Category Archives: Branson Shows

It’s no illusion the Illusionist Rick Thomas show is an amazing magical entertainment “10” your whole family will enjoy

Rick Thomas and assistant Tara Edgerton are a magical combination extraordinaire.

Rick Thomas and assistant Tara Edgerton are a magical combination extraordinaire.

The short and quick of it is, if you want to see one of the best magic shows to ever appear on a Branson stage you don’t want you and your family to miss the Illusionist Rick Thomas Show at the Moon River Theatre. In over 28 years of seeing magic shows in Branson I have never been as amazed or entertained by a magic show as I was by this show when I saw it on the night of May 23 with many of my peers from the Branson Tourism Center and the Branson tourism industry.

Rick and Lightening.

Rick and Lightning.

From the time the show starts until it ends with a “blast,” it is two hours of truly magical non-stop entertainment with a variety of illusions; close up magic; what I call “mind magic;” doves, dogs, color, brightness, dancing, music and action that will “knock your socks off.” The magic is illusionary, but the fun, excitement and enjoyment I experienced, and witnessed others enjoying was real.

There’s no aloofness or mystery here, just a man who obviously relates well to both adults and kids, getting them invested in the show early on and keeping them enthralled throughout. He is a master at his craft and just seems to be able to communicate to his audience that he is having so much fun doing what he is doing as he draws them into that fun. It is simply magical in its own right and adds so much to the excitement and enjoyment of the show.

With his beautiful and talented assistant, Tara Edgerton and dancers Shelley Tess-Webster, Jenna Perez, Sarah Tochtrop Thomas Gray, Lewis Darlington and Gareth Evans, he combines beautiful music and dancing with some of the “most intriguing and innovative Grand Illusions in the world” into a spectacular entertainment experience. Whether it was Rick performing one of his illusions, the dancers dancing or him working the audience, this fast paced show had me sitting on the edge of my seat marveling at what I had just seen and anxious to see what was coming next.

This is one of those shows that both adults and children can simultaneously enjoy together throughout. Kids and adults alike love the magic and the dancing and even on the couple of occasions when kids were brought up on stage to interact with him it was seamlessly done in a way that not only gave the children in the audience a chance to relate to their peers on stage, but enhanced the quality of the entertainment experience of the adults in the audience at the same time.

Because it is a magic show and surprise and awe is such a big part of its excitement I will not go into the specifics of the illusions except to say, “From birds and motorcycles to Lightning, seeing time stand still and from dogs to beautiful women you will be amazed and dazzled by the illusions of Rick Thomas as they come at you one after the other as part of this wonderful magical experience.

The start of the amazing,  unique "Air Adage."

The start of the amazing, unique “Air Adage.”

OK, I have to mention one. The “Air Adage” illusion with Tara dancing so gracefully high above the stage is as beautiful as it is amazing, not only from an illusion perspective, but from the grace and skill of the dancing itself. It is a unique one of a kind illusion that I will never forget and bet you won’t either.

I asked two of my compatriots from the Branson tourism industry who attended the same show, what they thought of it. “I’d rate it a ’10!’ said Megan Miller who has seen a number of magic shows in Branson over the years. When asked what she liked best Megan said that she liked the illusions involving the dog, the way he relates to the audience and the “blast” at the end of the show.

Noell Chapman, another Branson tourism professional, has also seen a number of magic shows in Branson over the years and when asked how she would rank it on a 10 point scale she said, “10 plus!” When asked what her one favorite part of the show was she said, “I loved the way they levitated into ‘the sky’ and gracefully floated above the stage like they were swimming in water, but there’s no water!” She said that she has never seen anything like it, highly recommends the show and would definitely recommend if for families with kids.”

For additional information or tickets for the Illusionist Rick Thomas Show 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,

Grand Jubilee truly is grand entertainment for your whole family


"New South," Jon Drockelman (Left),  Mark  McCauley David Ragan and Luke Menard

“New South,” Jon Drockelman (Left), Mark McCauley David Ragan and Luke Menard

The short and quick of it is, “Don’t miss it, the Grand Jubilee show truly is “grand” entertainment for your whole family.” As many times as I have seen this show, I expect to see and experience dynamic vocals from the quartet “New South” and Jackie Brown, hilarious comedy from Jamie Haage, great music from the “Grand Band” and the excellent emceeing of the show’s producer Mike Patrick resulting in an absolutely “grand” entertainment experience. I have never been disappointed, but this year there’s a synergy and energy that just adds another dimension of anticipation, excitement and excellence to what was already one of Branson’s top shows.

From the time the curtain goes up, well maybe even a little before, it’s non-stop entertainment filled with some of the finest vocals and comedy on any Branson stage. The main vocal component is the group “New South,” composed of Lead Vocalist, David Ragan, Tenor, Luke Menard, Baritone, Jon Drockelman and Bass, Mark McCauley. New South has consistently been one of Branson’s most outstanding quartets even as different singers have rotated in and out periodically. David Regan, the newest member of the group, is starting his first full season with the group and, if the show I saw was any indication, his addition will do nothing, but enhance and grow that tradition of musical excellence.

Each member of the group has a great voice that is demonstrated in “solo” features throughout the show, but when they sing together well, that’s when you will find yourself shaking your head thinking, “These guys are good, really good.” And if it was just their singing that would be enough, but there is an energy, enthusiasm and spirit of fun that just seems to radiate from them to the audience and draw them into the performance that adds so much to the enjoyment of the show.

New South performs a variety of music from many different genres including country, gospel, patriotic, and even a dash of Irish hard rock covering decades of hits and does an amazing job on them all. From among many, and although certainly subjective, some of my favorites were “Elvira,” featuring the bass voice of Bass Mark McCauley, the Irish hard rock song, “The Boys Are Back In Town, and, my absolute favorite, “How Great Thou Art” which was simply one of the most powerful and beautiful renditions of that song I have ever heard highlighted by David Regan singing the second verse and “the note.” What’s the note? When you hear it you’ll know!

The lovely Jackie Brown, performing "Cry."

The lovely Jackie Brown, performing “Cry.”

Jackie Brown is the show’s female vocalist. Her vocal talents are demonstrated on a number of songs throughout the show. My personal favorite was her performance of the Johnnie Ray classic “Cry.” What a tremendous job!

The “Grand Band” includes of some of the finest musicians in Branson. It is composed of  Michael W. Davis, Piano/Keyboard & Vocals; Wayne Massengale, Fiddle and Acoustic Guitar; Larry Allred, Bass Guitar; Rob Blackburn, Drums; David Creech, Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar and Gene Mulvaney, Steel Guitar, Electric Guitar, Banjo and Band Director.

These guys are not just great musicians, they are consummate showman. Whether it’s a musical feature like Gene Mulvaney on the steel guitar with Jackie Brown in “There Goes My Heart Again,” Wayne Massengale’s fiddle feature with New South as they performed “Play Me Mountain Music” or the band playing a number like “Pick It Apart,” their musicianship and showmanship add yet another delightful element to the show.

"Jim Dandy" and Mike Patrick during the "magic banana" skit.

“Jim Dandy” and Mike Patrick during the “magic banana” skit.

“Jim Dandy,” played by Jamie Haage, one of Branson’s best comedians, along with “straight man” Mike Patrick, kept me laughing throughout the show with a blend of comedy skits and one liners. It can be safely said, “No dark comedy here, just “orange comedy” and who wouldn’t want to know how funny and magical a banana can be? The comedy just flows in with the music at exactly the right time as the show seamlessly moves from one entertaining segment to the next.

Watching the metamorphosis of Haage from comedian to instrumentalist and vocalist is a special treat to see and hear. His playing of the banjo, steel guitar, drums, piano and fiddle, especially his “train duet” of the “Wabash Cannonball” and ” Orange Blossom Special” with Wayne Massengale, was a joy to experience, not only testifying as to the versatility and talents of this “grand” entertainer, but as yet another thing that makes the Grand Jubilee unique among Branson shows.

It would be impossible to write about the Grand Jubilee without mentioning its Director and Producer Mike Patrick. Not only is he responsible for producing this “grand” entertainment experience, that just might be two of the best and fastest moving hours of entertainment in Branson, but he is also Emcee, Jim Dandy’s straight man and even plays a mean honky-tonk piano version of “Balls of Fire” with “fire” coming out of the piano.

In a previous review of the Grand Jubilee I said, “It might seem like a cliché, but the Grand Jubilee is truly ‘grand’ entertainment. I laughed until I hurt, listened to some of the most talented musicians and vocalists I have ever heard, in Branson or anywhere else, and was thoroughly entertained by a fast moving production that held my interest throughout. It was over all too quickly.” Isn’t it wonderful that some things never change except to get better!

For additional information or tickets on the Grand Jubilee show 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,


How do the Hughes’ kids do “it?”

The beautiful and touching  conclusion performance of the whole family performance of  “So Happy Together.”

The beautiful and touching conclusion of the whole family performance of  “So Happy Together.”

Simply put, “it’s a miracle,” but more on that later. Earlier this year, right after seeing it starring the Hughes Brothers and their families, I wrote a review of the show for the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) in which I said, “The Hughes Family is billed as the largest family performing together on stage. The Hughes Brothers, Marty, Jason, Adam, Ryan and Andy are the stars of the show which also prominently features their very talented wives Cindy, Vikki, Carina, Mara and Becky along with about 32* of their children…”

The ages of the children range from toddler to age 21 and I was absolutely amazed by their performance in the show. So much so that I wrote, “Every element of this show is a polished entertainment gem. It’s not just a matter of putting kids in a show. These kids are good!” In fact they were so good that I decided to see if I could get the answer to the question, “How do the Hughes’ kids do “it?”

Recently, two of the Hughes Brothers and their wives, Marty and Cindy along with Jason and Mara, were kind enough to sit down with me to explain the kids’ involvement in the show. In talking about the kids in the show, Jason, the show’s producer, said that from the brothers, our wives down to the youngest child, people coming to our show are not going to see a family trying to put on a show; they are going to see a real top notch professional show with children that are as good as any child in the business and the miracle of it is that they are all in one family.

We used a question and answer format for the interview with this writer asking the questions for the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) and one or more of the Hughes Family (HF) members answering. Except for the last question, the answer are not specifically identified as to a specific person, but to the group as a whole and are designated by the HF:

BTC: How do you get them to do it?
HF: The kids just want to do it. They just naturally want to be like daddy and mommy and then there is the “peer pressure” of seeing their brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles all performing.

BTC: At what age do you start them?
HF: Some have started in the womb as their mothers performed, and many if not all, have performed in the Nativity scene from their Christmas show which features a live baby Jesus each year.

BTC: How do you prepare the younger children so that there is a consistent level of performance in the show?
HF: Particularly, with the younger children, whether or not they perform on any given day is up to them. That’s why we double or triple cast their parts.

BTC: How do they progress to the amazing performance levels that the audience sees in the show?
HF: From an early age they feel at home on stage. By the time they are 4 or 5 they are ready to go and as they grow older we try to up the ante as to the difficulty of what they are doing. It’s interesting the way the progression works. We have younger kids coming into numbers while older kids are graduating out.

BTC: Is there flexibility for the kids to do the things other kids get to do?
HF: Absolutely. We are extremely flexible and modify schedules etc. so that the kids can take time off to go to camps, do things they want to do and participate in other activities with their friends.

BTC: What kind of commitment do the kids make to the show?
HF: They just want to do it and be up on the stage with the rest of the family. Especially with the older ones, they know we are counting on each other. Obviously, particularly with the younger children, there are some challenges occasionally and that’s why we multiple cast some of the parts and have some scheduling flexibility.

BTC: What is one of the biggest challenges of involving the kids in the show?
HF: Coordinating schedules and consistency. With 34 kids in the show sometimes it just seems like there’s something different every day from someone having to go potty to changing a diaper to needing different kids at rehearsal for different parts at different times. Jason said, “With all that, there’s just not quite anything like finally getting the kids in the car, getting to the theater and picking up your four year old only to realize they are not wearing any shoes.”

BTC: Do the kids rehearse a lot?
HF: We are so proud of the effort our kids put into not only preparing, but performing. The amount of time spent depends on what they are doing in the show. Even just having the kids walk out on stage requires rehearsals for blocking and where they are going to stand etc. As their involvement in the show increases so does the rehearsal time.

BTC: There are 34 kids in the show now. How many children do each of you have in the show?

Marty and Cindy – 13
Jason and Mara – 7
Adam and Vikki – 3
Ryan and Carina – 7
Andy and Becky – 4

BTC: How are the kids schooled?
HF: They are home schooled with tutors used on a supplemental basis.

BTC: In about a sentence, what one thing would you want people to know about the kids appearing in the show?

Marty: They are better for it because they are learning a work ethic.
Cindy:  The kids really love what they are doing!
Myra:  They love each other and working together with their aunts and uncles and being able to run up to Grandma’s office.
Jason: They are really good and the miracle of it is that they are all in one family.

How good is this show? Well my opinion is in the review that I wrote, but yesterday, April 7, 2015, I was having breakfast with my good friend Arlan who, along with his wife Linda, has seen many Branson shows over the years. As we were eating breakfast he asked if I had seen “it’ with the Hughes Brothers?” It was a rhetorical question because he continued on by telling me that he and Linda had seen it for the first time recently and really liked it. He said the show was one of the best he has ever seen in Branson, he is going to recommend it to others and commented on how amazing the kids were. We had a chuckle when I told him I had seen it, felt the same way and was actual in the midst of doing a piece on the kids.

“it” starring the Hughes Brothers is a rare Branson entertainment gem, “hidden in plain sight” that simultaneously holds the interest and entertains both children and adults at a constant level throughout the show with some of the finest entertainment on any Branson stage. It is an absolutely wonderful unique Branson entertainment experience that should not be missed.

 * The actual number could fluctuate by a couple performance to performance.

Material Connection

Spirit of the Dance is a beautiful breathtaking high energy entertainment experience for the whole family

Lead Female Irish Dancer  Courtney Collins

Lead Irish Dancer Courtney Collins performing a traditional soft shoe Irish Stepdance number.

Spirit of the Dance Encore Performance brings the Spirit of the Dance back to the Branson stage with two hours of unique breathtaking non-stop high energy entertainment that the whole family will enjoy. As I watched the performance on March 17, I was totally immersed in the precision of their Irish dancing. It was joy to see and hear that was made even more so because of the beautiful vocals, colorful costuming and other styles of dance that are delicately woven into this unique exciting entertainment experience.

From beginning to end the “Spirit” of the show is in the hearts, professional passion and talents of its dancers and vocalists and, what a great job they do! The Lead Irish Dancers, Courtnay Collins and Oliver Barrows head an exceptional cast of dancers including Jacqui Bell, Rebecca Jennings, Ellen Tress, Devan Jay Kellett, Beth Leanne, Peri Walsham, Joe Farmer, Davide Leo, Blair Muir, Rowan Lewis and Mitchell Jare. Dasha Toropkina, who plays the part of the “Spirit,” does vocals and dances.

The very first number, “Irish Love,” demonstrates that this show is not just a reproduction of “Riverdance,” but that it has a direction and excitement of its own. Its haze, lilting mystical Celtic music with a subtle blending of Danny Boy introduces the “Spirit,” performed by Dasha Toropkina, who performed beautifully here and throughout the show. It is a breathtaking experience as they transition from the “gentleness” of the opening introduction into Irish performance dancing with an explosion of sound as their feet hit the stage in a mind boggling demonstration of speed and precision. It’s a magnificent thing to experience.

“Irish performance dancing” or “Stepdancing” as it is commonly called, was made popular by “Riverdance,” over two decades ago and is a style of dance incorporating precise quick movements of the feet with a stiff upper body and the arms held fairly close to the sides. The wonderful thing about Spirit of the Dance is that it takes Stepdancing and weaves it in with other styles of dance such as the Spanish Flamingo, Waltz, American Western, Scottish Fling, Rock and Roll and more into a beautiful and exciting entertainment experience.

The "Stomp" is just one of the many styles of dance in the show.

The “Stomp” is just one of the many styles of dance in the show.

And it’s not just what they do, but how they do it. The performers are outstanding and their costuming is amazing, not only as to its color and variety, but in how often it is changed. The choreography of each number and the way each flows seamlessly from one to the other are other factors that make this show a must see.

Some might have a question about whether or not kids would like this show. During the intermission I picked a couple with two young boys, the Mike Neff family visiting from Oklahoma. When asked if he would recommend the show to others he said, “Absolutely, it’s a good family show, high energy, lots of costume changes and great lighting. Neff said his boys, who are seven and six years old were having a great time and particularly liked the “quick feet” and colorful costumes.

There’s not a lot of vocals in the show, but they are all original and strategically placed to enhance a special moment of the show. Most are performed by Dasha Toropkina, as “The Spirit” and one by Lead Irish Dancer Courtnay Collins.

Typically, when I write about a show, and while fully realizing that my “highlights”  might not be the same as others, I mention a few of my favorites. The “Two Tribes” number with its blending of soft toe Irish dance into an explosion of powerful precision hard shoe Stepdancing amid its costume changes and everything else in between was a beautiful and powerful way to end the first half of the show.

Another personal highlight was the opening of the second half of the show right after intermission. The “Spirit,” Dasha Toropkina, wows the audience as she sings “Coming Home,” as part of a full cast performance including a powerful Stepdance number. It was an amazing way to start the second half. Another favorite number for me was the full cast performance of the number “The Spirit of the Dance,” featuring Courtnay Collins who did a a superb job of dancing and performing the vocal.

Spirit of the Dance is a unique one of a kind show. It is filled with excitement, high energy, color, action, Irish dance and vocals performed superbly by a cast that has a passion for what they are doing. It is a show that the whole family can share and enjoy together.

For additional information or tickets for Spirit of the Dance Encore Performance, or 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,


9th Annual Elvis Festival will positively rock Branson with amazing entertainment

Finalists gather at 2014 "Branson Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest."

Finalists gather at 2014 “Branson Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest.”

“The annual ‘Branson Elvis® Festival’ offers another unique and exciting activity for all Branson visitors, but especially for Elvis fans,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. The 9th Annual Branson Elvis® Festival will take place March 27 – 29, 2015, at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater, the home of Branson’s Legends in Concert Show on the world famous “Branson Strip.”

The highlight of the Festival is the Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest™ which will be held on the Legends in Concert stage, Saturday, March 28 starting at 7:00 PM. The winner of the Branson contest receives a prize package and the opportunity to compete in the “2015 Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest™ Finals” presented by Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. which will be held August 8  -16 in Memphis, Tennessee during Elvis Week.

Legends in Concert’s General Manager, Jeannie Horton said that the Branson Contest will be hosted by “Dean Z,” who won the “2013 Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest™ Final.” in Memphis. “We are really excited about the quality of the 16 contestants and the fact that it’s the most contestants that we have ever had. It’s going to be a great evening of entertainment!” she added.

In addition, to the Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest™ the Branson Elvis Festival includes several other exciting events including:

Friday, March 27 – 5 PM: Elvis Meet & Greet Dinner at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill. Call the box office (417-339-3003) for reservations as “family style seating” is limited.

Friday, March 27 & 28 –  10:15 PM: Elvis Contestant Karaoke at Club 57. Tickets for both nights are available at the Legends box office and are $5 plus tax. Limited space available!

Saturday, March 28 9 AM to 4 PM: The Elvis Vendor Village will be open in Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater lobby.  Vendors from across the country will be selling unique Elvis merchandise.”

Saturday, March 28 – 10 AM: A new event, the Junior and Senior Youth Division Contest, for kids (ages 5-18). It will be held on the Legends in Concert stage and a $25 entry fee and registration is required. Call 417-339-3003 x 3015 to request more information on this event, or email

Saturday, March 28 7:00PM: The Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest

Sunday, March 29 – 10 AM: Free Branson Gospel Sunday Service will be held at the Hamner Variety Theater featuring some of Elvis’ favorite gospel numbers.

Sunday, March 29 – 8 PM: Guest appearance of the 2015 Branson Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest™ winner during the 8 PM performance of Legends in Concert Show.

For additional information or tickets for the Legends in Concert Show, The Ultimate Elvis® Tribute Artist Contest,™ or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling their toll free number 1-800-785-1550 or through their web site

Mickey Gilley gives Branson 26 years of amazing memories

Music legend Mickey Gilley.

Music legend Mickey Gilley.

“Bob Hope’s theme song, ‘Thanks for the Memories,’ comes to mind when one thinks of all that Mickey Gilley has meant to Branson and its visitors over the past 25 years,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. Wood made the comment in connection with Gilley’s recent announcement that 2015 will be his last season performing at his Branson theatre. Gilley indicated that he plans to continue doing road shows and will maintain his Branson residence.

In connection with his 25th year in Branson Gilley sat down for an exclusive interview with the Branson Tourism Center and shared an up close and personal interview about his career and his first 25 years in Branson. The interview was conducted on Aug. 16, 2014 and used a “Question and Answer” format with Branson Tourism Center’s questions preceded by “BTC” and Gilley’s responses preceded by “MG:”

BTC: What is your favorite childhood memory?
MG: Telling my sister that I was not going to go to the back of the house while she was sweeping and cleaning the front room floors. I grabbed the door and shook it and she ran after me. The race was on, and I outran her.

BTC: Of all the professional moments and performances you have had, which has meant the most to you?
MG: When I met Conway Twitty in 1974 and opened a show for him in my night club in Pasadena, TX.

BTC: What was one of the “highs” of your life and one of the “lows?”
MG: High in my life was in 1974 when “Room Full of Roses” hit and went to Number 1 for me. The “low” [with a grin] was trying to follow my cousin Jerry Lee Lewis for 17 years before I had the hit.

BTC: Of all the hits you have had which one is your personal favorite and why?
MG: That’s a hard one to answer because my fans have given me 17 top ten songs. I will say that “Room Full of Roses” has a special place in my heart, “Don’t The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time” was the best song ever given to me and that my favorite recording and one of my favorite records is “That’s All That Matters To Me.”

BTC: What one song do you enjoy performing the most?
MG: “Stand By Me,” a beautiful song, from the soundtrack of “The Urban Cowboy.” I am using to close my show this year.

BTC: Do you have a little known fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy hearing about?
MG: In 1959 I had a chart record, “Is It Wrong For Loving You,” that Kenny Rogers played the base on. Also, probably a lot of people don’t know that I had a Commercial Pilot and Instrument Ratings and have flown my airplane for over 8,000 hours. I am also in the process of bringing Gilley’s Beer back on the market.

BTC: If you could perform on stage with any other performer, living or dead, who would it be?
MG: Elvis Presley because he was always one of my favorites.

BTC: What is your favorite part in your current Branson show?
MG: When we do the music from the soundtrack of “Urban Cowboy” because it has some great music in it.

BTC: Was your first trip to Branson, business or pleasure?
MG: My first trip to Branson was in 1987 when I played for Mr. Jim Thomas at the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre.

BTC: What was your first impression of Branson?
MG: Was wondering what was going on in this little town that I had never heard of.

BTC: In what year did you open your own theatre?
MG: Jim Thomas opened the “Mickey Gilley Theatre” in 1989 and in 1990 I it took over.

BTC: Where and when were you born?
MG: I was born in Natchez, MS on March 9, 1936.

BTC: What relationship is Jerry Lee Lewis to you?
MG: First Cousin.

BTC: What relationship is Jimmy Swaggart?
MG: Second Cousin.

BTC: Did either, separately or together, have any influence on your decision to become an entertainer?
MG: Jerry Lee Lewis.

BTC: How?
MG: He played piano, sang and had “hits” in the 50’s. I was making $1.25 per hour doing construction work and when I saw the kind of money he was making I thought, “If he can do it I can too” and decided to jump in. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that everyone was going to compare me to my cousin Jerry Lee Lewis. Actually, although I didn’t think about it at the time, in essence, what I was doing was performing a tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis and I was successful because I could do his music.

BTC: How long have you been performing professionally?
MG: Since 1957.

BTC: Where and when did you make your first professional appearance?
MG: That’s hard to pinpoint, but the first successful run I had in a “nightclub” was at The “Nesadel Club”, located on Spencer Highway in Pasadena Texas from 1960 to 1970. I worked six nights a week, did four sets a night and played piano, organ and sang along with a little three piece band.

BTC: When did “Gilley’s open?
MG: In 1971. I had decided to throw in the towel as far as recording goes and a partner and I started “Gilley’s,” a honkytonk bar located on Spencer Highway not too far from the “Nesadel Club.” In the first month in business with him I made more money than I had made since I had been in the music business period.

BTC: How did you get back in the recording business?
MG: In 1973 the lady who had the juke boxes in the club wanted me to record the song, “She Called Me Baby All-Night Long.” I told her I had not made a record in three and a half to four years, but I went in and made the recording for her putting “Room Full of Roses” on the flip, “B,” side. It took off locally in the Houston area in 1973 and became my first national hit in 1974.

BTC: What made you decide to open a theatre in Branson?
MG: My friend Jim Thomas thought it would be a good mix with those who were already performing here and I was ready to get off the road.

BTC: Anything else you want our readers to know?
MG: I would like them to know that Branson has some great entertainers and shows, we have a lot of wonderful people who are trying very hard to please the people who come to Branson and with all the great things it has to offer is a great place to come to vacation. I would like to invite everyone, “To come and see us.”

Click here for information, scheduling, pricing and tickets for Mickey Gilley’s 2015 Branson show or call 1-800-785-1550. Branson Tourism Center’s Wood suggests advance reservations to ensure availability and the best seats for the final Branson performances of the Mickey Gilley show.


Shoji Tabuchi fiddling around with Bigfoot?

The incredible Shoji Tabuchi during a non Bigfoot moment.

The incredible Shoji Tabuchi during a non Bigfoot moment.

If you asked ten people in Branson the question, “Of all the Branson entertainers which, group or entertainer, is least likely to be involved with the Animal Planet TV show Finding Bigfoot?” I’m betting it would be Branson’s master violinist and fiddle player, “Shoji Tabuchi.” Yet, earlier this week when I talked with him about a rumor that he was going to be a guest on the show, he confirmed the rumor, but said he could not discuss any of the specific details.

Tabuchi said that he is excited about being on the show and is really looking forward to it. He explained that he has an open mind about the existence of a “Sasquatch” or “Bigfoot” as well as UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster and, with a twinkle in his eye, asked, “Who knows?”

What skill set does Shoji have that could be of interest to Bigfoot’s investigative Team? Don’t know for sure, but one of the cast members and founders of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization is a recognized authority on “Bigfoot” and is noted for his innovative use of sound “as a technique for locating Bigfoots.”

On March 6, there was a “Finding Bigfoot” meeting at the White House Theatre in Branson, which it could be presumed, was as a preamble to the Ozark’s area filming of material for Finding Bigfoot. Cliff Barackman, one of the co-hosts of the show was present as people shared information about seeing what they believed were sasquatch foot prints, an actual Bigfoot or other evidence that could assist the Investigative Team in deciding what areas to look for a potential Ozark’s Bigfoot. Could it be that the “Blue Man of Spring Creek” actually existed?”

The team consists of James “BoBo” Fray, a commercial fisherman by trade, who says he saw his first sasquatch in 2001; Cliff Barackman who analyses and interprets data, especially those related to Bigfoot footprints and owns one of the largest Bigfoot cast collection in the country; Matt Moneymaker who has been involved actively in Bigfoot research since the 1990s, launched the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization website as well as being a very respected Bigfoot Researcher and Ranae Holland, a research biologist who, although she does not believe in Bigfoot, co-hosts of the show and is “fascinated by the phenomenon and excited to have found a way to combine her scientific knowledge, fieldwork skills, and love of the wilderness to investigate alleged sightings.”

Although there has been no announced date as to when the episode with Shoji will air on Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot, Sasquatches aside, we do know one thing for sure; the 2015 season for the Shoji Tabuchi Show in Branson kicks off on April 17.

Six reasons making Branson absolutely the place for your family’s amazing Spring Break

The green of spring and Table Rock Lake provide a magnificent sight  for riders on Silver Dollar City's "WidFire" coaster.

The fresh green of an Ozarks spring and Table Rock Lake provide a magnificent sight for riders on Silver Dollar City’s “WidFire” coaster.

“With six inches of snow on the ground and temperatures ranging from a low in the teens to a high in the lower 30s, spring seems kind of distant,” said Annette Wood, the Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Yet, in reality, it and “spring breaks” are just around the corner,” she added.

Wood points out that Branson is a great place for families to shake the “winter blues” and share an amazing and memorable “spring break” together and from many, she suggests the following six reasons she believes that is so:

1.  Silver Dollar City and its new $8 million Fireman’s Landing – Silver Dollar City, the international award winning 1880s styled theme park, is Branson’s oldest and most popular paid attraction. In addition to its shows and practicing crafters Silver Dollar City offers over 40 exciting rides from world class coasters such as its new Outlaw Run® wood coaster to the thrills of its iconic WildFire® coaster to milder rides the family can share together such as the rides in the “Grand Exposition.” New this year is the $8 million “Fireman’s Landing” with ten new rides and attractions featuring “FireFall,” an exciting 8 story fire tower free fall and rides and attractions for the smaller members of the family.

2. There are “spring breaks” and there is a “Branson spring break” – When some think of “spring break,” the thing that they envision is the raucous, alcohol filled, thinly clad body situations normally shown on TV in association with college students celebrating spring breaks at other destinations. Interestingly, although a lot of college students do celebrate spring break in Branson, it is for the same reason that families celebrate spring break in Branson, to enjoy the wholesome family atmosphere that permeates Branson’ shows, attractions and activities and defines what Branson is.

3. The Natural Beauty of Spring in the Ozarks – Everywhere one turns in Branson they are surrounded by the unique magnificent beauty of the Ozark Mountains that surround it as they awaken to the freshness of a new year amid a beautiful show produced by “Mother Nature.”

4. Branson’s Spectacular Live Shows – The majority of Branson’s shows will be open with their new 2015 shows providing the quality and breadth of live entertainment for which Branson is noted. From the Branson’s first show on its famed “Branson Strip,” Presleys’ Country Jubilee to the Grand Jubilee; it starring the Hughes Brothers; SIX, Acrobats of China, The Haygoods and dozens more, Branson is unrivaled in the variety of live entertainment it offers with something for everyone and, perhaps, more importantly, something that the whole family can enjoy together.

5. Attractions and Activities Galore – From the excitement of a “voyage aboard” the Titanic Museum Attraction, to the magnificence of the great cats at the National Tiger Sanctuary; Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Dicks 5 & 10; the Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery, College of the “Ozarks Ralph Foster Museum,” called the Smithsonian of the Ozarks; Ride the Ducks, great golf and many more, Branson has a remarkable choice of attractions and activities. When that is combined with great shopping and everything else Branson has to offer it’s hard to imagine a “spring break” destination that has more to offer than Branson.

6. Value – Compared to other destinations Branson is a great value in terms of the prices for lodging, shows, attractions and other activities. Recently announced Branson as the number two city among “the 50 Best Value Cities for the coming year.” Wood points that it becomes even a better value when lodging is “bundled,” packaged, with shows and attractions and offers the assistance of the Branson Tourism Center in that regard by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website,

In addition, Branson offers an intangible that very few, if any travel destination can offer. It has been Branson’s privilege to entertain tourists for over a century. Spring break or any other time of the year, it is a community dedicated to serving its visitors with an attitude and spirit of appreciation, service and “what can we do to make sure you have a great Branson experience.” Why not shake the winter blues and celebrate spring break with our family in Branson this year?


How many of these 12 plus events on this exclusive March 2015 Buzzing in Branson List do you know about?

The "Bell Tower: being lifted atop Station #3" at "Fireman's Landing in January of this year.

The “Bell Tower: being lifted atop “Station #3” at “Fireman’s Landing in January of this year.

“Buzzin in Branson” is a concise and easy to read list of the major events taking place in Branson, Missouri during the month being “Buzzed,” which is March of 2015 for this issue. Each issue of “Buzzin in Branson” contains the “Branson Buzz of the Month” and a list the major special events, shows and activities for that month,

Branson “Buzz of the Month for March 2015

The opening of “Fireman’s Landing.” When Silver Dollar City opens its 2015 season on March 14 it will premiere of its $8 million dollar Fireman’s Landing, with its ten new family rides featuring “Fire Fall,” an 8-story fire tower free-fall drop ride.

The following list of special events, shows and activities in March is sorted by event date and contains pertinent and timely comments and contact information, through either a link or phone number, that can be used to obtain additional information:

Feb 27 – Mar 1: Edgewater USAG Woman’s Artistic Gymnastics Classic
Mar 1 – Mar 31: Annual Irish Celebration Month at Titanic Museum Attraction
Mar 1Puttin On The Ritz premiers in Branson
Mar 1 – Following shows start first full month of 2015 season: Dublin’s Irish Tenors and the         Celtic Ladies, Haygoods, Legends in Concert, New Jersey Nights and SIX.
Mar 4Acrobats of China start 2015 season in new venue, the Yakov Smirnoff Theatre
Mar 7 – Presleys Country Jubilee, Branson’s 1st show on the Branson Strip opens its 2015 Season.
Mar 11 – Mar 17: NAIA Division II Men’s Basketball National Championship
Mar 13 – Jonah starts final Branson season.
Mar 13 – Billy Dean Live starts 2015 season.
Mar 13 – Clay Cooper’s Country Express opens its 2015 Season
Mar 14 – Silver DollarCity starts its 2015 season and premiers Fireman’s Landing
Mar 14 – Spirit of the Dance The Encore Tour premiers in Branson.
Mar 17 – St Patrick’s Day
Mar 19 – Branson Praisefest 2015
Mar 20 – Mar 22: Marriage Getaway Weekend
Mar 24 – Crossing Over With John Edward
Mar 27 – Mar 29: 9th Branson Elvis Festival and Branson Ultimate Elvis Tribute Contest
Mar 28 – Junior Auxiliary of Taney County 2015 Trivia Challenge
Mar 28 – Mar 29: Young Christians Weekend at Silver Dollar City

“Buzzin in Branson” is produced monthly by the Branson Tourism Center as a service to its customers and others interested in what’s going on in Branson. If you have any further questions about these events or want information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or lodging 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 .

“Buzzin in Branson” buzzes for February 2015

Dublin's Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies open their 2015 Branson season on February 12.

Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies open their 2015 Branson season on February 12.

Branson “Buzz of the Month:” Branson’s 21st Annual Hot Winter Fun Big Show on February 2. This fabulous one night only show features music, entertainment and comedy acts from some of Branson’s best shows, all of which are open for Branson’s Hot Winter including Clay Cooper’s Country Express, Grand Jubilee; Legends In Concert; “it” from the Hughes Brothers Theater; Paul Harris & The Cleverlys; Acrobats of China featuring New Shanghai Circus; AYO – starring Voices of Glory and SIX to name just a few. While we’re at it, we are going to highlight another special day in February for many people by asking this question, “Could Branson be the perfect Valentine for your sweetheart?” “Buzzin in Branson” is produced monthly by the Branson Tourism Center as a service to its customers and others interested in what’s going on in Branson. It is in a concise and easy to read format that conveniently provides pertinent and timely comments, information and a list of the major special events, shows and activities for the month being “Buzzed” which, in this case is February 2015.

February 2015 Buzzes

Feb. 1 – Feb. 28: Sweetheart Month at Titanic Feb. 2: 21st Annual Hot Winter Fun Big Show Feb. 13: Tri Lakes Building & Home Show Feb.13 – Feb. 16: Presidents Day Weekend: Just have to believe that there will Presidents Day Sales galore in Branson Outlet Malls, Branson Landing and many other places. Feb. 14: Valentine’s Day Feb. 14: 2015 Polar Bear Plunge Feb. 20 – Feb 22: VisionCon Anime, Gaming, Sci-Fi Convention Feb. 22: 2015 Branson Bridal Show Feb. 26 – Feb 28: 2015 Kenneth Copeland Branson Victory Campaign Feb. 27 – Mar 1: Edgewater USAG Woman’s Artistic Gymnastics Classic Feb 28: Vince Elfrink Memorial Fishing Tournament at Lilley’s Landing Feb. 28: World Sword Swallower’s Day Events at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Many of Branson’s shows close for a period during the winter months. Although it should be pointed out that there are shows re-opening on a regular basis, here is a non-inclusive list of the shows that will be performing during February as of January 8:

Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies Grand Jubilee Haygoods Legends in Concert New Jersey Nights Pierce Arrow Absolutely Patsy Amazing Pets Bon Jovi Tribute Comedy Jamboree Creedence Clearwater Revival Tribute Show Dixie Stampede Doowop Pop and Soul Tribute Show Eagles Tribute Concert Hot Winter Fun Big Show it at the Hughes Brothers Theatre Journey Tribute Ozark Mountain Jubilee Sunday Gospel Jubilee The Big Show

With winter weather and, the reopening of shows things can change. Please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, for additional information, tickets or hotel reservations by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website