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.

Shouldn’t one of these fantastic museums be part of your Branson experience?

Titanic Museum's full sized Grand Staircase, two story high T-Rex from Dinosaur Museum, and the entrance to the Worlds Biggest Toy Museum Complex.

Titanic Museum’s full sized Grand Staircase, two story high T-Rex at the  Dinosaur Museum, and the entrance to the Worlds Biggest Toy Museum Complex.

“It has been said that Branson has something for everyone, and that’s true not only in terms of general categories of things to do, but with choices within each category,” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “For instance, within the general category of Branson shows there is a wide variety of choices ranging from Sight & Sound’s biblical spectacular Moses to the Million Dollar Quartet, Haygoods and almost 100 more,” she added.

Wood goes on to point out that it’s the same thing with Branson Attractions, lakes, shopping, and many other categories of activities that Branson offers including one that many Branson visitors overlook, “Museums.” Some, such as Branson’s most popular museum, the amazing Titanic Museum Attraction, are hard to miss, but others are not as obvious. Here’s a list of six Branson Museums that can add excitement and adventure to your Branson experience:

Bransons Titanic Museum Attraction: This one half size scale replica of the “R.M.S. Titanic,” towering high above the Branson strip, is one of Branson’s most popular attractions! More than simply a museum, it’s an interactive adventure that shares the stories of those who were onboard for the famous ocean voyage that has fascinated the world for more than a century with hundreds of artifacts, a crew that interacts with passengers, many interactive activities, and so much more. From beginning to end it’s a special experience. Here’s a neat article entitled 13 Things “kids” should know about the Branson Titanic Museum Attraction that describes this unique Branson experience. This museum is open year-round and is not weather dependent.

Branson Auto & Farm Museum: At any given time, this beautiful 90,000 square foot museum provides an opportunity to take a unique stroll through the vintage chrome, modern designs, high performance, and legendary styling of about 200 classic and collectible vehicles and 180 farm tractors, implements and buggies on display. Its 5,000 square foot gift shop offers a unique selection of apparel, books, pedal cars, vintage toys, and other items. With inventory changing regularly, every visit to the museum is a unique adventure! This museum is open year-round and is not weather dependent.

The Ralph Foster Museum: Located at the College of the Ozarks, this museum is commonly referred to as the “Smithsonian of the Ozarks” and has the mission of collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting items related to the Ozarks region, its history and culture. Probably, the most well-known of the museum’s displays is an original truck from the Beverly Hillbillies’ 1960’s television show. Other displays include an intact, antique dental office to a display of Rose O’Neill’s world-famous Kewpie Dolls. The museum is not weather dependent and is open year-round except for the month of January, Thanksgiving week, including the weekend before and after Thanksgiving, and mid December through the end of December.

Veterans Memorial Museum: This museum pays heartfelt tribute to the men and women who bravely served our country.  It features more than 2,000 exhibits commemorating the American soldier in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and more recent conflicts, including historical artifacts, murals, and sculptures in touching tribute to American soldiers, veterans, and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. This museum is open year-round and is not weather dependent.

World’s Largest Toy Museum Complex: Give the family a break from computers, tablets, video games, and cell phones and bring them to 25,000 square feet of the most unique and interesting museum experiences available anywhere! In fact, it’s five different museums in one where “Memories unfold and imagination abounds.” The Worlds Largest Toy Museum contains more than 1,000,000 toys. See cast iron fire trucks, slot cars, Hot Wheels, tin toys, the very first Barbie Doll, and hundreds of other historical toys like Power Rangers and Howdy Doody, and baseballs autographed by sports heroes like Joe DiMaggio and Cal Ripken. The complexes’ other museums include “The National BB Gun Museum” and a special GI Joe display; The Harold B. Wright Museum containing the original manuscript of the best-selling book, “The Shepherd of the Hills” along with Wrights personal collection of furniture and paintings; “The Stearnsy Bear Museum;” and “The World of Checkers Museum.” This museum is open year-round and is not weather dependent.

Branson Dinosaur Museum: Experience dinosaurs up close and personal, from everyone’s favorite, the enormous “Tyrannosaurus Rex,” fondly referred to as “T Rex,” to the “tiny,” comparatively speaking, Four-Winged Microraptor, measuring only one-foot-tall. Thanks to the talented paleo-artists, who used actual dinosaur bones to mold the incredible bodies of these dinosaurs, you will almost expect them to come to life at any moment. See the article entitled Branson Dinosaur Museum home to T- Rex and his dinosaur pals for more information. This museum is open year-round and is not weather dependent.

For more information on these and other amazing Branson attractions, shows, 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.

It’s no illusion, the diversity of Branson music shows is absolutely amazing!

The Million Dollar Quartet, David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, left, on the piano; Brad Waters as "Carl Perkins;" Austin Wilson as "Jay Perkins," the bass player; Tyler K. Hunter as "Elvis Presley;" and Cliff Wright as "Johnny Cash"

The Million Dollar Quartet, David Brooks as Jerry Lee Lewis, left, on the piano; Brad Waters as “Carl Perkins;” Austin Wilson as “Jay Perkins,” the bass player; Tyler K. Hunter as “Elvis Presley;” and Cliff Wright as “Johnny Cash”

“From the magic of Illusionist Rick Thomas to Reza Edge of Illusion, and many in-between, Branson is blessed with a variety of some of the finest illusionists in the world, but one thing is for certain, the quality and diversity of Branson’s music shows is no illusion!” said Annette Wood, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Branson Tourism Center. “Here’s four shows, from our list of Most Popular and Requested Branson Shows, that illustrate the point,” she added.

Million Dollar Quartet: A singular moment, when four of the most extraordinary musical talents of our time, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins, came together for one unforgettable night, is captured in this amazing production based on an actual event! Even neater, is the fact that the music in this show, songs such as That’s All Right, I Walk the Line, Riders in the Sky, Hound Dog, Peace in the Valley, Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, Blue Suede Shoes, and many more, are songs many already know and grew up with, not songs specifically written for the show. When I saw this show I said, “Over the last three decades, I have seen many Branson shows of all types, but never one like the Million Dollar Quartet! An outstanding cast, timeless music that everyone knows, and a great story line combine with the show’s unique set and great production to create an incredible entertainment experience for the whole family that should not be missed.”

The Haygoods: An amazing Branson experience! Excellent choreography, exquisite harmonies, state-of-the-art sound and special effects, a delightful sense of humor, and energy that never quits, you get it all in one show from one phenomenal family! In a recent review of this show I wrote, “Based on over 30 years of seeing Branson shows…I can testify to the fact that The Haygoods show is a WOW, WOW, and WOW, on a Three WOW Index with three WOWs being as high as you can get! From the ‘Get go,’ it’s two hours of the most unique, innovative, talented, energetic, personable, and exciting entertainment you will ever experience on a Branson stage.”

Clay Cooper’s Country Music Express: This show is great country music and so much more. When you take an entertainer like Clay Cooper and blend in a great band, some of the best dancers and choreographed dance routines in Branson, the comedy of Matt Gumm, the rope and gun handling performance of Johnny Lonestar and the strategically placed vocal performances of other cast members, it is over two hours of the finest nonstop “express,” or otherwise, entertainment in Branson hosted by a performer who can work an audience as beautifully as he sings and his wife choreographs and dances.”

The amazing SIX.

The amazing SIX.

SIX: This unique show is another outstanding example of the diversity of Branson’s music shows. You will hear the sounds of percussion, strings, horns and other instruments, but they’re just nowhere to be found! You will experience two hours of the most unique, exciting, and memorable music you have ever heard; great vocals along with the sound of an actual band with all of the sounds, both vocal and instrumental, coming from the same place, the mouths of the SIX Knudsen brothers. It truly is an amazing thing to see, hear, and experience and something that will not soon be forgotten.

For more information on these or other great Branson shows or lodging please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com, or calling 1-800-785-1550

 

 

Just how good are you at Dixie Stampede Trivia?

The beautiful horses, color, pageantry of Dixie Stampede's Finale Finale .*

The beautiful horses, color, and pageantry of Dixie Stampede’s Finale .*

Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede is easily Branson’s most visited dinner attraction,” said Preston Garrison, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. With a twinkle in his eye, he added, “No surprise there, after all it’s billed as ‘The World’s Most Visited Dinner Attraction,’ but I’ve always wondered, just how many horseshoes do all those horses use each year?”

That got me thinking, outside of the fact that the answer to that question would make a great trivia question, that there’s an awful lot that goes into creating the fun, adventure, pageantry, and excitement that those attending Dixie Stampede get to experience. Who better to turn to for answers and information about that than John Richardson, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction?

Richardson shared a list of facts that was developed by Dixie Stampede, in response to questions that guests have asked about the show and its animals, that “illustrates the scope and scale of its production.” We thought it would be fun to take that information and present it in a Question and Answer (Q&A) format, and hope that you find it as interesting and fascinating as we did:

Q: Where does the white sand for the arena floor come from and how much is used each year?
A: Over 200 tons of white sand is “imported” from South Carolina for the arena floor each year.

Q: Why is that sand used and not some other material?
A: It creates a surface that is dust-free and gentler for the horses’ legs.

Q: How many yards of lace and ribbon are used on each Dixie Stampede Southern Belle costume?
A: Twenty yards.

Q: What are the dimensions of the “Conestoga Wagons” used in the show?
A: Each measures 25’8” long by 9’ high and is a true replica of those that carried settlers westward on the great wagon trains.

Q: What kind of horses are pulling the Wagons?
A: Each is pulled by teams of 2000-pound Belgian draft horses, known for their intelligence, size and strength.

Q: How many white doves of peace are released during the Patriotic Finale?
A: More than 50 which are raised and cared for on the Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede premises. Doves are always born in pairs; the female hatches first followed by the more aggressive male.

Q: How much grain do the stars of Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, the 32 magnificent horses, consume each year?
A: 104,000 pounds of grain per year.

Q: How many bales of hay do they consume?
A: The horses consume 3,500 bales of hay per year, weighing approximately 262,500 pounds.

Q: How many horseshoes do the Dixie Stampede horses go through each year?
A: Over 1,152.

Q: What are the horses bedded on?
A: 13,200 bales of hay and approximately 528,000 pounds of pine shavings each year which is kept clean and dry by round-the-clock stable hands.

Q: How much does the Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede’s buffalo herd weigh?
A: It weighs in at more than four tons.

The "Roman Ride" through a ring of fire.

The “Roman Ride” through a ring of fire.*

Q: What is the “Roman Ride?”
A: It’s an historic type of trick riding, featuring a team of two horses moving side-by-side with one rider standing astride them with one foot on each horse. Dixie Stampede’s Roman Riders have the added degrees of difficulty of splitting columns of fire, being surrounded by firefly torches, and ultimately jumping through the Hoop of Fire.

Q: What does its “signature four-course feast include?
A: Original creamy vegetable soup and a hot homemade biscuit; a tender whole rotisserie chicken; hickory-smoked barbequed pork loin; buttery corn on the cob; herb-basted potatoes; Dixie Stampede’s very own specialty dessert, and unlimited beverages, including Pepsi products. [Author’s Note: Having eaten it a number of times over the years, I can testify that it’s delicious and I have never left hungry!]

For more information or tickets for Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services at 1-800-785-1550 or through its website www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

* Courtesy of Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede

Does anything say Branson more than these six epic attractions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on these attractions or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com, or calling 1-800-785-1550.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Resident Shows:

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

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

 Limited Engagement

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

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

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

*Shows after November 1st will be Christmas Shows.

You’ll absolutely love the Duttons!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For tickets or information for the Duttons show or for any of Branson’s other shows and attractions or for lodging arrangements please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Plan to cruise into the splendor of Mother Nature’s spectacular Ozarks fall foliage show!

View of the first "blush" of Fall foliage from the bow of the "Landing Princess."

View of the first “blush” of Fall foliage from the bow of the “Landing Princess.”

“The rains we have experienced thus far this summer are setting Branson up to have a great fall foliage season,” said Melissa McGowan, Marketing/Groups and Special Events Manager for Main Street Lake Cruises. “It’s a once a year spectacular show put on by Mother Nature and, cruising aboard one of Main Street Lake Cruises’ boats, provides ‘premium seating’ to see it, in all of its vivid color and wonder,” she added.

Starting gradually in September, the foliage changes color in conjunction with cold nights and sunny days, turning panoramic Ozark vistas into magnificent colorful “masterpieces” that have to be seen to be believed. Lake Taneycomo, a long narrow impoundment of the White River, with shorelines that are much closer together than those of Table Rock and Bull Shoals Lakes, provides the ideal “theatre” from which to view this unique annual show, close-up and in all its wonder and brilliance.

Main Street Lake Cruises "Landing Princess."

Main Street Lake Cruises “Landing Princess.”

And what better seats to have to see “the show” than aboard the only cruise boats on Lake Taneycomo. Whether cruising on  a sightseeing cruise aboard Main Street Lake Cruises’ Lake Queen, a modern day replica of the grand riverboats which used to ply the White River, or enjoying a dinner cruise aboard its 100 foot luxury yacht Landing Princess, you will have  an unparalleled view of not only the magnificent beauty of the changing Ozark’s foliage, but of Lake Taneycomo and its natural scenic wonders.

A cruise aboard one of Main Street Lake Cruises’ boats is a spectacular experience any time of the year offering an up close chance to view Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, other birds, deer, other wildlife, panoramic vistas and bluffs not available through any other means except by boat on Lake Taneycomo. They are seen by very few of the millions who visit Branson each year. The amazing wonder of Ozarks’ fall foliage takes an already special Branson experience and memory and makes it even more so.

Main Street Lake Cruises’ McGowan said that, depending on the weather, the first blush of color is generally toward the second half of September with its peak at about the third week of October. She also points out that Main Street Lake Cruises has moved to a new more convenient location at 9 South Boardwalk, located along the shoreline of the Bass Pro Parking lot, that is easy to find and provides close, drive-up parking, and immediate access to its main entrance from a flat parking lot

Because of the popularity of these cruises McGowan suggests making advance reservations. For additional information on Branson’s fall foliage season or cruises on either Lake Queen, or dinner cruises on the Landing Princess, or any of Branson’s other shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please feel free to contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services; call 1-800-785-1550 or visit www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

The Best of Branson Insider Highlights for September 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 LIMITED ENGAGEMENT PERFORMANCES (Sorted by starting date)

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

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

SPECIAL EVENT HIGHLIGHTS (Sorted by starting date.)

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

For additional information on these events, or any of Branson’s shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com, or calling 1-800-785-1550.