The first 2017 performance of Presleys’ Country Jubilee, on March 10, will be the beginning of the Presley family’s 50th year performing in Branson. During a recent interview, Gary Presley said, “When we originally opened, as the ‘Mountain Music Theatre,’ on June 30, 1967, it was a cooperative family effort. That same family effort, our love for one another, and what we do, has blessed us throughout these first 50 years,” he continued.
Going back to those early days, Presley said that he; his two sisters, Deanna and Janice; and dad, Lloyd played at “Fantastic Caverns” in Springfield, Missouri. In about 1962, separately, he also played “Herkimer” and was the comedian in the “Underground Theatre Show” near Kimberling City. It was in a cave located in the same valley as “Talking Rock Caverns.” The show featured Bob White, Slim Wilson, Speedy Haworth, others, and occasionally, Red Foley.
Around 1964, some of the cast members quit. Lloyd and his two sisters, Deanna and Janice, came and performed a few shows with us in the cave. The idea for a theatre on Highway 76 in Branson started to take root around that time.
Highway 76 was a two-lane road, outside of the Branson City limits, that tourists used to travel to the growing “Silver Dollar City,” “Shepherd of the Hills,” and “Table Rock Lake.” Presley said that the theatre becoming a reality was a family effort involving four couples. The original partners were his Mom, Bessie, and Dad, Lloyd; he and his wife Pat; his sister Deanna and her husband David Drennon; and Larry and Francis Drennon, David’s parents.
“We got together and decided that if we could put a building on Highway 76 we might have a few people show up,” he said. He points out that the move from that point to opening the theatre was a co-operative effort of all the partners. “It never would have been built without the effort and sacrifice of the total family,” he added.
As the theatre took form, a show was developing along the format that Lee Mace’s “Ozark Opry” was using so successfully in the Lake of the Ozarks. Based on short sets of country music broken up by comedy, it fit in ideally with the Presley family’s talents.
The musical talent of the Presley family Lloyd, Janice, Deanna and her husband David, Steve, and Gary, supplemented with other cast members, addressed the music. Add the comedy of Gary as “Herkimer” and the result was an ideal fit for the Presley family.
Steve Presley pointed out that, if show didn’t make it, they had a backup plan. Although only ten years old at the time the building was built, he recalled that it was built with a flat floor and huge double doors in the back. The thinking was that if things didn’t work out with the show the building could be used to store boats. Well, it’s worked pretty good so far! As Lloyd Presley once, smilingly said to his sons, “Tell you what…we never had to store any boats in the theatre, did we boys?”
“No sir, you sure didn’t!” That building, and the Presley family has become a constant beacon for the spirit of Branson’s family entertainment and what it represents. Their talent and that of the cast performing with them in Presleys’ Country Jubilee has entertained, and continues to entertain, millions of Branson visitors.
It’s an entertainment experience blessed with the innate ability of the Presleys to communicate their genuine love for what they are doing, each other, and family, to their audience. For 50 years, and counting, they have created wonderful Branson memories as they inspire and entertain Branson audiences. Congratulations and thank you!