with a seeming list of infinite possibilities for fun, excitement, and entertainment all headlined by its fabulous selection of live shows and great attractions,” said Preston Garrison, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. He went on to say that, as the word “attraction” is commonly defined, “a thing or place that draws visitors by providing something of interest or pleasure,” all of Branson’s shows, and many other activities, could meet that definition.

When asked, “In 2016, of all of Branson’s attractions, which specific attraction do you believe is the most popular,” he smiled, shook his head, and said that it depended on a lot of factors, but that he’d bet it would come from this list of six epic Branson attractions:

Silver Dollar City: “When it comes to phenomenal, world-class theme parks, it doesn’t get any better than Branson’s biggest paid attraction,” the 1880s styled Silver Dollar City! “Live music, thrilling rides, demonstrating craftsmen, incredible food, exceptional shopping, amusements for the little ones, seasonal and themed festivals and events, and even more awaits you!”

Branson Landing: Is the largest and most unique shopping attraction in Branson. The 95-acre, $435 million public/private multiuse project spans 1.5 miles of waterfront on Lake Taneycomo, and is conveniently located adjacent to historic downtown Branson. It’s combination of luxury condos and over 120 retail stores, kiosks and restaurants including “eclectic shops, national retailers, fine dining, intimate cafes and nightspots,” Main Street Lake Cruises, two floating restaurants, and the spectacular free Branson Landing Fountains, makes it one of the most popular attractions in Branson.

Titanic Museum Attraction: Not simply a museum, it’s an interactive attraction that shares the stories of those who were onboard for the famous ocean voyage that has fascinated the world for more than a century.” This attraction features special tributes, exhibits, and interactive activities that are as much fun and adventure as they are educational and inspiring.

Dixie Stampede: Dolly Parton’s “Dixie Stampede” is the perfect family destination in Branson for exciting entertainment and a fantastic four-course feast! Called the World’s Most Visited Dinner Attraction™, “Dixie” boasts a variety of fun features that include a lumberjack relay, racing pigs, buffalo, and 32 beautiful horses showcased in captivating equestrian feats.

Sight and Sound Theatre: With its 300-foot surround stage, animals, and spectacular productions Sight and Sound Theatre brings the epic stories of the bible to life in an exciting, inspiring, and entertaining manner. The story of Moses, its latest production and easily Branson’s most popular show, tells the story of one man’s journey from being a humble and broken man to becoming the follower of God who delivers the children of Israel from enslavement. It is presented by a phenomenal cast with astonishing sets, absolutely amazing special effects, a brilliant score, and stunning costumes.

Table Rock Lake: An impoundment of the White River behind the 6,423 foot-long Table Rock Dam was completed in 1959 and is easily one of Branson’s most epic attractions. Its 43,100 surface acres and 745 miles of shoreline provides a virtual aquatic paradise for Branson residents and visitors to fish, boat and play. It is the symbol of the natural beauty that is an inherent part of the Branson experience and the home of the Showboat Branson Belle.

For more information on these attractions or any of Branson’s other 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 visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com, or calling 1-800-785-1550.

 

Can a theatre’s line-up be more entertaining than this?

Reza Edge of Illusion, The Texas Tenors, and Billy Dean in Concert with Jarrett.

Reza Edge of Illusion, The Texas Tenors, and Billy Dean in Concert with Jarrett.

“I am just so excited about the variety, quality, and timing of the entertainment we are presenting at the Starlite Theatre this year,” said Linda Merkling, the theatre’s General Manager. “We have had the right talent for the right people at the right time of the year and that continues right through our fall and Christmas season,” she added.

She points out that their resident shows, those other than one or two-day limited engagement shows, offer an unrivaled variety of quality entertainment. Anchoring the schedule, from now through December 30, are such nationally recognized entertainers as Billy Dean, The Blackwoods, and The Texas Tenors, all of whom will be offering Christmas shows starting with their first November performances. They will be joined by the young cutting edge illusionist Reza, resulting in one of the most dynamic and exciting line ups of quality entertainment in any Branson theatre.

Merkling points out that the Billy Dean and Jarrett in Concert show is a mainstay on the schedule. For 2016 Billy has completely redone the format to provide a more intimate and personal interface with the audience, including him playing the piano. The show provides a unique opportunity to hear the man who wrote them sing, hit after hit, including Let Them Be Little; Somewhere in My Broken Heart, Billy The Kid, and his debut single, Only Here for a Little While, a song that grabbed an impressive top five spot on Billboard’s Country Charts along with many more.

The music would be enough, but it’s his ability to connect with the audience on a personal level through that music, and the stories of his life and how the songs were written, that injects a unique special element to the show. Add the comedy of long time Branson favorite Jarrett Dougherty, with his funny characters, rapid-fire wit, and perfect comedic timing, honed by more than 20 years on the Branson stage, and you have a show with about as much fun, excitement, and entertainment as most people could ever want! Billy’s  Christmas shows starts with his first show in November.

The Texas Tenors will be performing their fabulous regular show during their September and October dates and begin their Christmas show on November 1. “The Texas Tenors – Deep in the Heart of Christmas,” is a delightful inspiring show celebrating the traditional family Christmas. Everyone loves to hear The Texas Tenors anytime of the year, but it’s a special Christmas blessing when they combine their amazing voices, with exciting special effects, other singers, dancers, a Christmas choir, and some delightfully magical characters into a production that is as inspiring as it is entertaining.

Here’s a list of the Starlite’s resident shows sorted alphabetically along with a link that provides more information on the show including a description, scheduling, pricing, and ticketing:

Resident Shows:

Billy Dean in Concert with Jarrett: Through Dec 30*
Reza Edge of Illusion: Through Dec 30
The Blackwoods Morning Show: Through Dec 30*
The Texas Tenors: Sep 12-24, Oct 10-21, and Nov 1-30*

“We are also excited about the array of National stars that will be rounding out our schedule with limited engagement performances throughout the rest of the year through ‘Boot Daddy Presents’ and ‘Larry’s Country Diner Series,’” Merkling said. Starlite’s limited engagement shows for the remainder of 2016, sorted chronologically along with a link that provides additional information on the show including a description, scheduling, pricing, and ticketing, include:

 Limited Engagement

Larry’s Country Diner-Rhonda Vincent: Sep 19
Larry’s Country Diner-Gene Watson: Sep 20
Larry’s Country Diner-Jimmy Fortune: Sep 21
Larry’s Country Diner-Mo and Holly Pitney: Sep 22
Larry’s Country Diner-T. Graham Brown: Sep 23
Larry’s Country Diner-Mark Lowry: Sep 24
Boot Daddy Presents Dailey & Vincent: Sep 25-27 and Nov 27-29
Boot Daddy Presents Suzy Bogguss: Sep 29-30
Boot Daddy Presents Jimmy Fortune: Oct 24-25 and Nov 14-15
Boot Daddy Presents Gene Watson: Oct 26-28 and Dec 1-3

Merkling believes that the combination of resident and limited engagement shows at the Starlite provides a unique combination of entertainment designed to meet the different needs of the Branson visitor throughout the year that is unmatched in terms of its quality, variety, and excitement. She also points out that its central location right on the famed Branson Strip, near its intersection with Gretna Road, the Titanic Museum Attraction, the Clay Cooper Theatre, and numerous other Branson shows and attractions makes access to the Starlite a breeze. With a twinkle in her eye she said, “And our parking lot just might be the biggest flat piece of ground in Taney County, no hills to climb.”

For additional information or tickets for any of the Starlite’s Shows, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services; call 1-800-785-1550 or visit www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

*Shows after November 1st will be Christmas Shows.

You’ll absolutely love the Duttons!

The Duttons, Benjamin, Timothy, Amy, Jonathon,Shelia, Abigail, and Dean

The Duttons, Benjamin, Timothy, Amy, Jonathon,Shelia, Abigail, and Dean

As I watched the Duttons show last week, I was again reminded why they have been so popular for so long and made it to the top ten on the NBC prime time hit show, “America’s Got Talent.” From their opening number, a medley, including the Fall Out Boys hit “Centuries,” “We Will Rock You,” and “Radioactive,” to their famed Finale, “Boil Them Cabbage Down,” it is a wonderful entertainment experience, filled with fun, great music, humor, inspiration, and that special Dutton warmth that simultaneously entertains and inspires the whole family.

The stars of the show, and the center around which it revolves, are the Dutton siblings Timothy, Benjamin, Jonathan, Abigail, and Amy, along with Tim’s wife Judith. Whether its vocal, instrumental, dancing or comedy, their talents alone are remarkable, but when the talents of drummer Rob Wilson, and other members of the Dutton family, are seamlessly integrated into the performance, the result is two hours of outstanding non-stop entertainment that simultaneously entertains adults as well as children.

The Dutton grand-kids, Benjamin Jr, Rachel, Isaac, Selina and Timmy doing a great job with "Jump, Jive and Wail." They are singing "Jump, Jive and Wail"

The Dutton grand-kids, Benjamin Jr, Rachel, Isaac, Selina and Timmy doing a great job with “Jump, Jive and Wail.”

I am not aware of a music show in Branson that is not suitable for children in terms of its content but, based on my personal experience, I can say that, with very few exceptions, such as it Starring the Hughes Brothers, the vast majority of Branson’s music shows have not been designed with a consistent flow of material and performers, strategically placed throughout the show, that will appeal to the children in the audience and hold their interest throughout. The Duttons does that “and then some!”

A perfect example, and one of my favorite numbers in the show, was their performance of “Cotton Eyed Joe.” The combination of their remarkable instrumental skills, with a neat “black light” performance featuring other members of the family, along with a demonstration of Benjamin’s superb dancing skills entertains both adults and children, throughout at the same high level.

From among many here are a few of my favorite highlights. Timothy Dutton demonstrated why he’s considered one of the most accomplished instrumentalists when he played a short segment of “Pachelbel’s Canon in D major” on a variety of instruments, from the violin and guitar to the mandolin and used a “looper” to combine them into “an orchestra.” WOW, was it ever something to see and hear; it was unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine a more entertaining, dramatic, or energetic performance of “The Orange Blossom Special” or “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” than the “Duttonized” version of these classics.

Amy’s performance of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons Summer Movement;” Tim and Judith’s duet of “You Say It Best When You Say Nothing At All,” accented with the dancing of Shelia and Dean was as beautifully performed as it was touching; one of the most personal and sincere Veteran’s segments of any show in Branson; and their spectacular “patented” finale of “Boil Them Cabbage Down” were also favorites. “You Can Count On Me,” an inspiring and beautifully performed all family number, touched my heart because, to me, it captures what makes the Duttons so special; their commitment to each other, their craft, and entertaining their audience.

Cousin Julio "horning" in on Jonathan's banjo act.

Cousin Julio “horning” in on Jonathan’s banjo act.

Ok, I just have to mention cousin Julio, who, along with his straight man Jonathan, adds a large dose of humor to the show as he tries to “horn” in. It’s not only funny, but you won’t believe what he can do with those horns.

Some of you are probably asking, “Is there nothing in this show that you didn’t like?” The simple answer is, “Not much, not much at all.”

Previously I wrote, “From rock and roll to blue grass and country this show has a variety of music with something for everyone. It’s not the shows content alone however, that makes it so special. It’s how the Duttons present it! It’s that fabulous Dutton talent, instrumentality, flair, showmanship and their innate ability to instill that warm directly ‘from our family to you and your family’ feeling into its audience, that makes this show the unique, special and wonderful Branson entertainment experience that it is.” All I can say after seeing their show last week, is, “Ditto.”

For tickets or information for the Duttons show or for any of Branson’s other shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please feel free to 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.

The Best of Branson Insider Highlights for September 2016

One of the over 115 craftsmen who will be demonstrating at Silver Dollar City's National Harvest & Cowboy Festival; Clay & Tina Cooper performing in "Clay Cooper's Country Express;" and the Oak Ridge Boys.

One of the 125 craftsmen who will be demonstrating at Silver Dollar City’s National Harvest & Cowboy Festival; Clay & Tina Cooper performing in “Clay Cooper’s Country Express;” and the Oak Ridge Boys.

“September is a wonderful time in the Ozarks, as Branson transitions from summer into fall mode, with moderating temperatures and our Ozarks’ Foliage gradually beginning to display its spectacular autumn colors,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Add in the number, variety, and quality of the exciting attractions, shows, shopping, and other things that Branson offers, and it’s easy to understand why a visit to Branson in the fall has become a popular tradition with so many people,” she continued.

Here’s our Insider Highlight list of some of the unique and exciting special events that Branson visitors will be able to enjoy during September, including our Featured Show, Limited Engagement, and Event of the Month:

Featured Show of the Month: Clay Cooper’s Country Express combines the vocal talent and audience charisma of Clay Cooper, with the best dancers and choreography on any Branson stage, the vocal talents of featured female vocalist Kari Garrison, the talent and comedy of Matt Gumm, the rope and gun handling performance of Johnny Lonestar, one of the most talented live bands in Branson, and so much more. It’s two hours of great music, dancing, fun, laughter, and variety that whisks adults and children alike, “down the tracks” on a delightful entertainment journey.

 Featured Limited Engagement of the Month: Country music legends, the Oak Ridge Boys return to Branson, with their phenomenal harmonies and an amazing career spanning several decades that includes five Grammy Awards, the Song of the Year, from both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music, for their hit Elvira, which also crossed over to the pop charts, and many others. Their hits include Touch a Hand, Make a Friend; Make My Life with You; American Made; (I’m Settin’) Fancy Free; It Takes a Little Rain (To Make Love Grow); Bobbie Sue; and many more.

Featured Event of the Month: Silver Dollar City’s National Harvest & Cowboy Festival showcasing the largest gathering of demonstrating craftsmen in the country; the Wild West Show; Western Musicians; chuck wagon cooking by Kent Rollins; Extreme Mustang Makeovers as expert horse trainer Fred Woehl tames beautiful wild mustangs; Silver Dollar City’s Barn Dance, returning for 2016 by popular demand; and much more.

 LIMITED ENGAGEMENT PERFORMANCES (Sorted by starting date)

Sep 14: Restless Heart
Sep 18: Big Daddy Weave
Sep 19: Larry’s Country Diner-Rhonda Vincent
Sep 20 – 29: Oak Ridge Boys*
Sep 20: Larry’s Country Diner-Gene Watson
Sep 21: Larry’s Country Diner-Jimmy Fortune
Sep 22: Larry’s Country Diner-Mo and Holly Pitney
Sep 23: Larry’s Country Diner-T. Graham Brown
Sep 24: Larry’s Country Diner-Mark Lowry
Sep 24: MJ LIVE
Sep 25 – 27: Boot Daddy Presents Dailey & Vincent**
Sep 29 – 30: Boot Daddy Presents Suzy Bogguss
Sep 30: Jay Leno

* Also appearing select dates in October and November
** Also appearing 27-29 November

SPECIAL EVENT HIGHLIGHTS (Sorted by starting date.)

Sep 1 – 5: 2016 World Exclusive Exhibit – Titanic Museum Attraction
Sep 1 – 5: Silver Dollar City Southern Gospel Picnic Festival
Sep 1 – 4: Southern Gospel Cruises on the Showboat Branson Belle
Sep 1 – 30: Tanger Outlets Thanks Teachers Month
Sep 2: Boogie Wonderland – A Tribute to Disco Live in Concert
Sep 2 – 4: CAF Air Power History Tour
Sep 2 – 5: Labor Day Weekend Sale at Tanger Outlets
Sep 3: K-Life Taney County Stars & Stripes Run-Walk
Sep 4: Labor Day Picnic and Fireworks at Big Cedar
Sep 4: Chateau on the Lake Celebrates Labor Day
Sep 9 – 11: Country Music Weekend at Silver Dollar City
Sep 10: Walk to End Alzheimer’s
Sep 13: Foraging in the Ozarks: Wild Edible-Medicinal Plant and Bird ID Mosey
Sep 14 – Oct 29: National Harvest & Cowboy Festival at Silver Dollar City
Sep 15 – 17: Autumn Daze Arts & Crafts Festival
Sep 23 – 25: Baseball Youth Future Games
Sep 24: Encounter Ministry – Encounter Celebration
Sep 26 – 27: Branson Hammer In & Knife Show

For additional information on these events, or 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 visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com, or calling 1-800-785-1550.

 

You don’t want to miss the sensational Clay Cooper’s Country Express

Clay and Tina Cooper performing Squeeze Me."

Clay and Tina Cooper performing “Squeeze Me.”

What do you get when you combine an entertainer with the vocal talent and audience charisma of Clay Cooper, with the best dancers and choreography on any Branson stage, the vocal talents of featured female vocalist Kari Garrison, the talent and comedy of Matt Gumm, the rope and gun handling performance of Johnny Lonestar, one of the most talented live bands in Branson, and so much more? Two hours of great music, dancing, fun, laughter, and variety called the Clay Cooper’s Country Express Show that whisks adults and children alike, “down the tracks” on a delightful entertainment journey.

The musical talent and personality of the show’s star, Clay Cooper, are the “tracks” upon which this express speeds along. From his dramatic and exciting entry onto the stage and the show’s full cast opening number, “Fever” until his performance of the original song, ” America Stand Strong” during the show’s patriotic finale, Clay’s performance effortlessly demonstrates, why he has won so many Branson entertainment awards.

It should be noted that although the show emphasizes country music, it covers everything from country to gospel, pop, “funk,” and more. From among many sung by Clay, three of my personal favorites were the duet of “Squeeze Me,” sung by him and his wife Tina, the Hank Williams’ hit “Kaw-Liga,” and his performance of the Roy Orbison hit “Crying” which was another demonstration of Clay’s vocal range and talent.

As remarkable as his singing is, it is certainly equaled by his ability to not only relate to the crowd, but interact with them in a way that entertains the whole audience and draws them into their own entertainment experience. He goes out into the audience and triggers responses from them, with a warm comfortable humor, that has everyone laughing, having fun and wondering what is coming next.

Kari Garrison performing "Landslide."

Kari Garrison performing “Landslide.”

In addition to Clay, the show features a number of other vocal performances. From among many, I have chosen to highlight two, Kari Garrison’s great job on the Fleetwood Mac hit, “Landslide,” and RP Harrell’s inspiring performance of “America,” as part of the Patriotic Finale.

This is an excellent time to mention my belief in this show’s ability to simultaneously entertain both kids and adults throughout the show. From a vocal perspective, the show features quality “peer to peer” performances and appearances by Colton Cooper, Ezrah Noelle, Caden Cooper, and Rosie Dale. Just loved the total production number of the 1957 Thurston Harris hit, “Itty Bitty Pretty One” featuring Colton and the shows dancers. It was a WOW! Ezrah’s performance of “Cowboy Sweetheart” with her great yodeling did Patsy Montana proud!

Kids will relate to this show as they see "peer" performances by Colt Cooper with his dad, Cadin Cooper and Rosie Dale, and Ezrah Noelle

Kids will relate to this show as they see “peer” performances by Colton Cooper with his dad, Caden Cooper and Rosie Dale, and Ezrah Noelle.

In addition to the peer to peer vocals however, the show has two other acts that will equally appeal to both adults and kids. Johnny Lonestar’s trick “gun slinging,” whip, and rope act, as seen on the NBC primetime show, “America’s Got Talent” is amazing and, the multi-talented Matt Gumm does everything from comedy, to playing the Hammered Dulcimer, and Donald Trump. His “air horn” routine is as amazing as it is funny.

A unique aspect of this show is its dancers. Tina Cooper, the show’s choreographer, and one of the dancers herself, is to dance choreography on the Branson stage, what her alma mater, the “University of Oklahoma,” from which she received a “Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Music Theatre with a Minor in Dance” is to football. The masterful way she has woven the talents of her extremely talented dancers into the show, is a thing of exquisite beauty that is unique and easily sets it apart from any other country music show that I have ever seen.

No matter what style, the Country Express Dancers do it with an energy, grace, and precision that demonstrates why they are one of, if not “the,” top dancing troupe(s) in Branson. Their performance during the show’s opening number, “Fever” sets the stage for what is to come. The beautiful dance feature performed by Jenn Turner and Nathan Applegate as Clay sang Garth Brooks “Thunder Road” was breath taking, not only in terms of the dancing, but the story it told as Clay sang. To me it was another WOW moment. In addition to Tina Cooper, the Country Express Dancers include Nathan Applegate, Nate Bittner, Sarah Blackerby, Kristen Chandler, Hailey Denton, Jeremiah Eugenio, Kelly Smith, Elizabeth Sparks, Jenn Turner, and Colton Williams.

The Country Express Band consists of RP Harrell, piano and Musical Producer; Barry Bales guitar and vocals; Dave Clark, bass guitar; Jimmy Hyde, Drums; Greg Moody, guitar; and Robby Springfield, string guitar. Although their talent is obvious throughout the whole show, it is highlighted, both in total and individually, in their performance of the Eagles hit, “Already Gone,” which also featured Matt Gumm on the Hammered Dulcimer

In a previous “review” of this show I wrote, “From before the curtain goes up until it drops, this show is an “express” ride through two plus hours of the most engaging, energetic and talented entertainment available in Branson hosted by a performer who can work an audience as beautifully as he sings and his wife choreographs and dances.” After seeing the 2016 edition of this outstanding show all I can say is, “Ditto,” and add, “Don’t miss it!”

For additional information on the Clay Cooper’s Country Express Show 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 www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

The Best of Branson Insider Highlights for August 2016

Terry Fator and Friends and Super Summer Cruise are just two of the exciting events happening in Branson during August.

The “Super Summer Cruise” and “Terry Fator,” along with some of his friends, are just two of the exciting events happening in Branson during August.

“It’s doubtful that any other place in America offers the unique variety and choices for having fun and being entertained that Branson does,” said Preston Garrison, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest providers of tourism services and information. In addition to everything else Branson offers, here’s our “insider highlight list” of some of the unique and exciting additional events that Branson visitors will be able to enjoy during August, including our Featured Show and Event of the Month:

"Raiding the Country Vault's Colt Prather, right, Melody Hart, and Billy Yates during their spectacular performance of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia."

“Raiding the Country Vault’s” Colt Prather, right, Melody Hart, and Billy Yates during their spectacular performance of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.”

Featured Show of the Month: Branson’s newest major show, Raiding the Country Vault, has only been open for a few short weeks. After seeing it, I must agree with many who saw it before me, and said that six words pretty well summed up their experience, “It will blow your socks off!” One person who saw the show wrote, “It is a master production of the highest quality and it is devoted to traditional country music. While staying true to the traditional country sound, the music is presented with enthusiasm and attitude.” As three large screens display the name of artist who made the song famous, their history, and other information about the song itself, the cast reaches into the ‘Vault’ and performs each, turning legendary songs from the past into what is easily one of the most amazing entertainment experiences in Branson.

Featured Event of the Month: The Shepherd of the Hills Super Summer Cruise Weekend with its “Show & Shine” and “Midnight Cruise” is one of Branson’s most popular summer events. The three-day event, to be held at the “Shepherd of the Hills Homestead,” features hundreds of classic cars and trucks on public display during the daily “Show & Shine” and culminates with its famous “Midnight Cruise,” down Shepherd of the Hills Expressway.

LIMITED ENGAGEMENT PERFORMANCES (Sorted by starting date.)

Aug 5: The Happy Together Tour
Aug 6-7: Terry Fator
Aug 7: Bret Michaels

SPECIAL EVENT HIGHLIGHTS (Sorted by starting date.)

Aug 1 – Aug 31: 2016 World Exclusive Exhibit – Titanic Museum Attraction
Aug – Aug 13: Night Water! at White Water
Aug 1 – Aug 7: Silver Dollar City Moonlight Madness
Aug 1 – Aug 5: Ball Parks of America Bring the Lumber Baseball Tournament
Aug 4 – Aug 6: Vintage Camper Event – Branson KOA
Aug 5 – Aug 7: Missouri State Tax-Free Holiday Sale
Aug 5 – Aug 7: Tax Free Holiday Shopping at Tanger Outlets
Aug 5 – Aug 7: “End of Summer Savings” Sidewalk Sale
Aug 6: ROCK THE SPECTRUM
Aug 7: 10th Annual Back to School Bash
Aug 8 – Aug 10: Baseball Youth All Star Challenge
Aug 10 – Aug 13: Shepherd of the Hills Super Summer Cruise Weekend
Aug 11 – Aug 14: Baseball Youth World Championships
Aug 13: Promenade Pop-Up Shop
Aug 13: Outlaw Nation Southern Revival Concert Series
Aug 16: Foraging in the Ozarks: Wild Edible-Medicinal Plant and Bird ID Mosey
Aug 17 – Aug 21: Youth Baseball Network (YBN) National Tournament
Aug 17 – 20 Youth Baseball (YBN) Coaches Convention 417-335-5767
Aug 20: 3rd Annual KidSTYLE Back-to-School Bash at Tanger Outlets
Aug 25 – Sep 5: Silver Dollar City Southern Gospel Picnic Festival
Aug 26 – Aug 28: 28th Annual Fiddle Festival Presented by Grand Country
Aug 28 – Sep 4: Southern Gospel Cruises on the Showboat Branson Belle

For additional information on these events, or 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 visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com, or calling 1-800-785-1550.

 

Raiding the Country Vault will blow your socks off!

Colt Prather and Melody Hart during their spectacular performance of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia."

Colt Prather and Melody Hart during their spectacular performance of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.”

Branson’s newest major show, Raiding the Country Vault, has only been open for a few short weeks and it’s the talk of Branson. For those who haven’t heard, six words pretty well sum up what all the talking’s about, “It will blow your socks off!” After seeing the show on July 7, I sure had to grab my socks and put them back on.

Devoted to traditional country music, it is an extremely well-produced show, presented by a cast who are not only masters at their craft, but obviously have a love and enthusiasm for the music they are performing. And perform it they do, with the title of an early George Straight hit, Give It All We Got Tonight, song sung early on by Billy Yates, describing the energy and passion this extremely talented cast puts forth from beginning to end.

It would take quite a bit of space to list all their professional accomplishments so, suffice it to say that they are extremely talented, well rooted in traditional country music, and, except for one, are based in Nashville and other points outside of Branson. Led by Michael Peterson, Musical Director, Guitarist, and Lead Vocals; it consists of Billy Yates, Lead Vocals and Guitar, a Missouri Native who co-wrote the Grammy Award winning song, “Choices” and the George Jones Classic, I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair;  Colt Prather, Lead Vocals and Lead Guitar; Michael Peterson, Lead Vocals and Guitar; Derrek C. Phillips, Drums, Scott Kwapiszeski, Pedal Steel and Banjo; Danielle Peck, Lead Vocals; Michelle Poe, Lead Vocals and Bass; Steve Ramsey, Keyboards; and Melody Hart, Lead Vocals and Fiddle, who has been a Branson favorite since she started playing the fiddle and singing in Branson in 1989.

The show includes a “lite” story line involving “Roadie” Taylor Kidd, played by Actor/comedian Luke Ashlocke, as he shares his back stage experiences about what happens on tour. Ashlocke also plays the part of country music star, Ricky Montana as he is interviewed by the effervescent Jackie Daniels, star of her TV show, Road Tales, but the shows primary focus is on legendary country music and those who made it so.

Danielle Peck and Billy Yates performing the classic Dolly Parton-Kenny Rogers duet of "Islands in the Stream."

Danielle Peck and Billy Yates performing the classic Dolly Parton-Kenny Rogers duet of “Islands in the Stream.”

“BobC,” who saw the show, and commented about it on the Show Forum of WWW.1Branson.Com, summed the result up so well, when he wrote, “Raiding the Country Vault is a master production of the highest quality and it is devoted to traditional country music. While staying true to the traditional country sound, the music is presented with enthusiasm and attitude.” As three large screens display the name of artist who made the song famous, their history, and other information about the song itself, the cast reaches into the “Vault” and performs each, turning legendary songs from the past into what is easily one of the most amazing entertainment experiences in Branson.

Some might ask, “How can a group of musicians and vocalists, even those as talented as these, playing and singing songs from the past, provide a relevant amazing entertainment experience today?” The answer is simple, “Because they can!” From the beginning to end, this wonderful country music journey has one WOW performance after another, and it’s not just their considerable talent. Although intangible, when you sense and feel their commitment and passion to the music they are performing, it takes an already great entertainment experience and makes it an absolutely amazing one.

For each show that I review I list three highlights and, it will be no different here, but I have to say, that very seldom, have I had so many highlights to pick from. Billy Yates’ great performance of the George Jones hit, I Don’t Need No Rocking Chair had special meaning to me on two counts. Billy co-wrote it and, to me, there’s something special about hearing someone perform a song they have written and, it was the last song I ever heard, Branson legend, Lloyd Presley perform. The performance of the Charlie Daniels’ hit, Devil Went Down to Georgia, featuring Melody Hart on the fiddle, Colt Prather, on the guitar, and Billy Yates on vocal, was one of the most powerful and exciting versions of that song I have ever heard and Danielle Peck’s performance of the Tammy Wynette hit, Stand By Your Man, was beautiful.

It ended all too quickly, and is a show that should absolutely not be missed. For additional information or tickets for Raiding the Country Vault, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services; call 1-800-785-1550 or visit www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Is the heat of summer the right time to plan for Christmas in Branson?

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer leads the "Holly Jolly Christmas Light Parade" during Silver Dollar City's "Old Time Christmas."

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer leads the “Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade” during Silver Dollar City’s “Old Time Christmas.” (Photo courtesy of Silver Dollar City)

“Absolutely! To some, planning a Christmas trip to Branson in the sweltering heat of summer might seem weird,” said Preston Garrison, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “However, to those who know how busy Branson is during its Ozark Mountain Christmas season, planning in July might just be the ‘coolest’ thing to do to ensure the ‘hottest’ deals and best availability of lodging and show seats,” he added.

Garrison points out that Ozark Mountain Christmas, runs from November 1 through December 31 each year and that it is the most colorful, exciting, inspirational, and busiest time of the year in Branson. It is a unique Christmas experience that is not available anywhere else. From the giant Adoration Scene on top of Mount Branson on the East, to Silver Dollar City and its “Old Time Christmas” to the West, Branson is aglow with Christmas lights, shows, shopping and, most important of all, the true spirit of Christmas that “resonates in the hearts of those wanting to celebrate and experience the traditional celebration of Christmas.”

Silver Dollar City’s “Old Time Christmas” is perennially named one of the top Christmas destinations in America. It features 1,000 decorated Christmas trees, over 5 million sparkling Christmas lights, a 5-story Special Effects Christmas Tree in its town square, two Broadway style shows, and the “Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade featuring Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer & Friends.”

Many of Branson’s other attractions will have special Christmas themes, decorations, and exhibits. Two great examples would be the Titanic Museum Attraction, as it celebrates its beautiful “Edwardian Christmas,” and the unique White Flight exhibit at the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure. Another is The Shepherd of the Hills’ Trail of Lights, a two-and-a-half-mile drive through sparkling holiday lights and displays, winding through the historic Shepherd of the Hills Homestead, that also includes a trip to the top of Inspiration Tower. It is truly a one of a kind display, featuring religious, patriotic, humorous, Victorian and other themes in a setting unlike any other lighting display anywhere.

The glow of Christmas lights doesn’t stop there, as Christmas decorations and lights adorn city utility poles, Branson Landing, the Branson Ferris Wheel, and many other Branson theatres, businesses, and attractions. A Branson tradition, since it was started in 1949, is the brightly lit giant Nativity scene on top of Mount Branson. It will be lit, and followed by the Adoration Christmas Parade, starting at 5:00 PM on December 4.

And, speaking of parades, you won’t want to miss the 4th Annual “Most Wonderful Time of Year Parade,” featuring many Branson entertainers. It’s dedicated to “Mr. Christmas,” Andy Williams, and will go down the center of the Branson Landing promenade on November 19 followed by “a dozen live performances from the main stage in front of the Branson Landing fountains and a special grand finale” not to be missed.

As would be expected, in a town famous for the variety and quality of its live shows, the vast majority of Branson’s shows share the spirit of Christmas by devoting a substantial portion of their shows to the celebration of the traditional Christmas. In addition, there are a number of shows that are only available during Ozark Mountain Christmas, that are totally Christmas including the Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza, staring the Osmond Brothers and Lennon Sisters; Christmas Wonderland; the Hughes Brothers Christmas Show; and others.

“Branson’s year round world class shopping experience includes Branson Landing; a large variety of unique galleries, craft shops, boutiques, and specialty shops; as well as discount malls like the Tanger Outlets and The Shoppes at Branson Meadows,” Garrison said. “When you combine that with the fun, spirit and excitement, of Ozark Mountain Christmas, it’s easy to see why so many do their Christmas shopping in Branson,”.

He points out that during the regular season there are periods when Branson shows and lodging fill up, but that, particularly with the more popular hotels and shows, is multiplied exponentially during Ozark Mountain Christmas. Not only do the chances of non-availability increase, but the chances of getting the best prices, show seats, and choice of accommodations decrease the longer one waits to make their Ozark Mountain Christmas travel plans.

For additional information on Ozark Mountain Christmas, or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please feel free to 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 http://www.bransontourismcenter.com/ .

Can a swift thriller at Legends in Concert make a colossal ring of fire?

Legends in Concert stars Michael Jackson, Top Left, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, and Blues Brothers.

Legends in Concert stars Michael Jackson, Top Left, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, and Blues Brothers.

“Well, if it’s the summer of 2016 and Legends in Concert’s celebrating its 20th year in Branson, with a little help, that might just be a possibility,” said Preston Garrison, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. As I watched the Legends in Concert (Legends) show last week, I experienced first-hand what Garrison was alluding to and saw, among others, Legends in Concert tribute performances by Taylor Swift, Michael Jackson performing “Thriller,” and Johnny Cash singing “Ring of Fire.”

It is a colossal show, in terms of the number of tribute artists, band members, singers and dancers performing. Legends brings to the Branson stage the same level of production, talent, and excitement that its Las Vegas, “parent” has been providing since 1983 and its “siblings” are providing at such prime destination as Waikiki, Myrtle Beach, Atlantic City, and others.

From the very beginning, the hallmark of Legends in Concert has been the quality of its tribute artists. Each performer “not only looks like the star they portray, but uses their own natural voice to pay homage to their iconic music counterpart.” The six legends portrayed in the show I saw were “Kenny Chesney” performed by Todd Bradshaw, “Taylor Swift,” performed by Elizabeth Scarborough; the “Blues Brothers,” performed by Danny Z and Clint Nievar; “Michael Jackson,” performed by Michael Knight; “Johnny Cash” performed by Paul Eve, and “Elvis Presley,” performed by Travis Powell.

Each does a four or five number “set” amid a production making each, at a minimum, a wonderful distinctive concert, and most, especially Michael Jackson’s set, a mini production, unlike anything else offered in Branson. Although, just about every number in every set could be considered a highlight, I will mention just one from each set:

Kenny Chesney: The ballad “You Had Me From Hello” and how the audience was invited to come to the front of the theatre and dance, becoming part of their own entertainment experience.

Taylor Swift: “Never Ever Getting Back Together,” along with its introduction, was extremely entertaining both musically and in the way it was presented. The costume changes during the set were amazing!

Blues Brothers: “Soulman,” as was the case with every number during their set, was energetically performed with great support from the dancers, and some great moves by “Elwood.” Don’t know how these guys can do it, but they do and the audience loved it.

Michael Jackson: “Thriller,” with Knight’s performance and the special effects, dancers, and Michael’s “moves” was probably my WOW moment in the whole show, and that’s saying a lot because it is one great show and I am not a Michael Jackson fan.

Johnny Cash: Loved his performance of “Ring of Fire” and his introduction to it.

Elvis: “My Way” was beautifully done and has special meaning to me.

Some make the mistake of getting up and leaving after Elvis, but then they miss one of the highlights of the show, the whole cast Finale including “Viva Las Vegas.” It is something you definitely don’t want to miss!

As great as the individual tribute performers are, without great special effects, choreography, and costuming; along with a great band, and dancers and singers talented enough to not only perform different genres of music, but virtually perform six different “mini shows,” for six different stars, within one amazing production, this show would not be the great entertainment experience it is. It is their consistent performance show after show, star after star that, in this writer’s opinion, is the real “legend” behind the Legends in Concert show.

The Legend’s band is composed of Kevin Allen, Band Director / Lead Guitar; Brian Zerbe, Bass Guitar; Eddie Howard, Drums; and Lyman Clark, Keyboard. Legend’s dancers are Kenya Wilhite, also a singer; Desta Pritchett, also a singer; Cindy Dardas; Aaron Lemoine; and Landy Saavedra.

This is a show that totally entertains from start to finish with “legendary” entertainers, wonderful special effects, live music, dancers, and spectacular Las Vegas choreography and production. There’s nothing else like it anywhere else in Branson and is proof positive why Legends in Concert is billed as the “World’s Greatest Live Tribute Show.” For additional information or tickets for Legends in Concert, or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services; call 1-800-785-1550 or visit www.BransonTourismCenter.com