Category Archives: Entertainment

Up-Close and Personal with the Million Dollar Quartet’s John Countryman

Cast of the Million Dollar Quartet Sara Tweedle as Dyanna, Tyler K. Hunter as Elvis Presley, Cliff Wright as Johnny Cash, and John Countryman as Jerry Lee Lewis.

One of Branson’s most popular shows, the Million Dollar Quartet 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. It took place 51 years ago this week, on December 4, 1956, in the Memphis storefront recording studio of Sun Records.

It 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. The show shares the music, excitement, and drama of what happened that day, as these four legends performed together for their first and, last time.

Recently, John Countryman (JC), the tribute artist playing Jerry Lee Lewis in the Branson production of the Million Dollar Quartet, was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to do an interview for a Branson – Up Close and Personal, a service of the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services. It’s intended to provide an “up close and personal look” at a Branson star or personality and uses a “Question and Answer” format.

BTC: If you could meet and perform with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
JC: I’d go with Leon Russell because I like the old ‘rock and rollers.’ I got to meet him shortly before died.

BTC: What do you like most about performing Jerry Lee Lewis in the Million Dollar Quartet?
JC: It’s fun! Everyone else in the session, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Ray Perkins were established performers, but Jerry Lee’s career, at that point, was just starting. He was only there because he was doing some session work for Ray Perkins, but he knew everything and wanted everyone to know that he did. It’s so much fun to play the role as I push everyone’s button.

BTC: Whether you’re in it or not, what’s your favorite part of the Million Dollar Quartet?
JC: The very end of the show when we do the mini concert with four songs back to back.

BTC: Why should someone coming to Branson plan to see the Million Dollar Quartet?
JC: It’s 90 nonstop minutes of fun and exciting live rock ‘n’ roll music, humor, great entertainment, and a history lesson about some of the coolest guys you’re ever going to hear about. I have been in a lot of productions and about 800 performances of the Million Dollar Quartet. The caliber of everyone in this cast is fantastic and it’s one of the best I have every performed with.

BTC: Where were you born?
JC: Newport News, Virginia

BTC: When?
JC: September 11, 1989.

BTC: When did you first become interested in music?
JC: My mom was a music teacher, mom and dad sang in the choir in church, and there are pictures of me playing the piano when I was a baby, but I was 12 years old when I really decided to get serious and started practicing playing the way I do now.

BTC: Do you have any formal musical training?
JC: Just a couple of music lessons before I was 12 years old. Although my mom was a music teacher, the lessons were from another lady. We, myself and four brothers, were homeschooled by my mom so she thought it would be a good idea to get the music lessons from someone else.

BTC: When did you first become interested in Jerry Lee Lewis and why?
JC: When I first started playing the piano because, “He’s the man!” He was also “kind of dangerous,” played rock ‘n’ roll, and my mom suggested taking a look at his music. Once I played “Great Balls of Fire” I was hooked.”

BTC: When did you first perform publicly?
JC: At a home school convention talent show case in Winston Salem, North Carolina when I was about 15 or 16. I did a Jerry Lee Lewis medley that had Great Balls of Fire and Whole Lotta of Shakin’ Goin’ On‘ in it.

BTC: When did you first start performing professionally?
JC: In 2009 when I played with the Dirty Names Band. I played with them for about a year and a half. I left for many different reasons and took a job in a bank.

BTC: How did you end up in the Million Dollar Quartet?
JC: Shortly after starting with the bank, I got a call to audition for the Tony Award® winning hit Broadway show and the rest is history. In 2013, I went on the National Tour with the show and have been performing in it ever since.

BTC: Whether sung in the Million Dollar Quartet show or not, what is your favorite Jerry Lee Lewis song?
JC: The obvious answer would be songs like Great Balls of Fire and A Whole Lotat of Shakin’ Goin’ On, but I like some of his deeper cuts. His version of the Hank Williams song, Jambalaya from ‘Live at the International Hotel’ is one of my favorites.

BTC: What’s your favorite genre of music?
JC: Boogie-Woogie and Rock ‘N’ Roll.

BTC: Jerry Lee Lewis or not, what’s your favorite song?
JC: I really like the song Freight Train Boogie by Doc Watson.

BTC: If you could influence someone to remember one thing about Jerry Lee Lewis or his music, what would it be?
JC: The power’s in the left hand. Boogie-woogie involves a repeating bass pattern from the left and throughout. It’s that pattern that’s the music’s soul.

BTC: Prior to coming to Branson you were performing in Chicago. How did you end up in Branson?
JC: I was performing in the Chicago production of Million Dollar Quartet the first time I had a chance to do the show in Branson. I turned it down to stay in Chicago, but it closed a few months later and I had been performing the role in regional productions of the show when the Branson opportunity opened up. I was exhilarated when I got the chance to play the role in Branson and it’s been a great experience so far.

BTC: When was your first time in Branson?
JC: In the spring of this year. I had never been to Branson before and arrived on Friday just before we started rehearsals on Monday.

BTC: What was your first impression of Branson?
JC: It’s so beautiful and the people so friendly.

BTC: What do you like the most about Branson?
JC: I just love to play music, so I just love it that “you can’t throw a rock’” without hitting a musician.”.

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?
JC: Play music.

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.

Up Close and Personal with Raiding the Country Vault’s Sir Harry Cowell

Sir Harry Cowell, CEO of Papa Entertainment PLC, the company responsible the hit shows “Raiding the Country Vault” and “Raiding the Rock Vault.”

Following the successful format used in their hit Las Vegas show Raiding the Rock Vault, Sir Harry Cowell, and his partner Simon Napier-Bell, premiered their new show, Raiding the Country Vault in Branson. It’s a show filled with some of the greatest country music classics, of all time, with an outstanding cast,performing music they know, love, and respect. Every song in the show is a song that most, whether a country music fan or not, will recognize.

“Branson – Up Close and Personal” is a service of the 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. Sir Harry Cowell, one of the owners of Raiding the Country Vault and its manager, is our guest for this interview.

BTC: Are you related to Simon Cowell
Sir Harry: No.

BTC: What separates Raiding the Country Vault from other country shows?
Sir Harry: Each of the songs in the show is a classic country hit that was a number one song for the artist. The great thing about the show is that it’s country music, almost everyone will recognize.

BTC: What is it about Raiding the Country Vault that sets it apart from other Branson shows?
Sir Harry: It’s pretty simple. We do a straight 90 minute concert of some of the finest classic country hits of all time, sung and played by, some of the people who wrote or performed them and some of the most talented country music vocalists and instrumentalists around.

BTC: What will the audience notice about each of the songs in the show?
Sir Harry: They are all big hits, most number one hits, and done exactly as they were originally done.

BTC: What’s the relationship between the performers in the show and either the songs they perform or the performers who made the songs famous?
Sir Harry: This is the real deal. Everyone in the show, has had country hits in their own rights. Billy Yates has played the Grand Ole Opry 49 times.

BTC: What’s your personal favorite song in Raiding the Country Vault?
Sir Harry: The Glen Campbell hit, Wichita Lineman. It’s a great song, telling a great story and Michael Peterson really nails it.

BTC:  Why should someone coming to Branson plan to see Raiding the Country Vault?
Sir Harry: If you want to see a show filled with country classics, lights, lasers, and special effects this is the show for you.

BTC: What do you like best about Branson?
Sir Harry: The people and the weather. I feel very much at home. The weather changes, although a little more extreme, reminds me of England.

BTC: Why do people call you “Sir Harry?”
Sir Harry: I went to school in the UK with a lot of royalty and so my nickname became “Sir Harry.”

BTC: Where were you born?
Sir Harry: In Dorking, Surrey, near London.

BTC: Are you a United States citizen?
Sir Harry: No, I am absolutely English.

BTC: How much time do you spend in the United States?
Sir Harry: I have a work permit and, between Las Vegas and Branson, spend about 75 to 80 percent of my time in the United States.

BTC: How did you get involved with show business?
Sir Harry: I was a drummer in a band in the 70s. I had my own recording studio, published music, and managed bands, including the band “Asia,’” alongside of Simon Napier-Bell, my partner.

BTC: What’s your specific involvement with the Starlite Theatre?
Sir Harry: We lease and totally operate the theatre.

BTC: What else would you like our readers to know about the Starlite Theatre?
Sir Harry: From the quality and variety of the entertainment we offer; to some of the best BBQ in Branson at the “Getting Basted” restaurant in our lobby; gift shop; flat parking; and other amenities, there’s not another theatre or entertainment experience in Branson like ours.

For additional information or tickets for Raiding the Country Vault, or any of the other shows at the Starlite Theatre, please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

Branson Up Close and Personal with King’s Castle’s “Angel” vocalist, Maggie Moore

Maggie Moore with Robert Quibell, singing “Tonight” from “West Side Story,”during a recent performance of “Broadway’s Greatest Hits.”

Broadway’s Greatest Hits, at the Kings Castle Theatre, is one of Branson’s hottest new shows. It features timeless music, beautiful sets, colorful costuming, and a cast of some of the finest vocalists and dancers on any Branson stage. Rising Branson talent, the lovely and talented Maggie Moore, is one of the show’s four featured vocalists.

Maggie (MM), recently took time from her hectic schedule for this “Branson – Up Close and Personal” interview. “Branson Up Close and Personal” is a service of Branson Tourism Center (BTC), the seller of over 5 million Branson show and attraction tickets. The interview uses a “Question and Answer” format to introduce readers to a Branson star or personality.

BTC: If you could perform or meet with any entertainer/person (living or deceased) who would it be and why?
MM:  Julie Andrews. I love her music and everything about her. She’s just so encouraging!

BTC: Why should someone coming to Branson plan to see the Broadway’s Greatest Hits?
MM: [With a big heart revealing smile she enthusiastically said] Because it’s awesome!!

BTC: What do you think that kids ages 8-15 will like most about the Broadway’s Greatest Hits?
MM: There’s so much music in the show that will directly appeal to them such as, “Mary Poppins,” “Aladdin,” Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” and more. There’s not a lot of “park and bark,” where someone just stands there and sings. The constant action, interaction between performers, dancing, and colorful costume changes appeal to adults and kids alike.

BTC: What do you like most about being a vocalist in the Broadway’s Greatest Hits?
MM: It’s all Broadway and I love the challenges of singing the different styles and musical influences that covers. In one number I’m singing down in the basement and in the next I have to pop to the top. I just love it!

BTC: Whether you’re in it or not what’s your favorite part of the show?
MM: Step in Time from the “Mary Poppins Segment” of the show. The set with its chimneys and the dancers. Some of the things they do is amazing! I remember watching it when they were setting it up and it made me feel like a kid.

BTC: What’s your personal favorite musical number in the show?
MM: That’s so hard, but I’m going to go with Tonight from the “West Side Story Segment” of the show.

BTC: What’s your favorite genre of music to listen to?
MM: Jazz and country

 BTC: What’s your favorite Genre of music to sing?
MM: Opera.

 BTC: Whether it’s in Broadway’s Greatest Hits or not, what song do you personally enjoy singing the most?
MM: There’s a song in college that I used to sing that I really love called Glitter and Be Gay from the operetta Candide.

BTC: Where were you born?
MM: I was actually born in Jacksonville, Florida about 40 miles from my hometown of St. Marys, Georgia.

BTC: When?
MM: 1990

BTC: Was there something special about your childhood that you think our readers would be interested in?
MM: It was wonderful. We lived in downtown St. Marys. I enjoyed the outdoors, the beautiful marshlands, and doing community theatre with my family.

BTC: How old were you when you first sang publicly and where was it?
MM: In the church choir at about the age of three or four.

BTC: When did you realize that you wanted to be a singer?
MM: There never was an “ah ha moment.” I’ve always loved singing. It became more focused when I was in college with a music theatre major.

BTC: Where did you first perform professionally?
MM: As an angel singing Ave Maria in the Nativity scene at Pensacola, Florida’s “Winterfest.”

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?
MM: There’s not just one, it’s a type of performance. Those where someone comes up and tells me how a performance inspired, impacted or helped them.

BTC: What was your first impression of Branson?
MM: I loved it. There’s so much here and we love the natural beauty and outdoors.

BTC: Did you perform in Branson prior to performing at productions in the Kings Castle Theatre?
MM: No. I was working in a non-performing capacity, heard about the auditions at King’s Castle and tried out. I started out in “Dancing Queen” and went into the Dublin’s IrishTenors and The Celtic Ladies when it opened.

BTC: What King Castle’s Productions do you perform in?
MM: Broadway’s Greatest Hits and Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?
MM: Being outside doing something. I like the lakes boating and fishing, especially when I am catching fish.

BTC: Do you have a “little known” fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy?
MM: I could eat chocolate all day long!

BTC: Do you live in the Branson Area?
MM: Yes.

BTC: Are you married?
MM: Yes, to Lukas.

For additional information or tickets for either Broadway’s Greatest Hits or Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550, or by visiting www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

 

If the Million Dollar Quartet isn’t a quartet what is it?

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 is an entertaining Tony Award-winning musical. It’s the story of the most famous rock and roll “jam session” in history.  The show features four of the most famous rock and roll stars of all-time Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins singing together, but were they a quartet?

What’s a “quartet?” In musical terms, it’s a group of four people intentionally playing instruments or singing together as a group. Examples are “Jazz quartet,” “the Four Lads,” and “string quartet.”

Four people sang together, why isn’t it a quartet? If they weren’t a quartet, why is the show named the Million Dollar Quartet? To get the answers, let’s go back to the storefront recording studio of Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee on December 4, 1956.

Sun recording artist, Carl Perkins, was in the studio doing a recording session for what would become his next hit, “Matchbox.” Playing with him was his brother Jay on bass, drummer, “Fluke” Holland, and budding Sun recording artist, Jerry Lee Lewis, on the piano.

Johnny Cash, another Sun recording artist, stopped by to watch the session and talk with Sam Perkins, the owner of Sun Records. Later, RCA, and ex-Sun, recording artist Elvis Presley, just dropped by with a young woman he was seeing at the time.

At the end of the Perkins recording session, the four young performers spontaneously started talking, playing music, and singing. The resulting unplanned jam session, involving four of the greatest rock and roll performers of all-time in the early stages of their careers, was a unique onetime event. They never performed together again!

When Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, discovered the jam session, he called Bob Johnson, the entertainment editor of the “Memphis Press-Scimitar.” Johnson came to the studio with a photographer. The next day he published an article entitled, “The Million Dollar Quartet.”

That would have been the end of it, and the “Million Dollar Quartet” would have been a forgotten footnote of history. In fact, it was for decades, and would have remained that way except for the foresight of sound technician Jack Clement. He had recorded the Perkins session and was still in the sound booth. When the impromptu jam session started, he recognized its significance and recorded it without anyone’s knowledge.

The recording went into the Sun Records “library,” where it remained unnoticed for decades. It was discovered by a new owner of Sun Records and was recorded and released in Europe in 1981 under the title “Million Dollar Quartet.”

The recording and the events of the original jam session became the basis for the musical Million Dollar Quartet, written by Floyd Mutrux and Colin Escott, which premiered in 2007. This Tony Award winning hit has played in Chicago, Broadway, and Las Vegas and has toured extensively in the US and abroad. It’s currently one of the hottest shows in Branson, Missouri, performing at the Welk Resort Theatre.

The common definition of “quartet” is immaterial. Bob Johnson’s headline, the day after the jam session, “Million Dollar Quartet,” has stood the test of time. It will forever describe what Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins were, and did, on December 4, 1956.

Five special ways for kids to visit with Santa Claus in Branson

Santa waiting to talk with children in Branson about what they want for Christmas.

Santa waiting to talk with children in Branson about what they want for Christmas.

When he’s not supervising his elves at the North Pole, Santa loves to spend time in Branson where he can not only rest and be entertained, prior to his long night’s journey and work on Christmas Eve, but do what he loves to do most. That’s meeting all the children who live in Branson and those visiting, during Ozark Mountain Christmas, to find out what they want him to bring them for Christmas. Here’s a list of five places and the times* where kids can meet Santa Claus in Branson:

1. Branson Tourism Center: Give the kids a break, and help get them into the Christmas spirit, on Black Friday, November 25, 2016, with a visit to see Santa Claus at the Branson Tourism Center, one of his favorite places outside of the North Pole. After they visit with Santa, and have the chance to tell him what they would like him to bring them for Christmas, they will receive a complimentary souvenir photo of their visit. It’s all free and there are no photos to buy. It’s just the Branson Tourism Center’s way of saying, “Merry Christmas!”

2.  Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas: Santa will be in his workshop on Santa Claus Lane through Dec. 23, where he’ll be waiting for children to come and tell him what they are hoping he will bring them for Christmas this year. Santa and his elves will be there from 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM and 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM on Thursday, Friday and Sunday; except for Thanksgiving Day where he will be there from 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM and 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM; and Saturdays and November 25 when he will be in his shop from 2:30 PM to 5:30 PM and 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM.

3. Branson Landing Town Square: Santa will be found in his “Christmas Tree House,” underneath the 50 foot Christmas Tree at the Town Square, from 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM Sunday through Thursday, except for Thanksgiving Day and from 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Friday and Saturday, except for Nov. 23 and Dec. 24 when the hours will be 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM. Santa takes a break from 3:00 PM to 3:45 PM each day to feed his reindeer.

4. Kringles Christmas Store: Until Dec. 23 Santa is scheduled to visit Kringles in the Grand Village Shops Wednesday through Sunday from at least 11:00 AM through 4:00 PM and later some days. Please call (417) 337-5426 if there are any questions.

5. Bass Pro Shops at Branson Landing: Santa will be at “Santa’s Wonderland,” filled with free games, crafts and activities, at Bass Pro Shops until December 24. He will be available weekdays from 5:00 PM to 8 PM through December 3 and from 10:AM to 8:00 PM December 4 through December 22. On weekends, he will be available from 10:00 AM until 8:00 PM, on Saturday, and from Noon to 5:00 PM on Sundays. Thanksgiving Week he will be available from 3:00 PM to 8:00 PM November 23; 10:00 AM to 5 PM Thanksgiving Day, 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM on November 26 and 27; and from Noon to 5:00 PM on November 27. As he prepares to return to the North Pole Santa will be available from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM on December 23, and from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM on December 24. Each child will be given a free 4×6 studio quality portrait.

They are all free, except for Silver Dollar City where a visit with Santa is included in the price of admission as part of its  “Old Time Christmas Festival.” Ho, Ho, Ho, and a Merry Christmas to all!

* Schedules subject to change

Five reasons why Thanksgiving in Branson is so fascinating!

From the splendor or millions of Christmas Lights, to a Thanksgiving meal aboard a luxury yacht, shows from our families to yours, and world class shopping Thanksgiving in Branson is fun, unique, and inspiring.

The splendor or millions of Christmas Lights, a Thanksgiving meal aboard a luxury yacht, shows from our families to yours, world class shopping, and so much more help make Thanksgiving in Branson the unique fascinating event it is.

“From feasting, to entertaining, shopping, and so much more, Branson’s Thanksgiving cornucopia is overflowing with fun, excitement, adventure, and the spirit of Christmas,” said Preston Garrison, Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center. Garrison suggests five reasons why spending Thanksgiving in Branson is a fascinating way to celebrate Thanksgiving while having fun and making special family memories that could last a lifetime:

1. Bountiful Choice of Thanksgiving Meals: From the traditional Thanksgiving fare like that served at the Welk Resort’s Stage Door Restaurant to mouthwatering Thanksgiving buffets and brunches such as those served at Grand Country, College of the Ozark’s Keeter Center, and the Chateau on the Lake, non-traditional Thanksgiving food such as the Italian cuisine at Florentina’s Italian Ristorante, and dozens more Branson diners will have a bountiful choice Thanksgiving dining options for every pallet and budget including a scrumptious traditional Thanksgiving dinner served aboard Main Street Lake Cruises’ Landing Princess, amid the luxury of a 100 foot yacht, while cruising on beautiful Lake Taneycomo.

2. Branson’s Great Shows: Although some of Branson’s shows will not be performing on Thanksgiving Day, many of its most popular shows will, including the Acrobats of China, Amazing Pets, Andy Williams Christmas Extravaganza, Grand Jubilee Hughes Brothers Christmas Show, Legends in Concert, Million Dollar Quartet, New Jersey Nights, Puttin’ on the Ritz, The Haygoods, The Lettermen, Shoji Tabuchi, and many more. The full complement of Branson shows, including Billy Dean In Concert With Jarrett, Christmas Wonderland, Clay Cooper’s Country Express, Moses, Presleys’ Country Jubilee, SIX, The Texas Tenors, will resume their normal performance schedules for the remainder of the season on November 25.

3.  Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas: Silver Dollar City’s Old Time Christmas Festival is one of America’s top holiday 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. One of the many features of this festival happens each evening at dusk, in the Square on Main Street with the lighting of the 5-Story Special Effects Christmas Tree. As it sparkles to life with its 350,000 colorful sparkling LED lights, choreographed to Christmas music, and making over 100 light changes per second; it signals the beginning of Rudolph’s Holly Jolly™ Christmas Light Parade led by “the most famous reindeer of all.” Rudolph leads a spectacular parade of “nine musical, lighted floats, illuminated with 200,000 ultra-bright LED lights accompanied. “by 33 colorful costumed characters, including Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, 14-foot moose characters, 12-foot tall elves and 10-foot candy canes, plus penguins, elves and a troupe of marching wooden soldiers” that will amaze and delight all ages.

4. Fun, Attractions and Activities for Everyone: Many of Branson’s attractions will be open on Thanksgiving Day, and all over the weekend, including the extremely popular Branson Titanic Museum Attraction, as it celebrates its unique and beautiful Winter Celebration filled with beautiful decorations, unique shopping, and different special events, including, over Thanksgiving Weekend, 1500 luminaries casting a beautiful glow over its entrance. How about three spectacular drive through light displays including Shepherd of the Hills Trail of Lights, Ozark Mountain Christmas Lights and Village, and Branson Gift of Lights; a round of golf at one of Branson’s championship courses, or any one of dozens more exciting attractions and activities?

5. Shopping: Branson provides a world class shopping experience anytime of the year, and that is obvious over Thanksgiving, as Black Friday, and Christmas shopping takes center stage. Branson’s major shopping areas, such as Branson Landing, Tanger Outlets, The Shoppes at Branson Meadows, historic downtown Branson, Grand Village Shops, Branson Mill Craft Village and its more than 250 different boutiques, specialty shops, national chain stores, flea markets, craft malls, and famous-name outlet stores provide a wonderful opportunity to “shop till you drop” while making it easier to find that special gift for that special person. National chain stores in Branson will have the same Thanksgiving sale hours as elsewhere, and just about all Branson retailers and shops will be having Black Friday specials. Not surprisingly, the Friday after Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year in Branson.

For additional information on Thanksgiving in Branson, Ozark Mountain Christmas or for information or tickets for any of Branson’s shows and attractions, or for lodging arrangements, please contact the Branson Tourism Center by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website Branson Tourism Center.com.

 

Raiding the Country Vault will blow your socks off!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Pokémon Go actually Branson’s most awesome new show or attraction?

The Branson Tourism Center is one of many PokéStops in Branson.

The Branson Tourism Center is one of many PokéStops in Branson.

“Well, not really, but it’s not because it is not one of the most popular things people are doing while in Branson right now,” said Preston Garrison, the Director of Operations for the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest providers of tourism services and information. “It’s because Pokémon Go is not a Branson show or attraction, but a new game people play on their mobile phones as they are out and about searching for a ‘Pokémon,’” he added.

Since being introduced, less than a week ago, the growth of Pokémon Go, a new augmented reality exploration game that is played on mobile phones, has been nothing less than phenomenal. It’s a game that requires players to actually leave their homes and search for “Pokémon,” and that’s a plural thing, as in their numbers stretch into infinity. As they travel around Branson, or almost anywhere else, their phone will signal when “Pokémon” are near which will generally be near a “PokéStop” or “Gym.” Players “spin” and get rewards such as Pokéballs which can then be used to try to capture a Pokémon. There’s a lot more to the game than that, but, at least initially, the main objective is to capture “Pokémon.”

The neat thing is that playing the game can be done as an activity in itself, or as many do, played in conjunction with doing other things and deciding if and when to respond to a Pokémon sighting when their phone signals. The Branson Tourism Center (BTC) is a PokéStop, as are, we believe, many of Branson’s shows, attractions, and businesses. Connar Dougharty, one of BTC’s Branson based Travel Planners, who is playing the game, said that many of the people checking into BTC are playing the game and that they have noticed people “driving through” the parking lot stopping to play.

So, while Pokémon Go is an extremely popular activity  it’s just another thing that Branson visitors can enjoy along with everything else Branson has to offer. One never knows though, there might be a Pokémon waiting as you pull into the parking lot of a Branson theatre or attraction, but even if there isn’t, there will be fun, adventure, and excitement.

The Best of Branson July 2016 Insider Highlights

Part of the excitement and action of Buckets N Boards.

Part of the excitement and action of Buckets N Boards.

“With so many families vacationing in Branson during July, the sound of people laughing and having fun together is just about at every turn, as they enjoy all that Branson has to offer,” said Preston Garrison, the Director of Operations Branson Tourism Center. “From the delightful sandy beach on Table Rock Lake, to the new 150-foot tall Branson Ferris Wheel, acrobats, amazing pets, tigers, and over 100 live shows and other attractions Branson has a ‘lot’ of something for everyone in your family to enjoy,” he added.

In addition to everything else Branson offers, here’s our highlight list, containing some of the best of the additional events going on in Branson during July, including our Featured Show, Limited Engagement, and Event of the Month:

Featured Show of the Month: Dublin’s Irish Tenors and The Celtic Ladies brings some of Ireland’s best to Branson!  This exciting production combines two great groups of performers; four beautiful ladies with angelic voices and five of the country’s finest tenors performing a unique blend of traditional folk ballads and classical and adult contemporary favorites.

Featured Limited Engagement of the Month: Buckets N Boards delivers Branson entertainment that easily stands out in a long list of excellent shows!  Co-creators Matt and Gareth share their impeccable and slightly wacky skills that include precise percussion on a variety of surfaces, accompanied by delightfully silly songs, tap dancing, and lots of laughter!

 Featured Event of the Month: There just has to be two this month. Branson has a number of outstanding fireworks displays over the Fourth of July Weekend. Click here for more information. In addition, Santa Claus is coming to Branson in a big way as hundreds of Santa Clauses and Mrs. Santa Clauses come to Branson for the 10th Annual Discover Santa Convention July 6 through 10. Don’t miss the “Parade of Red Suits,” as they parade down the Branson Landing Promenade together starting at 8:00 AM on July 7. It is one of the largest gatherings of Santa’s anywhere and is something unique and wonderful for families to enjoy together.

LIMITED ENGAGEMENT PERFORMANCES (Sorted by starting date)

Jul 1: Crystal Gayle & TG Sheppard
Jul 1-Jul 16: Rockapella
Jul 1-29: Prince Ivan
Jul 1-Jul 31: Buckets N Boards
Jul 15: Tanya Tucker
Jul 23: Wynonna Judd

SPECIAL EVENT HIGHLIGHTS (Sorted by starting date.)

Jul 1 – Jul 24: Silver Dollar City Star Spangled Summer Festival
Jul 1 – Jul 31: 2016 World Exclusive Exhibit – Titanic Museum Attraction
Jul 2 – Jul 4: List of 4th of July Fire Works Displays and Celebrations
Jul 6 – Jul 10: Branson Star Power at Branson Convention Center
Jul 6 – Jul 10: Discover Santa 2016 Convention
Jul 7: Discover Santa 2016 – “The Parade of Red Suits”
Jul 9: Promenade Pop-Up Shop
Jul 16: Ozarks Teen Challenge – Home of Hope 5K
Jul 16: Jubilation Jazz Big Band Performance
Jul 17 – Jul 23: FASA’s Girls World Series 14U to 18U
Jul 19 – Jul 24: Showbiz National Talent Competition – 2016 National Finals
Jul 24 – Jul 30: FASA’s Girls World Series 7U to 12U
Jul 30 – Aug 5: Ball Parks of America Bring the Lumber Baseball Tournament

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.

An amazing swift change made from the classroom to the Legends

Elizabeth Scarbourough performing her Taylor Swift tribute at Legends in Concert.

Elizabeth Scarbourough performing her Taylor Swift tribute at Legends in Concert.

One of the reasons that Legends in Concert is “the world’s greatest live tribute show” is the infusion of quality new tribute artists, and the stars they pay tribute to, into its lineup of “legends.” Elizabeth Scarbourough and her Taylor Swift tribute is a wonderful example. In the summer of 2015, as she was concluding her engagement at Branson’s Legends in Concert, she was kind enough to share her amazing story, and we held it until now so there would be a tie-in with her 2016 summer appearance at Branson’s Legends in Concert.

“Branson-Up Close and Personal,” is a service of the Branson Tourism Center (BTC) and is intended to provide readers with an unprecedented look at a Branson celebrity or personality. Except as noted below, this interview with Elizabeth Scarbourough (ES) was conducted, in August, 2015, for BTC by Gary J. Groman, a 30 year resident of the Branson area, local columnist and freelance writer, and is presented in a Question and Answer format:

BTC: When were you born?
ES: April 9, 1993

BTC: Where?
ES: Charleston, SC.

BTC: You have graduated from college fairly recently. Where and when?
ES: The University of South Carolina on May 11, 2015.

BTC: In what was your degree?
ES: Public Relations from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and a Minor in Spanish.

BTC: How do you prefer your act to be categorized? i.e. Impersonator, Tribute Artist etc.
ES: I prefer Tribute Artist, because everything we do is live and we are proud of that.

BTC: Were you singing and dancing before you first became interested in Taylor Swift?
ES: No.

BTC: How old were you when you first became interested in Taylor Swift?
ES: I was 12 and I heard her sing “Tim McGraw” from her first single on the radio.

BTC: What was the first Taylor Swift song you did and how many chords did you play?
ES: “Love Story” and I played four chords.

BTC: How did your first Taylor Swift guitar evolve?
ES: Well, I kind of borrowed it from my church on non-returning grounds. It was an old guitar without strings that had been in a closet for over a year without any use. My brother who was with the Praise Team said, “Take it and learn to play.” I took it, sanded it down, put silver glitter all over it to make it look like her diamond guitar and restrung it.

BTC: When did you first perform publicly?
ES: It was in school at a Halloween Carnival where I appeared as Taylor Swift and played, “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story.”

BTC: What made you decide to turn professional?
ES: I had been doing kids’ birthday parties at home until I went to college, but when I started college I had to build a new audience so I decided to market my Taylor Swift skills by putting up a Facebook page. I put up TaylorSwiftTribute with a few videos that I took myself. I got some bookings working kids’ birthday parties and nursing homes, but it resulted in getting a call from Legends in Concert in Myrtle Beach in early in 2014.

BTC: How long have you been performing Taylor Swift professionally?
ES: If you go from the very beginning to right now it’s been just about a year, but for ten months of that year I was finishing my degree in school.

BTC: Where did you perform your first gig as Taylor Swift?
ES: It was on my spring break of 2014, at BorderFest in Hidalgo, TX.

BTC: How long have you been performing Taylor Swift for Legends in Concert?
ES: Last summer [2014] I performed for Legends in Concert in Myrtle Beach, SC. My contract expired just a few days before I returned to school for my final year.

BTC: What’s the most challenging part of portraying the character of Taylor Swift?
ES:  Balancing the up to the minute details about what Taylor is currently doing or the way she looks with the general look, actions, and perceptions that my general audiences expect.

BTC: Have you ever met Taylor Swift personally or been to her concerts?
ES: I have never met her personally, but I have been to some of her concerts and am going to one in September [2015.]

BTC: Before we go into the more Branson related questions is there anything you would like to add?
ES: It’s like a dream come true for me. I would have been happy just playing birthday parties and nursing homes, but I am so happy that Legends picked me up.

BTC: Is this your first time performing in Branson?
ES: Yes.

BTC: Had you ever been to Branson before?
ES: No.

BTC: When you found out you were coming to Branson, for the first time what did you expect?
ES: I had no idea.

BTC: Had you ever heard of Branson and if so what had you heard?
ES: Yes. That it was a small country version of Las Vegas.

BTC: Now that you’ve been here for a while, what is your first impression of Branson?
ES:  I think that it’s a really neat place with special character, a small town feel, and a lot going on.

BTC: What do you like best about performing in Branson?
ES: The people are so nice and appreciative.

BTC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Branson when you are not performing?
ES: I enjoy hiking the local trails and do that about every day.

BTC: If you could perform or meet with any entertainer/person (living or deceased), outside of Taylor Swift who would it be and why?
ES: The Beatles because they are the definition of a legend.

BTC:  Do you have a favorite hobby or activity and what is it?
ES: Hiking with “Rerun,” my Black Lab.

BTC: Do you have a little known fact about yourself that you think our readers would enjoy?
ES: I am the exact same height as Taylor Swift.

BTC: What is the funniest thing that has happened to you while performing in front of an audience?
ES: I was performing and one of my boots split open so I had to stop and take them off in the middle of the set. I gave them to a little girl in the audience and finished the set in a pair of mismatched polka dot socks.

BTC: What part of your current act do you enjoy performing the most and why?
ES: The song “Blank Space” because its high energy and dramatic interaction with our male dancers.

BTC: What is your favorite Taylor Swift song and why?
ES: “Wildest Dreams” because it’s so beautiful, romantic, and leaves you questioning.

BTC: What is your favorite non Taylor Swift song and why?
ES: I love Jason Pritchett’s new song, “Good Show.”

BTC: Where do you go when you leave Branson?
ES: I will be performing for five months in Las Vegas with Legends in Concert.

The following was from a short interview conducted by telephone on March 28, 2016, to bring things current:

BTC: How did the Las Vegas gig go and what have you been doing since you left Branson?
ES: It went great and I have, been working with Legends in Concert since I left Branson. Currently, I am doing a spring engagement with them at Myrtle Beach.

BTC: When will you be returning to Branson?
ES: I finish up in Myrtle Beach and then come to Branson for the most of the summer season starting June 1.

BTC: Are you looking forward to coming back to Branson?
ES: I absolutely love Branson and am so excited about coming back.

Jeannie Horton, General Manager of the Legends in Concert in Branson, said that they are just so excited to have Elizabeth back with her Taylor Swift tribute for the summer season because it’s a perfect fit for the younger family audiences that normally attend at that time of the year. Horton points out that the Taylor Swift tribute will be performed from June 1 through August 15.

For additional information or tickets for the Legends in Concert  show contact the Branson Tourism Center, one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services by calling 1-800-785-1550 or through its website, www.BransonTourismCenter.com .