Category Archives: General

Branson Up Close and Personal with the Million Dollar Quartet’s “Dyanne”-Sarah Tweedle

Sarah Tweedle as “Dyanne,” in Million Dollar Quartet

The smash hit show Million Dollar Quartet, at the Welk Resort Theatre in Branson, tells the story of one of the greatest jam sessions in rock n’ roll history. A unique, impromptu, and one time jam session including four young recording legends-to-be: Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. The events of what took place in the storefront recording studio of Sun Records on December 4, 1956, come to life on the Branson stage in a wonderful musical production for the ages.

Also there that night, was a young lady who was with Elvis Presley. That presence provides the basis for the character Dyanne in the show.  This edition of Branson Up Close and Personal, is with Sarah Tweedle (ST) who plays the role of “Dyanne” in this “ground shaking” not to be missed Branson production

“Branson – Up Close and Personal” is a service of Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. It uses a “Question and Answer” format to provide readers with an up close and personal look at a Branson star or personality. The interviews are conducted for the Branson Tourism Center by Gary Groman, a 31 year resident of the Branson area, local columnist, and freelance writer.

BTC: Outside of your Dad, if you could perform or meet with any entertainer/person (living or deceased) who would it be and why?
ST: Judy Garland 100 %! The first movie I remember watching as a kid was the “Wizard of Oz.” My dad bought it and we would watched it over and over and over again. I absolutely feel that it inspired me to become an entertainer.

BTC: Where was your last gig before theMillion Dollar Quartet
ST: My husband and I were working for Carnival Cruise Lines cruising the Caribbean.

BTC: When did you get married?
ST: I married my husband Drew on May 10, 2015. We have known each other since elementary school.

BTC: Is he an entertainer too?
ST: He’s a spectacular guitar player. He plays in the Eagles Tribute Concert and the Lynyrd Skynyrd & Suthyrn Fryd Frynds Tribute shows at the Tribute Theatre.

BTC: Where is home?
ST: Branson.

BTC: When did you first hear about the musical Million Dollar Quartet?
ST: I was a musical theatre major. My first introduction to the Million Dollar Quartet was in 2010 when I was watching the Tony Awards with my family. It was nominated for a Tony Award as “Best Musical” and one of the actors [Levi Kreis] won the Tony for “Best Featured Actor in a Musical” for his role as Jerry Lee Lewis in the show.

BTC: When did you hear about the Million Dollar Quartet in Branson?
ST: While working aboard the cruise ships in 2015. We got reports that the Million Dollar Quartet had opened in Branson and would really be a ground shaking production for the town.

BTC: Where did you audition for the Million Dollar Quartet?
ST: In my living room.

BTC: How did that come about?
ST: I had heard about the role opening up while we were on the cruise ships. We didn’t get back until the end of October 2015. I was a little burnt out and kind of wanted to rest a bit before making any decisions about what to do next, but I kept on hearing about the role. In early 2016, I decided to get in touch with people I knew at the theatre. They sent me some songs and scenes and asked me to set up a video camera in my living room and record myself. I did, sang “Fever” and “I Hear You Knocking,” read a scene, and sent them to Chris Cathcart, the show’s Production Manager. A couple of days later I went in for a meeting. Shortly after the meeting I was offered the part.

BTC: What made you decide to audition for the part of “Dyanne” in Million Dollar Quartet?
ST: I am a musical theatre major and I love musical theatre. Up to the Million Dollar Quartet, I have always done review shows or fronted rock bands. To be able to be part of a show in Branson that was a book musical, where I could build a character, memorize lines, and be a part of the new age of musical theatre in Branson, really excited me.

BTC: They used the real names of everyone else in the show. Why do you think that they used the name “Dyanne” instead of her real name, “Marilyn,” in the show?
ST: That’s an interesting story. Elvis actually did bring a woman, Marilyn Evans, with him that night. In “The Picture,” if you zoom out, she is sitting at the end of the piano. Her involvement in the jam session was minimal except for the fact that she had come with Elvis. The producers of the show developed a new character, “Dyanne”, who sings and adds an additional dimension to the show that would otherwise not be there.

BTC: What did you know about Marilyn Evans prior to deciding to audition for the Million Dollar Quartet?
ST: I had seen the picture with her in it, but didn’t really know anything about her.

BTC: What is your favorite Elvis Presley song? Why?
ST: “Can’t Help Falling In Love” because of its beautiful message.

BTC: What do you like most about playing “Dyanne” in the Million Dollar Quartet?
ST: There’s two things. The first is that everything she does, vocally and music wise, is different from the last thing she did. “Fever” is quiet and sultry, but “I Hear You Knocking,” is big and I get to wail on some stuff. In “Peace in the Valley” I get to sing with the boys, and I get to use some of my classical training in some of the backgrounds such as “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” The second thing I love is that I have the best seat in the house. I get to sit on stage every night and get to watch my incredibly talented cast mates “rock and roll.”

BTC: Whether you’re in it or not what’s your favorite part of the show?
ST: I really love the Concert Finale. I’m not even on stage, but when the jackets come down and the boys go into their finale it’s a joy to experience the audience’s excitement and reaction!

BTC: Why should someone coming to Branson plan to see the Million Dollar Quartet?
ST: It’s a beautiful top notch production, full of fun and timeless music, telling a story that entertains and spans generations. There’s nothing else like it in Branson. And be ready, because once you see it you will want to come back and see it again!

BTC: In your career, of all the performances you have made and you have been in, no matter how big or small, which one personally meant the most to you and why?
ST: In 2013 my dad [John Tweed] and I did a show called “Reelin’ in the Years” that we had developed together. It was toward the end of the season and my brother Jacob, who is my best friend and who had never performed on stage with us, did. He came out on stage and sang, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” as my dad played guitar and I just sat next to them crying.

BTC: Where were you born?
ST: Costa Mesa, California

BTC: When?
ST: January 15, 1988.

BTC: Was there something special about your childhood that you think our readers would be interested in?
ST: Just that I was blessed growing up in a family surrounded by music.

BTC: When did you realize that you wanted to sing professionally?
ST: When I was 14 we went to New York City and I saw “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway. I remember walking out of the theatre and matter of factly saying to myself, “I think I’ll do that!”

BTC: Do you have any formal training in theatre or acting?
ST: I’m a graduate of the two year “Musical Theatre Program” of the “American Musical and Dramatic Academy” in Hollywood, CA. I loved it because most of the teaching staff were working professionals.

BTC: When did you first perform in Branson?
ST: When we moved here in April of 1995.

BTC: What was you first impression of Branson?
ST: I was just seven years old when we moved here from Los Angeles. I thought it was exciting and had a lot of fun things to do.

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?
ST: I sew a lot. My “Happy Place” is in front of my sewing machine.

BTC: Do you have a “little known” fact about yourself that you think our readers would like to know?
ST: I’m such a big Judy Garland fan that I actually wore ruby slippers when I got married and walked down the aisle to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

For additional information or tickets for the Million Dollar Quartet, or any of Branson’s shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

An old Branson tradition just keeps shuffling on

Two popular Branson shows, AYO starring the Voices of Glory and SIX will be shuffling off to new theaters for the 2017 season.

Two popular Branson shows, AYO starring the Voices of Glory and SIX will be shuffling off to new theaters for the 2017 season.

Not to be confused with the “Shindig Shuffle,” that’s part of Branson’s unique fun filled Ozark Ozark Mountain Shindig, the traditional, “Branson shuffle” is well underway. Ever since The Baldknobbers started it all and Presleys’ Country Jubilee opened the first show on what is now the famed “Branson Strip,” decades ago, the Branson Shuffle has been a part of Branson’s live entertainment.

The Baldknobbers, “shuffled” from their original location in historic downtown Branson before settling into their current location on the Branson Strip in 1969. Ironically, Branson’s iconic first show on the Branson Strip, Presleys’ Country Jubilee, has never been involved in the Branson Shuffle, and will be celebrating their 50th year in their original location during 2017.

It’s uncertain whether the “shuffle” more relates to the shuffling of cards or a dance, but one thing is certain, it does involve movement and change. Each year, there is a “shuffle” as some shows move from one theatre to another and  others decide they have made their final Branson curtain call. Here’s the current status of the Branson Shuffle, sorted alphabetically, as of December 14, 2016:

#1 Hits of the 60s: Clay Cooper Theatre
Abba Tribute – Thank You for the Music: Hamner Variety Theater
Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai: Mickey Gilley Grand Shanghai Theatre*
AYO starring the Voices of Glory: Starlite
Billy Dean: Jim Stafford Theatre
Beach Boys California Dreamin: Hamners Variety Theater
Blackwoods: Dutton Theatre
Bretts: Same theatre. Major schedule change just performing  Sep 5-Dec.15
Forever Young: Americana
George Dyer: Americana
Janice Martin: Americana
Menopause the Musical: American Bandstand Theatre
Raiding the Country Vault: Starlite Theatre
SIX: Hughes Brothers Theatre

The result of the Branson Shuffle is a constant excitement and anticipation as Branson shows move into the locations and timeslots that they believe will best enable them to develop and entertain Branson visitors and new shows are added to the almost 100 shows that make Branson the special wonderful entertainment destination it is.

The Branson Tourism Center’s Branson Show List, updated on a daily basis as information becomes available, is Branson’s most current list of shows, schedules, ticketing and other information. If more information on the current status of the Branson Shuffle for Branson’s 2017 shows is desired, please call one of Branson Tourism Center’s Branson based Travel Planners at 1-866-593-9740. They will be delighted to answer any questions you might have about Branson shows, hotels, or attractions and assist you in planning your Branson trip. There is no charge for this service and they are available daily, except Christmas Day, from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM.

Six awesome reasons why you don’t want to miss Branson’s Christmas Week!

Silver Dollar City's Old Time Christmas, New Year's Eve with Legends in Concert, the Amazing Pets Show ,and Tanger Outlet.

Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas, New Year’s Eve with Legends in Concert, the Amazing Pets Show ,and Tanger Outlets are just a few of the almost infinite choices awaiting Branson visitors during Branson’s Christmas Week.

Branson’s Christmas Week, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, offers Branson visitors the same world class shopping and entertainment experience that makes Branson one of the premier vacation destinations in America,” said Preston Garrison, Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “From tigers and butterflies, to acrobats, drive through Christmas lighting displays, museums, world class shopping, New Year’s Eve celebrations second to none, and so much more; if you’re looking for fun, entertainment, excitement and adventure as part of your Christmas vacation then Branson’s Christmas Week in Branson is the place for you!” he added.

Here’s a list of six reasons why:

1.Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas Festival: Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas Festival is one of the Nation’s top Christmas events. Its spectacular display of five million Christmas lights throughout the park, entertainment, parade, Broadway style shows, and much more has been recognized and featured nationally by USA Today, CNN Travel, The Travel Channel, Good Morning America and many others.

Although the award winning 1880s styled theme park, lit with over 5 million sparkling Christmas lights, is filled with shows; crafts; unique shopping; food; weather permitting, dozens of exciting rides and demonstrating craftsmen; and other activities, something special begins to happen each evening at dusk, in the Square on Main Street. First, the 5-Story Special Effects Christmas Tree comes to life, with its 350,000 colorful sparkling LED lights, choreographed to Christmas music, and making over 100 light changes per second. In its glow, “the most famous reindeer of all” leads Rudolph’s Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade with its nine musical floats, illuminated with 200,000 ultra-bright LED lights; 33 colorful costumed characters, including Bumble the Abominable Snowman, 14-foot moose characters, 12-foot tall elves and 10-foot candy canes, plus penguins, elves and a troupe of marching wooden soldiers.”

2. Branson Shows: Although many of Branson’s shows are closed for the season, some of its most popular shows will be open during Branson’s Christmas Week presenting the live entertainment for which Branson is noted. This includes, in alphabetical order, The Acrobats of China, Amazing Pets, Clay Cooper’s Country Music Express, Comedy Jamboree, Dixie Stampede, Grand Jubilee, Hamner’s Unbelievable Variety, The Haygoods, Hughes Brothers Christmas Show, Legends in Concert, Million Dollar Quartet, Moses, Pierce Arrow and the Showboat Branson Belle along with many more.

3. Branson Attractions: In addition to Silver Dollar City, the majority of Branson’s other attractions will be open offering visitors a range of exciting adventures and activities. How about an up close encounter with the tigers and other big cats at the National Tiger Sanctuary; a ziplining adventure on Branson Zip Lines, or an entertaining interactive experience aboard Branson’s Titanic Museum attraction. In addition to everything else the Titanic offers its passengers on a daily basis, it’s celebrating its spectacular Christmas and Winter Celebration, as magically, inside and out, the ship “hails the sights, sounds, and joy of the season” and is aglow with glittering lights, festive decorations, and the spirit of the Holidays.

And that’s just the beginning! With museums as varied at the Branson Dinosaur Museum and the World Largest Toy Museum, the unique “White Flight” exhibit at the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure; the Promised Land Zoo, hiking on one of our beautiful Ozark trails, golf, fishing, and so much more, it’s hard to imagine a travel destination, anywhere near Branson’s size that could offer more.

4. Spectacular Christmas Lighting Displays: Although Christmas Day is past, all the major drive through Christmas lighting displays will remain open through December 31. This includes the Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights, Ozark Mountain Christmas Lights & Village, Branson’s Gift of Lights and the giant 30 foot nativity scene on top of Mount Branson overlooking Lake Taneycomo and historic downtown Branson.

5. Branson Shopping: Shopping is an important part of the Branson experience and Branson’s Christmas Week is no exception. From the quaint specialty shops offering arts and crafts and one of a kind items; to the shops of Historic Downtown Branson, featuring “Dicks 5 & 10,” the unique “Branson Landing,” with its 100 retail stores, and outlet malls such as “Tanger Outlets” and “The Meadows,” Branson’s Christmas Week shopping will satisfy the most avid shopper.

6. New Year’s Eve: From the midnight fireworks at the Chateau on the Lake to a New Year’s Eve party while cruising Lake Taneycomo aboard Main Street Lake Cruises Landing Princess, a 100 foot luxury yacht, or one of the unique celebrations by one of Branson’s shows, both 2016 and Branson’s Christmas Week fade away and 2017 emerges as only Branson can do it. It’s hard to imagine a more unique, entertaining or exciting New Year’s Eve than one spent with some of Branson’s most popular shows as they welcome in 2017 with their unique New Year’s Eve celebrations including:

Clay-Goods Jambor-Eve (Clay Cooper and Haygoods joint celebration)
Grand Jubilee
Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show
Hughes Brothers New Year’s Eve Show
Legends in Concert
Million Dollar Quartet
Pierce Arrow

Branson Tourism Center’s Garrison advises advanced planning and reservations for any trip to Branson during the Christmas Season because of the off season scheduling of shows, limited seating, and the fact that some Branson lodging facilities are closed. He suggests that an easy way to avoid problems, save time and, in many cases, money, is by simply calling the Branson Tourism Center, toll free at 1-800-785-1550 and talking with one of their Branson based Travel Planners who will be delighted to answer any questions and assist in making any show or lodging reservations. There is absolutely no charge for this service.

 

Can it be more easy than this to plan an amazing Branson trip?

If you want to value time, money, and less stress, Branson Tourism Center's free one call planning service is for you.

When it comes to planning a trip to Branson, if you value time, money, and less stress,  “one call,”  to one of Branson Tourism Center’s  Branson based Travel Planners, “takes care of it all.”

“We are devoted to assisting our clients in planning wonderful Branson vacations and ensuring the quality and value of their Branson experience,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Although we could stress that we have sold over 4.5 million Branson show and attraction tickets, have an A+ rating from the BBB, and have over 100 Branson based employees striving, on a daily basis, to meet or exceed our customer’s expectations to illustrate that point, at the end of the day, what actually counts is the experience our customers have,” she added.

Woods points out that the Branson Tourism Center interacts with its customers on Facebook and other social media channels on a regular basis throughout the working day. “These recent reviews from customers, on our Facebook Page, are both humbling and encouraging to us, and say ‘volumes’ about the value, time savings, and quality of the experience they had working with BTC,” she added:

Chuck Price: I have used your services three times and have been completely satisfied! It’s one stop shopping, the seating assignments [were] perfect, I always get the requested aisle seats and generally in the 1st ten rows. You seem to have a seamless system and I love getting great rooms and seating. Agents are friendly and knowledgeable and I recommend you to everyone I talk to when sharing my trip or if they are planning a trip. I would like to give a shout out to Brett Hebblethwaite who was our sales agent this last time!! I didn’t get a chance to meet him but he did a terrific job. I will use you again!

Nancy Miller: I would use these folks in a heartbeat!! Friendly, professional, knowledgeable, courteous. Need I say more?

Carla Christy: The people were extremely helpful, over and above anything you would expect. I will definitely schedule my next vacation through them as well.

Ellen Cunningham: We make trip plans to Branson thru [the]Tourism Center…They do a great job of making our reservations and we enjoy our trip with no hassles!!

Todd Ryan: We had a great time in Branson, at the Welk Resort. We saw the Million Dollar Quartet (Fantastic Show) and went to the Butterfly Palace…The Tourism center did a great job for us, setting us up with everything.

Betty Kohls Heide: I have always booked with Albert and he is the best. I don’t remember ever having a bad seat at a show or a bad hotel. Been using them for many, many years. 5 stars from me.

Karen Sue Schwartz: This is an excellent service – especially if a person isn’t sure what to do in the Branson Area. I certainly plan on using [them] again!

Tom and Denita Walters: This was our first time booking thru the Branson Tourism Center and it was a great experience all the way around. On stop shop – got lodging and show tickets all at a very good price. I do not think these prices could have been beat. Just made our trip enjoyable to know everything was already planned and just pick up [the] package and relax. We will do it all over again when we come back to Branson.

For those who place a value on their time, getting the best show seats and lodging accommodations available, saving money by packaging shows and lodging together, and who want to avoid unneeded stress in planning a Branson vacation or get-a-way, the words of Peggy Barthel from Florence, MS, the purchaser of our 3 millionth ticket, comes to mind. She said, “One call that’s all, they just took care of everything. We’re just going to go up there and have fun.”

For more information or help on planning an awesome trip to Branson please call one of Branson Tourism Center’s Branson based Travel Planners at 1-800-785-1550. They will be delighted to assist you, there is no charge for this service, and they are available daily, except Christmas Day, from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM.

“Ayo,” is a powerful inspirational entertainment experience

Voices of Glory, the stars of "Ayo,"Avery, right, Nadia, and Michael.

The “Voices of Glory”, the stars of “Ayo,” Avery, right, Nadia, and Michael.

In 2009 America got their first taste of the talented Cole siblings, Michael, Avery, and Nadia, when they competed on the hit NBC prime time show “America’s Got Talent” (AGT)” as the “Voices of Glory.” Their musical talent and inspiring story took them to a fifth place finish in the Finals. Since AGT, the Voices of Glory have been traveling the world perfecting their already considerable skills, and have opened their own show, Ayo starring Voices of Glory, in Branson.

As I watched Ayo recently, I was reminded of their AGT appearance, feeling both the talent and the intensity of the story that inspired the start of their musical career. They came together and sang in the hospital to entertain their mother who was in a coma as the results of a horrible automobile accident. They sang, day after day, for 8 months until their mother came out of the coma, and have been entertaining and inspiring others, and her, ever since.

They still have that special talent and charisma that captured America’s heart when they performed on AGT, but now, it has matured and aged, like a fine wine, and is even more of a joy to see, hear, and experience. I expected great vocals and got them, but there was much more. Not only did they interact and relate to the audience, making them a part of their own entertainment experience, but I was as amazed, as I was entertained, at the choreography that has been worked into most of the numbers.

They don’t just sing; they perform each number. Whether it’s subtle hand, other body movements, or dance steps as they sing, it was a pleasure to see. Now some are probably asking, “Don’t all performers do that?” I imagine so, but this is the first time that I noticed it enough where it added something to my enjoyment of the performance. This is no staid, stand at the microphone concert! Although, present to one degree or another in just about every number, a perfect illustration of what I am referring to would be, one of my favorite numbers in the show, their performance of As Long As I’ve Got King JESUS.

While talking about dancing, I just have to mention one, “surprise,” change of pace, number, I Won’t Dance. It’s a delightful dance number with all of them dancing featuring some nifty moves by Avery and a wonderful tap segment. The audience, including this writer, really loved it!

Nadia Cole performing the Whitney Houston classic, "I Will Always Love You."

Nadia Cole performing the Whitney Houston classic, “I Will Always Love You.”

Both as a group and individually, they perform a broad variety of music including pop, jazz, gospel, and more. My four WOW musical moments, from among many, would be all three singing, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough; Nadia’s performance of I will Always Love You; Holy, Holy, Holy starting with an old video of them singing it when they first started, that fades into them singing a beautiful a capella version live; and Michael’s performance of My Funny Valentine with a trumpet feature by Ray Harris. Their original song, about the miracle involved with their mother’s survival of her accident, You Sent A Miracle, was as inspirational as it was beautifully performed.

Ayo’s band is composed of some of Branson’s finest musicians, Tim Pope, drums; Marty Wilhite, bass; Barry Bales, guitar; and band leader, Ray Harris, keyboards and trumpet. Not only do they do a great job on a variety of music, but, as noted above, they are “featured” during a number of the vocals adding another wonderful element to an already great show.

Ayo’s Christmas show starts with their first show in November. Nadia said that they are really excited about it because it will contain the very best from their current show during the first half. The entire second half of the show will be devoted to Christmas. When asked what her favorite part of the Christmas show was, without hesitation she said, “I love when we sing ‘Oh Holy Night,’ it’s one of my favorite Christmas songs.”

The way that the vocal talent and charisma of the Voices of Glory is artfully combined with costuming, choreography, large video screens, lighting, a great band, and other special effects, into a wonderful unique entertainment gem, is truly a “joy” to experience. It’s a show that the whole family can enjoy together from beginning to end.

For additional information on Ayo starring Voices of Glory or for information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions or lodging arrangements please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com

Million Dollar Quartet’s Johnny Cash started it all with an “Aah!”

Cliff Wright as Johnny Cash in the smash Branson hit show "Million Dollar Quartet."

Cliff Wright as Johnny Cash in the smash Branson hit show “Million Dollar Quartet.”

One of Branson’s most popular new shows is the Million Dollar Quartet. It tells the story of one of the greatest jam sessions in rock n’ roll history; an impromptu gathering of four young recording legends-to-be, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, that took place on December 4, 1956 in the Memphis storefront recording studio of Sun Records. The jam session went largely unnoticed until recordings of the event were discovered and released decades later. It is that jam session, those recordings, and the four rock n’ roll legends involved that became the inspiration for the Tony Award winning musical Million Dollar Quartet that shares the music, spontaneity, and drama of what happened that day, as these four legends performed together for their first and last time.

Recently, Cliff Wright, who is the tribute artist playing Johnny Cash (CW) in the Branson production of the show was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to sit down and chat with me on behalf of the Branson Tourism Center (BTC).

BTC: Where were you born?
CW: In Dallas, Texas at Parkland Hospital.

BTC: When?
CW: May 29, 1979.

BTC: When did you first become interested in music?
CW: At a very early age.

BTC: In terms of your career what came first, Elvis or Johnny Cash?
CW: It was definitely Elvis Presley, but it took decades to develop!

BTC: When did you first become interested in Elvis Presley?
CW: I was about 9 or 10 years old and was traveling with my family near Memphis, TN. I was playing in the back seat and I heard this song, it was probably “Hound Dog” or something like that. I asked my dad, “Who’s that?” He explained that it was a singer who used to live here. I asked, “Doesn’t he live here anymore” and dad said, “He’s passed on.” A few minutes later we went by a black sign with “Elvis” all over it in pink letters, and my dad pointed out that was the singer we had been talking about. I thought to myself, “Aah!” When we got home I started gathering pictures and info on him. I noticed he wore jump suits so I made one out of a large brown paper sack and even drew eagles and stars on it.

BTC: How old were you when you started performing Elvis professionally?
CW: About 30 or 31.

BTC: That’s quite a gap. What did you do in the interim?
CW: I played lead guitar and actually studied and practiced Elvis and Johnny Cash for hours.

BTC: When did you first start performing professionally?
CW: I have been performing as a lead guitarist since I was 18.

BTC: What caused you to transition from Elvis to Johnny Cash?
CW: Two things, Johnny Cash came easy to me and I wanted to be in a field where there was less competition.

BTC: September 12, was the 13th anniversary of the death of Johnny Cash. Does that date hold any special significance for you?
CW: I was at home rehearsing for a guitar gig when it was announced on TV. I wasn’t doing either Elvis or Johnny at the time. I remember getting my guitar and just playing “Folsom Prison Blues,” and saying the words, not singing them, just saying them.

BTC: Whether sung in the Million Dollar Quartet show or not, what is your favorite Johnny Cash song?
CW: My favorite Johnny Cash songs are his gospel songs and, of those, my favorite is, “I Was There When It Happened.” My favorite song that I perform that’s “mainstream” is “Walk The Line” and that’s in the show.

BTC: If you could influence someone to remember one thing about Johnny Cash or his music, what would it be?
CW: Be as true to what you do as he was to what he did.

BTC: Was your first performance as a Johnny Cash Tribute artist professional or otherwise?
CW: In Omaha, Nebraska in 2011. I was getting into Johnny Cash and did a Christmas show that was half Elvis and half Johnny Cash. When I came out and did Johnny Cash they said, “Forget Elvis, just do Johnny Cash.”

BTC: Branson aside, when did you first hear about the Million Dollar Quartet?
CW: I heard about it when it first came out, but auditioned for the show in Chicago twice before I heard about the Branson production. I auditioned via a You-Tube Link and got the job.

BTC: What was it about the Million Dollar Quartet that made you want the role?
CW: I’m kind of an historian and a huge Sun Record fan. I can tell you stories, about not only Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, but the guys who recorded at Sun before they came.

BTC: What do you like most about performing Johnny Cash in the Million Dollar Quartet?
CW: Two things, I get to play my hero every night and seeing the audiences reaction to these songs. It’s the coolest feeling in the world.

BTC: What were you doing prior to accepting the role in the MDQ?
CW: Among other things, running a recording studio using the same type and models of equipment that Sam Perkins used at Sun Studios. I still have it in my home and love doing it.

BTC: Why do you think that someone coming to Branson should come and see the Million Dollar Quartet?
CW: They will experience, and feel like a part of, the fun and excitement of the most unique rock and roll jam session of all time, presented by an extremely talented cast dedicated to sharing that magic musical event with its audience. It is a joy to sense and feel the audience’s reaction and response each performance.

BTC: What is your first impression of Branson?
CW: WOW, there’s really a lot to do here!

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?
CW: Just relax. Our schedule is so busy that you really do appreciate your time off.

BTC: If you could meet and perform with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
CW: It would be Elvis Presley because he was the first influence that started on the path that has led me to where I am now.

BTC: Is there one event that you particularly would have like to perform with him at?
CW: Yes, December 4th, 1956 when he performed with Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins because I would have gotten to see and perform with all of them.

For more information on the Million Dollar Quartet and other amazing Branson shows, attractions, or lodging, please call one of Branson Tourism Center’s Branson based Travel Planners at 1-800-875-1550. They will be delighted to answer any questions you might have about Branson, its shows, hotels, or attractions and assist you with reservations to help ensure that you obtain the best available seating at shows and the accommodations you desire. There is no charge for this service and they are available daily, except Christmas Day, from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM.

“Branson – Up Close and Personal” with Pierce Arrow’s Dan Britton

Pierce Arrow quartet rehearsing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," for their upcoming Christmas Show; Tony Turner, left, Travis Spratt, Scott Fraker, Dan Birtton

Pierce Arrow quartet rehearsing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” for their upcoming Christmas Show; Tony Turner, left, Travis Spratt, Scott Fraker, Dan Britton

The Pierce Arrow Show is perennially one of Branson’s most popular shows. The success of the show is directly attributable to the man who started the show, Dan Britton, who is also the show’s executive director and the bass singer in its award winning quartet, “Pierce Arrow;” the outrageously funny James Sibley; female vocalist Shonna Bond, and the Pierce Arrow Band. It’s two hours of wonderful vocals, humor, inspiration, and fun.

“Branson – Up Close and Personal,” is a service of the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services, and is intended to provide readers with an up close and personal look at a Branson star or personality. The interview with Dan Britton (DB) uses a “Question and Answer” format with the interviewing being done for the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) by Gary J. Groman, a 30-year resident of the Branson area, local columnist and freelance writer.

BTC: You had stopped performing a few years back, but are back performing now. Why?
DB: I had been entertaining all of my life and, at the time, I was looking for a break. When Tim Storms, the guy who replaced me in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s lowest bass singer, came to work for me, it was a Godsend. A couple of years ago he decided to pursue some other career interests and left the show, so here I am again.

BTC: How do you feel about being back on the stage performing?
DB: I’m enjoying singing more than I ever have in my life.

BTC: What is the format of your Christmas Show?
DB: The first half of the Christmas show is the best from our regular season non Christmas show with the Patriotic Finale moved from the end of the show to the end of the first half. The whole second half of the show is pure Christmas from beginning to end.

BTC: What is your personal favorite part of the Christmas Show?
DB: Our finale, “Oh Holy Night,” performed by the full cast. The spiritual aspect of what I do is very important to me and there’s just not a better song out there that expresses the true spirit of Christmas.

BTC: It is said that you set the world record for “the lowest note ever sung” and that your vocal accomplishments have been recorded in the “Guinness Book of World Records” several times. Of all the vocal records you have set, which one means the most to you and why?
DB: Setting the Guinness Book of World Records record for the lowest note produced by a human voice which I held for 18 years. When I won it I replaced J.D. Sumner, one of my idols. I was replaced on the list by Tim Storms, who sang bass in our show up until about two years ago when he left to pursue other interests.

BTC: How long have you been in show business?
DB: I have been singing since I was three years old and singing bass since I was 12 years old. I have been singing professionally for over three decades.

BTC: How did you end up in Branson?
DB: My brothers and I performed together traveling around doing night clubs for ten years. I had decided that I was going to quit because of the traveling and other factors. I got a call from a group here in Branson called the “Branson Brothers” who said I would not have to travel if I came to Branson and sang with them. I started with them while they were performing at Silver Dollar City.

BTC: How long have you been Performing in Branson?
BD: Since about 1991. I performed with the Branson Brothers at Silver Dollar City for about five years before going to the ’76 Music Hall [Now Grand Country] with Pierce Arrow.

BTC: Pierce Arrow has been in existence how long?
DB: I started Pierce Arrow in 1996.

BTC: How long has Pierce Arrow been in this theater.
DB: In 2000, along with some investors, I bought this theatre. Leaving the job I had was one of the hardest decisions of my career, but I felt a calling to do it. Our first show in this theatre was on May 22, 2000.

BTC: Do you own the theatre?
DB: Yes, I am the majority owner with my two brothers.

BTC: What do you do in your roll as Executive Producer of the show.
DB: I am involved with every aspect of the theatre and show, from production, lighting, wardrobe, choreography, show content, hiring and firing etc. and whatever else it takes. On occasion, I have gone from singing to cleaning the theatre.

BTC: What is your first memory of Branson?
DB: How quaint it was and the overwhelming friendliness of the people.

BTC: What do you like best about performing in Branson?
DB: The opportunity to perform such a wide variety of music and the wholesomeness of Branson.

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?
DB: Being at home with my family and our horses.

BTC: Where is your favorite place to eat in Branson – Favorite dish?
DB: Paradise Grill right across the street from our theatre. I just love their steaks.

BTC: If you could perform or meet with any entertainer/person (living or deceased) who would it be and why?
DB: Trace Adkins, a country singer, because of his music.

BTC: In all the performances of Pierce Arrow that you have been involved with, either as a performer or an executive producer, which one personally meant the most to you?
DB: Performing for President George W. Bush in Joplin, Mo.

BTC:  Do you have a favorite hobby or activity and what is it?
DB: Raising horses.

BTC: Do you have a “little known” fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy?|
DB: I am known for making the best homemade biscuits and gravy in Branson. Just ask my kids and their friends.

BTC: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you in front of an audience?
DB: The night when I was rushing to get into position to go out on stage, but tripped and went flying out through the curtains across the stage, skipping like a rock in a pond.

BTC: What part the show do you enjoy performing the most, and why?
DB: The patriotic finale because it thanks the Veterans, the members of the military and their families for their service and sacrifices and moves so many people.

BTC: If I were planning a trip to Branson why should I plan to see your show?
DB: Because you’re on vacation and you will feel like you’re at a party. When you leave you feel happy and entertained.

BTC: If I were coming with children ages 9 through 14 would your answer be the same and why?
DB: Yes. Our show is very visual. Kids love our active comedy, music choices and things like our moving stage.

BTC: Anything else you want our readers to know?
DB: Often people come up and say, “Dan, you sure are lucky.” I reply, “No, but I sure am blessed.” God has blessed me with a wonderful family, opportunities and the community of Branson in which I work, live and raise my family and for that I am very thankful.

For more information on the Pierce Arrow show 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 one of their Branson-based Travel Planners at 1-800-785-1550. They will be delighted to answer questions about all that Branson has to offer as well as assist you in getting the best available seating at shows, lodging, and explain how packaging your theatre and lodging together can save you money.

Branson shows promise an awesome Thanksgiving weekend

Four of the many Branson shows that will be open over the Thanksgiving Day Weekend, SIX, top left, Clay Cooper's Country Music Express, Presleys' Country Jubilee, and It Starring the Hughes Brothers.

Four of the many Branson shows that will be open over the Thanksgiving Weekend, SIX, top left, Clay Cooper’s Country Express, Presleys’ Country Jubilee, and It Starring the Hughes Brothers.

“Although it’s early, we are getting questions about what shows will be open on Thanksgiving Day and over that weekend,” said, Preston Garrison, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. “We are pleased to provide a list of most of the Branson shows scheduled to be open on Thanksgiving Day and over that weekend. It is in alphabetical order with those on Our List of Most Popular Branson Shows listed first. Those that will be open on Thanksgiving Day are indicated with an * after their entry; the links will take you to the specific show page with additional information on the show, schedules, ticketing, special discounts, pricing options like VIP seating, videos and more:

Acrobats of China*

Amazing Pets*

Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza*

Billy Dean in Concert with Jarrett

Branson Country USA

Christmas Wonderland

Clay Cooper’s Country Express

Comedy Jamboree

Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies

Grand Jubilee*

Hughes Brothers Christmas Show*

Legends in Concert*Million Dollar Quartet*

Moses

Moses Behind the Scenes Tour

New Jersey Nights*

Ozark Mountain Jubilee

Presleys’ Country Jubilee

Puttin’ on the Ritz*

Reza Edge of Illusion*

Shoji Tabuchi*

SIX*

Sunday Gospel Jubilee

The Blackwoods Morning Show

The Haygoods*

The Lettermen*

160722 Composite Sm UIA1

#1 Hits of the 60’s & 50’s too

50s Rock Roll and Reminisce

70’s Music Celebration Starring Barry Williams*

ABBA Tribute – Thank You for the Music

Alabama Rolls On Tribute

All American Gospel

All Hands on Deck

Amazing Acrobats of Shanghai*

A Neil Diamond Tribute*

Art Parties Tonight

A Tribute To George Strait Dinner Show

A Tribute to John Denver*

A Tribute to Marty Robbins*

AYO starring Voices of Glory

Beach Boys California Dreamin’

Bee Gees and Beyond

Big Clayton’s Piano Show

Boot Daddy Presents Dailey & Vincent

Branson Murder Mystery Dinner Show

Branson’s Famous Baldknobbers

Bretts

Carpenters Once More*

Christmas on the Trail Chuckwagon Dinner Show*

Classic Country’s Patsy Cline & Friends

Comedy Hypnosis Show*

Conway Remembered

Crazy ’bout Patsy and Other Country Legends*

Dixie Stampede*

Doo Wop and the Drifters

Duttons*

Eagles Tribute Concert

Forever Young

George Jones and Friends Remembered

George Strait Country starring James Garrett*

Golden Sounds of The Platters with Eddie Stovall*

Hallmark Presents Maxine’s Christmas Carol*

Hamners’ Unbelievable Variety Show*

Hank Williams Revisited

Hot Rods & High Heels

Kelli Grant “The Queen of Swing”

Legend of Kungfu – Return of the Dragon*

Lynyrd Skynyrd & Suthyrn Fryd Frynds Tribute

Magnficent 7 Show

Motown Downtown*

Ozark Mountain Opry Show

Pierce Arrow*

Red, Hot & Blue

Sanders Family Christmas*

Showboat Branson Belle*

Smoke on the Mountain

The Hypnolarious Show*

The Petersen Family Bluegrass Band

The Sons of Britches

TitanicDance*

Twice Adopted*

Waylon, Willie & The Good Ol’ Boys

Branson Tourism Center’s Garrison reminds that show schedules are subject to change. For the most current schedules, he suggests checking the link for any show you might be interested that is listed in this article, which will automatically be updated; the BTC Branson Show List, the most current list of Branson shows available anywhere; or calling the Branson Tourism Center, at 1-800-785-1550 and talking with one of its Branson based Travel Planners.

Five awesome things families can enjoy for free in Branson

Dick's 5 & 10 in hisotirc downtown Branson provides one of the most unique shopping "adventures" available anywhere.

Dick’s 5 & 10 in historic downtown Branson provides one of the most unique family shopping “adventures” available anywhere.

“From live shows, to great attractions, and other activities, Branson is just filled with wonderful ways for families to have the best vacation ever,” said Preston Garrison, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest providers of tourism services and information. “Although most of Branson’s great shows and exciting attractions involve a charge, there are many things that families can enjoy together that are free,” he added.

Here’s a list of five, from among many, free things available in Branson, that we have selected because they represent a broad variety of things that families can enjoy together, are multi-age inclusive, are fun, and are either of a short duration or permit the flexibility to easily fit in with other activities such as shows and attractions or the attention span of younger children. In addition, items 1 through 3 are within five minutes of each other as are items 4 and 5:

1. Feed the Lake Taneycomo Ducks and Geese: Located directly in front of Scotty’s Trout Dock & Marina, near the public boat loading ramp on the southeastern corner of the City of Branson’s Camp Ground, is the “unofficial” duck feeding area that most people coming to Branson never see. “Scotty,” Lamar Patton, the owner of Scotty’s, pointed out that depending on the season, there are about 50 to 200 Mallard ducks, Canada Geese and other water fowl swimming around between his dock and the shoreline waiting for an easy meal.

Scotty sells bags of corn to feed them, but he points out that they will also eat bread and crackers etc. The duck feeding area is located just feet from the parking area and provides, what in the old days was called “a Kodak moment;” a wonderful opportunity to get some great pictures of the family feeding the ducks.

The free downtown trolley is a great way for families to get an overview of Historic downtown Branson, Branson Landing, and Lake Taneycomo.

The free downtown trolley is a great way for families to get an overview of Historic downtown Branson, Branson Landing, and Lake Taneycomo.

2. Historic Downtown Branson’s “Discovery Trolley: The Trolley ride is a great way to get an overview and perspective of the historic downtown area, the Branson Convention Center and Branson Landing. Along the way, among other things, you will pass a number of Branson landmarks including the grave site of the man the city of Branson is named after, Ruben S. Branson; the Owens Theatre, Branson’s first theatre; the Branson Convention Center; Branson Landing; Lake Taneycomo and the spot where the “Baldknobbers” performed Branson’s first live music show over 53 years ago.

Stop #2 in historic downtown Branson, located on Commercial Street at the east end of the public parking lot at the southwest corner of Commercial and Atlantic Street, is an excellent place to board the trolley. You will have three hours free parking and the trolley will drop you right back where it picked you up after completing its 15 to 20 minute loop.

3. Dicks Oldtime 5 & 10 and Historic Downtown Branson: Historic Downtown Branson is an authentic downtown that’s a Branson attraction of the best kind, with fine art, flea markets, antiques, clothing and jewelry boutiques, cafes, music shows, and more. No visitor to Branson should miss downtown’s retail centerpiece, Dick’s Oldtime 5 & 10! You’ll be launched back to your childhood of visiting the local variety store, complete with green and white tiled floors, everyday household goods, and fun Branson souvenirs. Locals will tell you “if you don’t find it at Dick’s, it just can’t be found!”

4.  Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery: The “Shepherd of the Hills Trout Hatchery,” is located less than about ten minutes from the famed Branson Strip at the foot of Table Rock Dam just off of State Highway 165. It is operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation and is part of a complex occupying 211 acres along with a “Conservation Center” consisting of trails, a wild life refuge, and a Visitor Center that is visited by a quarter of a million plus visitors annually.

The inside of the Visitor Center features an interesting nature display and a short video on the hatchery and the process involved with producing the trout that makes Lake Taneycomo one of the premier trout fisheries in the nation. It also has a huge aquarium with some “lunker” Brown and Rainbow Trout showing the size that some of the trout in Lake Taneycomo can reach.

Guided tours of the hatchery depart the Visitors Center from Memorial Day to Labor Day on weekdays at 10 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 2 p.m. Visitors are welcome to tour the “race ways,” “trout runs,” by themselves during normal business hours. They will see thousands of trout in the various stages of development from the smallest of trout to the large “brood stock” that is used to produce them. The Visitor Center opens at 9:00 a.m. every day except, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

A short, early morning walk along one of their extremely accessible lakeside trails, just five or ten minutes, can provide a unique sight that will not be soon forgotten. In the early morning, the fog rising off of lake Taneycomo, because of the difference in its cold temperature and the warm air, is a beautiful thing to see as it interacts with winds and the rising sun.

Table Rock Lake's Dewey Short Visitors Center on south end of Table Rock Dam.

Table Rock Lake’s Dewey Short Visitors Center on south end of Table Rock Dam.

5.  The Dewey Short Regional Visitors Center at Table Rock Dam: The new $7.9 million, 15,000 square foot U.S. Army Corps of Engineers visitor center has been called “the crown jewel of Table Rock Lake” and for good reason. It is one of only 11 Class A visitor centers in the U.S. and offers an unparalleled view of two of Branson’s lakes, Table Rock Lake and Lake Taneycomo that can be seen from the floor to ceiling glass windows on the Table Rock Lake side of the building. Among other things, the Center features interactive activities, displays on area history, nature and the inner workings of Table Rock Dam, movies, a gift shop with unique merchandise and an interesting film on the construction of Table Rock Dam.

And that’s just five of the many free activities available. From grist mills, to scenic overlooks, a giant Bass kids can stand in, a $7.5 million synchronized fire, water and music show, nature and hiking trails, parks and more, Branson has a wide choice of free activities that families can enjoy together. For more information on these activities, Branson shows, attractions and lodging, please feel free to call the Branson Tourism Center toll free at 1-800-785-1550.

 

 

How can one unique Branson show take you from Ireland to Broadway?

Dublin's Irish Tenors and Celtic Ladies sharing fun and music in a Irish Publ setting.

Dublin’s Irish Tenors and Celtic Ladies sharing fun and music in a Irish Pub setting.

Simply put, with great performers, music, energy, and choreography. As I sat in the King’s Castle Theatre in Branson recently for a performance of Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies, I was amazed that one show could have so much vocal talent and cover such a wide variety of music. From its Irish-Celtic roots to opera, this show offers a variety of music that truly has something for every musical taste, but especially for those wanting to experience Irish and Celtic music.

The show is basically divided into two parts; the first half, primarily Irish and Celtic music and the second half, presenting a wide variety of “their” favorite music. As they explain, Irish music is really a form of Celtic music which includes the music of Ireland, Scotland and other countries from that region. For purposes of this piece I will refer to it as Irish music.

From the very first number to the very last number of the first half, the beautiful vocals of Celtic Ladies, Amber Casey, Sarah Hunter, Maggie Moore, and Heather Petersen and Dublin’s Irish Tenors, Ryan Walton, Ollie Barrow, Jay McManus, James Allen, and Rob Quibell, treat the audience to one Irish song after another. It is a wonderful, inspiring, and colorful musical journey to the Emerald Isle and the land of the Celts.

From the many Irish numbers performed, my two favorites were the opening number of the show, “Danny Boy,” sung beautifully by the Celtic Ladies and the Irish folk song “Maggie” so poignantly sung by James Allen and dedicated to all those serving in our country’s Armed Forces. The last set of the first half, from the “Drunken Sailor” to “Phil The Fluther’s Ball,” was so much fun to watch and hear.

Jay McManus during his Irish Dance performance.

Jay McManus during his Irish Dance performance.

It was highlighted by the marvelous Irish dancing of Jay McManus and was a perfect illustration of how the vocal talent and energy of its performers, colorful costuming, choreography, and energy is combined into every element of the show. What a tremendous way to end the first half!

During the second half of the show, the cast presents some of their favorite numbers which covers a variety of music from Broadway to opera all sung and performed to perfection and, along with a few surprises, will have a musical favorite for just about everyone. Two of my favorite numbers from this half of the show were “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” which is not only my favorite song, but the very first song that the Dublin’s Irish Tenors and the Celtic Ladies ever sang together. Maggie Moore’s performance of “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s opera Turandot was magnificent.

With every show a common question is, “Will children enjoy this show?” There are no animals, peer performances by other children or segments specifically designed for children, but when combined with its wide variety of music, sets, costuming, and dancing, children who have an appreciation of music or dancing should love this show.

From Ireland to Broadway, the shows unique blend of Celtic music mixed with just the right amount of current contemporary and classical favorites is a joy to experience and will be enjoyed by “music lovers of all ages.” For additional information or tickets for Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies 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 calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.