There was a once-a-year event in Branson yesterday. The Plummer Family performed their annual reunion show at The God and Country Theater and I was fortunate enough to be able to attend and have third row seats to this historic event. The Plummer Family was one of the first families to establish a theater in Branson and their family variety show ran from 1973 to 1990 when they retired. The first picture I’ve posted shows four generations of Plummers starting with Darrell and Rosie who are mom and dad and who founded the musical group. They are joined by their two children, Randy and Melody. Melody’s husband, Dale, and son, Josh, are also a part of this on-stage, family dynasty, and what a treat yesterday when Josh brought up his lovely wife and their ten month old daughter, Lilly Kay. Four generations stood on that stage yesterday and it was more than just music, it was love.
I have been to other shows here in Branson, but this was my first time to witness a family musical group dynamic. They touched my soul. I was surprised to feel that much emotion considering that I’m not the biggest country music fan in the world, but what impressed me the most and brought the tears was the history that The Plummer Family has and the bond that they obviously share. I didn’t just listen to the music, I watched Rosie as her face filled with pride for her children and grandson. I watched Melody as she fiddled her way through a rousing tune with a smile on her face and I could see the joy that was evident not only in her face, but also coming through her music as she played her golden fiddle. I watched Randy stand in the shadows as his mom and dad sang an old duet together and I couldn’t help but let a tear slip as Josh, Melody and Dale sang a song with beautiful three part harmony.
Darrell and Rosie Plummer have been married for sixty-two years and that alone is quite an accomplishment. But, I couldn’t help but wonder as I watched them what they had to be feeling. It made me want to get to know them, it made me want to hear their story and laughingly, it made me wonder if they would like to adopt me for just a little bit. I’ve always daydreamed about coming from a large, loving family and to get to see this group still performing and still loving each other, was absolutely priceless. The memories that they share are especially poignant and I can’t wait to get to tell just a little of their story.
For those of you that have never been to a Branson show, it’s more than just music. It’s entertainment with old-fashioned family values and a throwback to the days of Vaudeville and variety shows. It’s another reason why Branson is so unique. When you walk through the doors of most theaters in this town, you are in for an all-around good time. Yes, there’s music; country, gospel and a smattering of main-stream. But there’s also hillbilly comedy, including one performer always dressed as the funny man. The jokes are of the silly variety and push right up to that almost naughty punch line and it was fun to observe the people around me and watch their expressions as Nearly Famous (played by bass player, Tony Hampton) made them laugh with punchlines directed at his mother-in-law and wife in the old style of Red Skelton and Tim Conway. Of course it’s a family show, so nothing ever goes overboard and whether you’re nine or ninety-nine, the jokes are corny, but familiar and the laughter is good natured and easily given to these fine performers.
After a delightfully entertaining first half, Darrell Plummer announced an intermission and most of the audience made their way out to the lobby. During intermission at a regular theater (like The Orpheum, for example) people stand to stretch and go in search of refreshments during the short break. Restroom lines are long and the line for popcorn is even longer. But here, in Branson, things are once again done a little differently. I emerged from the ladies room only to observe a fairly large crowd gathered around the concession table. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I realized that the entire family was working the counter and giving out more hugs than selling CDs. And, it wasn’t just one or two…it was the entire Plummer family ensemble from Dad Plummer all the way down to little Lilly Kay looking like the Gerber baby in her adorable miniature cowboy hat. I stood to one side by the dwindling popcorn line and I watched. I watched as fan after fan approached the table and before they walked away there was always a hug to be had from Rosie or a handshake from Nearly Famous. Randy was off to one side and the line to see him, get to take a picture with him or simply give him a hug was the longest in the building. I laughed at myself as I found myself joining the line as well.
There’s a reason that people skipped the Diet Coke and instead chose to meet this wonderful man. I have to be transparent at this point and share the fact that I do have an interview set up with him this week to try and record his family’s story, or at least the Randy Plummer story, and I had no intentions of writing anything specific about him until I had actually gotten to sit and talk with him. What I can write about at this point are the people that were ahead of me in line. There were husbands and wives, there was a mom with her two children. There was the eighty-two year old lady that I was seated next to in the theater who had driven down from Springfield by herself, but told me that she never misses this annual show. They all seemed to know Randy personally, and amazingly, he called most of them by their first names and treated them like his next door neighbors or a close friend and I witnessed another little Branson moment that just does not happen anywhere else in the world. Authentically accessible is the closest I can find to describe this genuine human being. I could go on and on here about Randy’s personna and magnetism and his down home humbleness, but I’m afraid that’s all part of that little story I’m writing.
The second half of the show was as entertaining as the first and I found myself clapping along to the rousing fiddle tunes from Melody and mouthing the words to some old time gospel songs. To give him one more accolade, Randy sang an original tune called Angel Wings that brought the house down. Why? Because of the heart and love that glaringly, obviously lives in this unique, old school, family based group. They feel the words that they sing and in turn, make their audience feel each note and want to sing along with each chorus. A lot of them did just that and it was a moment that made me realize that I had just been witness to two hours of genuine humanity and a sharing of souls.
I’m thankful and grateful that I witnessed Branson living history yesterday when I attended this marvelous family show. It was a different experience than what I thought it would be. I thought it would be more about Conway Twitty and Ferlin Husky. I worried that it could be radically religious or just downright boring, but it was none of those things. I almost want to say that it wasn’t about the music. But, considering that it’s a musical show, that wouldn’t be right. But, what I can say is that it WAS about love. But, hey, this is me and for me, it’s always about love.
Thank you Plummer Family!