Jim Stafford and Brother Brother

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I had the pleasure of getting to see a legendary performer in Branson last week. Jim Stafford has his own theatre and has been performing in our little town for 25 years! I haven’t had the pleasure to interview the man that made such songs as, “Spiders and Snakes” and “Swamp Witch” famous, but I somehow feel like I already know him. I grew up watching his t.v. show and listening to his songs on the radio. He was one of the first entertainers that I remember that combined music and comedy. Before the show, I wondered how he was going to fill up two hours, but once the stage lights came on showing him sitting on the front of the stage with his acoustic guitar, I no longer had to wonder.

Jim Stafford has a gift for making you feel like he’s just an ordinary guy that happens to play a guitar pretty well and likes to tell jokes. His demeanor on stage was relaxed and professional while entertaining a sold-out audience. Once again, a favorite word of mine to describe most Branson performers is, humble. Jim definitely fit that bill. The entertainers in this town act like regular folk that just happen to have extraordinary talent. Jim dazzled everyone with his mastery of both the guitar and banjo. He also made us laugh with his off-beat, somewhat dry, sense of humor. No stunts, no over the top gags, just straight out music and funny stuff that made the evening very enjoyable.

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Jim Stafford has also done something unique and inspiring. He shares the stage with a couple of brothers who cleverly call themselves, Brother Brother. In a world concerned more with egos and money than the purity of art, it is rare that someone older and experienced gives encouragement to a newer generation on the same scale as Jim Stafford.

A few years ago there was a chance meeting between two teenaged boys and a veteran musician and performer. Before long, Jim Stafford started going to the small venues that these two brothers were playing across the state of Florida. He was gracious and interested but most of all, he saw something in these two young men that was definitely worth seeing. He saw that “it” quality. Not only can these two boys keep up with his picking on stage, but their very personalities shine with a light that isn’t often witnessed in today’s youth. These boys are the real deal and take notice of them now, because I predict within a short time, Brother Brother will be a household name.

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If you didn’t know the background story of who Bradley and Brett Anderson are and where they come from and what supportive, wonderful parents they have, you would think they were Jim Stafford’s sons. Not that they necessarily look like the famous entertainer, but when you see the three of them on stage together, there’s a bond that cannot be missed. There’s pride from Jim when they both can keep up with him and there’s simple adoration and gratefulness from the boys. There’s a quality to the performance when all three of them are playing that elevates each of their abilities to that really special place. They make magic happen!

I did have a chance to sit and talk with Bradley and Brett and their parents. I found Dwayne and Angelia Anderson to be the kind of people that you want to nominate for parents of the year. They are grounded, they are supportive of the boys’ dream and more than anything, they are involved in the best possible way. You can tell that the family is tight-knit and loving. Angelia laughingly told me that “I am not at all a stage-mother.” And, that’s the key. This family is doing this together and after copious amounts of prayer, they are in a really good place. I also had a chance to meet, “Grandma Grandma” and it was easy to see right away where this family gets it’s sense of values and determination.

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There are numerous shows that you can see while in Branson. But, if want to combine something familiar and something new, this show at the Jim Stafford theatre is a “must see.” You’ll sing along to the songs that Jim Stafford made famous and you’ll rejoice that there’s a couple of youngsters just starting out, that have such obvious talent and love for the art of music. The blending of the old with the new makes this show relevant and memorable all at the same time.

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The Magic of Rick Thomas

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Another long-term headliner from Las Vegas has decided to spend part of his year in Branson, Missouri. Rick Thomas brings his magic to Andy Williams’ Moon River Theatre for a limited time in the live entertainment capital of the world. The show is all the glitz and glamour that is reminiscent of sin city without much of the sin. Rick Thomas has titled the show, “Nothing Happens Until You Dream” and he creatively incorporates his magic into that theme.

Rick started his magic career when he was still a kid and by the time he was eighteen, he had his own show at the Disneyland Hotel. He comes from an entertainment family that excelled in ballroom dancing that lends a grace to the magician as he dazzles the imagination. He’s also a funny, personable man who included the audience during much of the show. He has that unique talent that combines over the top illusions, perfect timing and a little comedy thrown in to make us smile.

He is also joined on stage by his lead dancer, Tara. This lovely woman is from Zimbabwe and auditioned for Rick Thomas five years ago for his show in Las Vegas. Rick told us that more than fifty people showed up to audition, and each one was given thirty seconds to show what they could do. Well, apparently Tara fit the bill even though they would have to wait more than two weeks to have her in the show, until she could obtain her work visa. She is beautiful, graceful and has a stage presence that corresponds perfectly to the master magician.

Tara and Rick decided on June 28 of this year to take their relationship to the ultimate level by getting married in a private setting just south of here, in Arkansas. Sounds like they literally ran off and tied the knot and I, for one, love that impulsive need to live life to the fullest. So, not only is Rick acknowledged as one of the greatest magicians of our time, but now, he has Tara by his side in every way.

During the show, Rick also brought out his gorgeous Pyrenees dog, Thunder. In doing a little research I found out that the Thomas’ have another dog, Lightning, in addition to the one we met on stage. Rick’s show in Las Vegas was famous in large part because he included large cats in his act. On Saturday, Rick showed us video of his cats that were regal and majestic. He told us that he had raised more than twenty of the cats from the time they were cubs. You could tell that he has a genuine love for animals and that alone makes him an exemplary human. Especially when he explained to the audience that all his cats have retired and are living out their lives in a lush, green valley outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Yep, he’s a nice guy.

The illusions were well planned and executed perfectly. Of course, I don’t have a clue how he did any of it, but there were one or two acts that had me questioning that I just saw, what I saw. He also did a mentalist trick with members of the audience that delighted and astonished me. Rick does all of this with lots of interaction and with humbleness. He also does a military tribute and honors the men and women who have served our country.

So, to sum up: Great magic tricks, spooky illusions, a beautiful and graceful assistant, birds, a great big white dog and just a little comedy thrown in make this show fun, mysterious and entertaining. Branson is blessed to have this caliber of performer visit our town for a season. We can also thank the Osmonds who now run the Moon River theatre, for bringing such big names to town. I’m also thinking that if this trend continues, we might get a Cirque du Soleil show here, set to a Broadway adaptation of “Oklahoma.” Okay, I know that’s just wishful thinking, but hey, as Rick Thomas would attest, nothing happens until you dream.

Journey Branson

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There’s a little theatre here in town that isn’t that big. It doesn’t have balconies or a fancy lobby, but the sound that comes from this charming venue is some of the best you’ll hear in Branson. I had the opportunity to go see Journey Branson and I’m so glad I did. As soon as the band took the stage, and the first rock-n-roll beats filled the house, I found that little piece of my heart that had been missing. My love of head banging, hip swinging, bass-thumping music.

Jon Sousan is the mastermind that brings something different to Branson with his vision to take a store front and turn it into a little rock-n-roll tribute theatre. In addition to the Journey tribute, Jon also offers tribute shows to the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and Creedence Clearwater Revival. After listening to the guys do an amazing job with the Journey songs, I know I will be back for the rest of the shows. Jon Sousan is not only the driving force behind bringing classic rock to Branson, he also produces the shows, manages the theatre and either sings vocals or plays in each of these great shows.

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Bucky Heard is the front man for the Journey tribute concert. I call it a concert rather than a show because that’s how Bucky referred to what they do. It’s a rock concert. And, it was the best rock concert I’ve ever attended. Yeah, I know that’s saying something, cause I’ve seen some of the best, but the difference is the intimate setting and the amazing talent that is on that little stage. While I loved Journey, I was never a big fan of Steve Perry. After hearing and seeing Bucky perform these memorable tunes, I decided that this local Branson musician should have been given the lead in the real Journey band.

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Bucky belted out all the famous songs with heart and soul that Steve Perry could only pretend to have. Bucky shared a piece of himself with every note he sang. I loved him in this show and was so impressed by his strong vocal ability that it made me want to hear him sing Carmen. While Journey is nothing like opera, I believe that the guy headlining this show could do some Pavarotti covers with as much style as he did the Journey songs. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s such a likable guy. Whether he’s on stage or talking a mile a minute to one of his fans at intermission, you just can’t help but to like this affable man.

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Joining Bucky on stage is one of the tightest bands I’ve ever heard. Tony Bones Irasson plays lead guitar and is quite possibly the best I’ve ever heard in this genre. He’s uber talented, feels the music and owns the guitar licks he puts down. He’s also one of the nicest, most humble guys I’ve ever met. I spoke with him during intermission and had to pry some facts from him concerning his background. He embarrassingly told me, “I just play the guitar.” Yep, it might be rock-n-roll, but this guy has the heart of a hillbilly for sure. There’s a reason guys like him come to Branson.

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Doug Clifford is the guy driving the beat on drums. I’ve always thought that drummers have to be the hardest working part of any band, considering the energy it takes to make the rhythm happen. Doug certainly gave it his all and did it in perfect sync with Bryan Lawson.

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Now, let me say one thing, when you think bass player for a hard-hitting rock band, a certain image comes to mind. Well, that image is really Bryan Lawson as he is the epitome of talent, long-hair, stage presence and looks. He looks like he eats and breathes Led Zepplin and Whitesnake tunes and has absorbed a little of Cliff Williams from the AC/DC band. He and lead singer, Bucky, are fun to watch on stage and you can tell that they have a real friendship off the stage.

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One last guy I have to talk about. Richard Kittleman, also known as The Maestro, is the keyboardist for this tribute show. Once again, Jon Sousan made a perfect choice when putting this act together, he chose this local, but legendary, musician. When not playing at the Branson Tribute Theatre, Richard plays in a number of local bands and also plays for the great Roy Clark. No wonder this show is that good.

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Branson is known for it’s hillbilly humor, back-woods humility and of course, country music. But there’s a little corner in town that offers up the most unique entertainment in Branson. You need to catch a couple of shows here and relive your high-school days with some old rock-n-roll. The shows are intimate enough to make you feel like you’re listening to your best friend’s “garage” band, but so high quality, that you find yourself thinking that you’ve traveled back in time and finally won that back-stage pass from the local radio station.

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As I was leaving the show that day, I was reminded of a farmer’s market that my mom used to go to early on Saturday mornings. We would get to the home-made stands and my mom would buy tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. There were any number of fruits and vegetables and being a kid, those kind of things didn’t really excite me. However, always up by the cash register were the real goodies. Not fruits or veggies, but cakes and pies and homemade apple butter. That was my favorite part of the whole day and even my mom couldn’t resist picking up something delicious to have as a treat after all those healthy foods.

Well, Branson is the farmer’s market and it’s one of the best in the world. We offer top quality produce that is organic and tasty. You can go to a country show, The Titanic Exhibit or one of the excellent magic shows that we have in town. You can taste country, and gospel and funny. All the fare in this town is blue ribbon awarded and the bounty is beyond belief. But, it’s heavenly to find something sweet, something a little decadent at the end of the shopping trip. This Journey tribute band and the guys in it were like finally getting to the cash register and finding the goodies. In my mind, they were the cupcakes.

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Jerry Presley’s Elvis Live

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Thanks to our friend, Denny Yeary, we had a chance to see Jerry Presley in Elvis Live at The Jim Stafford Theatre earlier this week. Denny is the handsome gentleman that is standing far right on stage in the video. He is one of the back-up singers in the show and he blew me away with some of his bass slides. My husband and Denny have been friends for more than 30 years and of course it’s a no-brainer that I need to sit with Denny and get a little of his story. Hopefully soon.

There are three or four Elvis impersonator’s in town and I’m sure that there are a handful of other performers that sing some of his signature songs, even if they don’t try to look or act like the King. However, there is only one entertainer in Branson who purports to be a relative of Elvis Presley and that is none other than, Jerry Presley. I had a chance to meet him after the show and he has promised to give me an interview, but through the couple of words I had with him and asking Denny a few questions, I can tell you that he’s been singing and entertaining since 1970 and was the first Elvis impersonator to come to Branson in 1985. He opened his own theatre here in town and appropriately called it, The King’s Mansion.

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Jerry Presley performs five days a week and highlights songs from two of Elvis’ most famous concerts:

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Jerry explains early on in the show that he likes mixing it up and included songs from both shows. Something that I found extremely fascinating was the two sides that the audience got to see of Jerry. He does a great job impersonating Elvis and oft times sounds exactly like his famous cousin. Then after an energy packed number, the music ends and he talks to the audience about the next song coming up and the difference in even his demeanor is remarkable. Jerry Presley has this soft, quiet voice and even though he has a southern drawl, when he speaks he sounds nothing like Elvis. So, Jerry appears to be a very humble, mild-mannered and quiet guy when he’s not belting out Suspicious Minds or In the Ghetto.

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The Jim Stafford theatre is a beautiful venue complete with red velvets and a nice sized stage. Big enough to accommodate a six-piece band that includes Clayton Watson playing the grand piano. Also on stage are four,out of this world, back-up singers. Singing bass is our friend, Denny Yeary. He does a great job holding the low end and his voice and tone actually made the floor under my feet vibrate on a few of the songs. Denny is also the emcee of the show and when he speaks you know that he’s show-biz personified.

Rounding out the rest of the amazingly talented singers are: Brett Reith, Jenny Brillhart and Tammy Beebe. What these amazing performers do for this production is brilliant and takes the show to another level. A lot of people don’t realize the importance that the back-up singers bring to each and every song. It’s more than oohing and aahing, it’s musically making the song fuller, richer, whole. Elvis had legendary singers like The Jordanaires and The Stamps Quartet and a woman that sang those incredibly high parts by the name of Kathy Westmoreland. Well, I have to say that the lovely young woman that sings those parts for this Branson show is better than Kathy Westmoreland. Yep, that good. Stand out good.

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When Tammy Beebe hit the first high notes of the night, I broke out in goose-bumps and immediately identified where the sweet sound was coming from. Wow! What a voice. The reason I said that I think she’s better than Kathy Westmoreland is because Tammy not only hits every high note pitch perfect, but the notes literally come from her gut and her soul. For those of you that know me personally, you know it’s always about heart and how much you put out there. Well, Tammy Beebe puts it all out there and along with her three side-kicks they manage to elevate the show to outstanding.

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So, the next time you’re in Branson and you’re in the mood for some great entertainment, go check out the Jerry Presley Elvis Live show at the Jim Stafford Theatre. You’ll leave with a smile on your face and humming all your favorite Elvis tunes.

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The Revollusionists

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I’ve always been of the mind that if a show or performer does not make me cry, then they have not done their job. Well, I went to a show called The Revollusionists at Music City Center​ this week that had me singing a different tune. Or, maybe I should say, I wasn’t singing at all because I was too blown away by their show.

This is a magic show of epic proportions and stars five handsome and talented guys.

Mike Bliss lead the troupe in this show and he’s not only a wonderful magician and slight of hand artist, he was one of the most personable and genuinely funny emcees that I have seen in a long time. His banter with members of the audience was improv at it’s best and even when he was making us laugh, he was still amazing us with his pick-pocketing skills that included removing several watches and at least one belt. All items were given back of course, but it was quite funny to see the reactions on the faces of the people that he included in the act. I would honestly go see a show if the only one on stage was Mike Bliss. Yeah, he was that entertaining.

Also on stage and doing various forms of magic flawlessly are Luka and The Phantom. You can tell by how polished their tricks are that they are professionals who have probably been doing this for most of their lives. Whether it’s music, poetry recital or magic, when the performer has a passion for his craft, you will always walk away entertained and satisfied. These guys did just that.

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As good as all these guys were, there were two stand outs in the performance that night and they are, Jackson Rayne​ and REZA | Illusionist​. Wow! Just wow! These two magicians are at the top of their craft with world class illusions and death defying stunts.

Jackson Rayne broke the Guinness Book of World Records late last year when he escaped from a medical grade straight-jacket 54 times in an hour. Pretty impressive, huh? For our show, not only did he allow himself to be strapped into said straight-jacket, but he was then hung by his ankles upside down and was raised about 15 to 20 feet off the stage. Sounds like a great Houdini style act, huh? Oh, no, he’s not done yet. He is also positioned between two huge jaws of steel with jagged teeth. Seriously. Looks like the open, angry mouth of some legendary dragon in some far away land. Now, I know you’re impressed, but hold on, there’s more. An assistant comes over and lights on fire a rope that is apparently the only thing holding these giant jaws of death open as Jackson hangs upside down in a locked straight-jacket. Okay, now you can ooh and aah, but I have to tell you that there was not a sound in the theatre as Jackson performed his act. It was nail biting, edge of your seat magic that left you excited, nervous, anxious and finally relieved when Jackson Rayne drops to the ground within nano-seconds of the flame finally burning through and the two metal jaws snapping shut.

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Amazing!

Last, but certainly not least is, Reza. He’s mysterious, he’s a little dark, he’s mild mannered and he is hands down the best I’ve ever seen in person. Think David Blaine or Criss Angel and then add cool. That’s Reza. I really can’t even begin to describe his individual tricks and apparent mind reading capabilities, because I have no freakin’ idea how he does any of it. I love anything that involves the mind and anything that makes you think and I tell you, not only did he stimulate my old brain, he does the kind of stuff that makes you feel like it REALLY is magic. As in real magic. You know? Like, Gandalf and Merlin. Your rational mind tells you there’s no such thing, but when you watch Reza on stage, you forget your logical self as he somehow allows you to believe that anything is possible.

Again, I keep wanting to describe his act and exactly what he does, but I can’t. All I can really tell you is that if you want an absolutely fun and entertaining night, if you want to see things I guarantee that you’ve never seen up close before, if you want to simply have your mind blown, then you must go see this show when you’re in Branson. There’s lots of good shows in town, but if you want to experience something unique and otherworldly then you must stop by the Music City Center and check out one of the best shows in Branson.

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Baldknobbers Jamboree

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For those of you that plan on visiting Branson, I highly recommend that you find time to go see the Baldknobbers Jamboree show. For those of you that aren’t planning on visiting in the near future, I would suggest you change those plans because you don’t want to miss all the entertainment and talent that this little small mountain town has to offer. I was graciously invited to attend this original family show that started it all back in 1959.

Jim, Lyle, Bob and Bill Mabe were the four brothers that decided to bring a musical show to Branson. Along with Chick Allen who was a family friend, they started playing on Friday and Saturday night in the lower level of the Branson Community building. They were such a success that in very short order it was necessary to remodel the old skating rink in town in order to have seating for all the folks that were coming to see the show each night. In 1968 they built a theater on Hwy. 76 which is now commonly referred to as, “the strip”.

Fifty-six years later and the Mabe family is still carrying on that musical tradition. The Baldknobbers Jamboree is an old-fashioned variety show that features country music, lots of comedy by way of Hargus Marcel (played by Jerl Adams) and Droopy Drawers Jr. (played by Tim Mabe), a couple of gospel tunes and a patriotic medley that honors all the men and women who so courageously have served our country. Was it what I had expected? Yes and no.

From the outside, the theater is pretty and very nicely landscaped. You walk up a hill (of course you walk up a hill, this is the Ozarks!) and round the corner to stand under the covered portico. Through the set of glass doors is a lobby that opens up with high ceilings, lots of photos and memorabilia and a clean, classy look of black and white. There’s a small gift shop, a concessions area and a huge American flag under glass. I later learned that the Mabes have donated numerous items to the Smithsonian in order to preserve the history and culture that their family has been such a large part of.

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We were escorted to our front row seats by a lovely young woman and we didn’t have long to wait before the magic of the evening began. Unfortunately, we had just long enough for me to manage to spill an almost entire bucket of popcorn. I had started visiting with the lady seated next to me that was visiting Branson from Cincinnati and for those of you that know me personally, you know that I have to use my hands when I talk or I probably couldn’t talk! Sure enough, there goes my arm with a mind of it’s own and before I could stop it, I managed to end up with popcorn flying all over the polished floor. I was mortified and embarrassed and immediately ran to get some help to get all the kernels cleaned up before the show started. The first person I saw was the pretty usher that had showed us to our seats. I explained what happened and Arianna could not have been more understanding. She immediately grabbed broom and dustpan and then laughingly put me at ease by telling me her misadventure with a coffee pot that had happened earlier to her. She told me not to be embarrassed and took charge of the situation and had the popcorn cleaned up in just a few seconds. She handled the situation like someone much older and the fact that she went out of her way to put this clutzy, middle-aged woman at ease, told me a lot about the quality of this show, theater and family.

Thankfully, the show began shortly and for the two hours, I was simply enchanted. Brandon Mabe is a third generation Mabe performer and he’s the perfect front man and emcee for the show. It doesn’t hurt that he’s very gentle on the eyes. He’s not only incredibly handsome, but when he smiles (which is anytime that he isn’t singing or playing straight-man to Droopy and Hargus) there’s a crinkling of lines at his eyes, which tells me the smile is from the heart and wonderfully authentic. He has a southern drawl and when he croons a country classic I know the pacemakers of some of the female audience members go just a little bit haywire. Wonder if they’ve ever had to call an ambulance over an elderly star-struck patron getting a case of the pitter-patters because of this good-looking young man?

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Patty Mabe took the stage a couple of songs later and she blew me away! This is one of the classiest ladies that I’ve ever gotten to meet. The first thing that impresses you is her strong stage presence and her beauty. She’s the wife of Tim Mabe and the mother to Brandon and watching her perform was inspirational. She has a strong voice, and her performances are raised to the divine level because of her very persona and attitude. I know some of you have seen their television reality show called Branson Famous, and some of you might think Patty is a bit of the witch that they allude to on that show. But, I want to tell you that a lot of strong women throughout history have been called names that were undeserved and this is one of those times. First off, folks, you do know that television is not real, right? What is real is the confidence and self esteem that it takes to get on a stage six days a week and perform. This lady has it all. Talent, beauty and heart. I came away from the night with great respect for this woman and the young girls of the world could do a lot worse than looking up to this wife, mother, grandmother and Branson performer.

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As if there were not enough talent in this family already, another handsome Mabe also graces the stage each night. His name is Denton Mabe and I personally think he should be nicknamed, the Dreamy Cowboy. This young man is classically chiseled with deep set, gorgeous eyes and a gentle cowboy nature just emanates from him. He’s got a strong voice that’s made for hillbilly rock and crossover country and every song he sang was powerfully crafted. Yeah, I could hear a few more pacemakers sizzling in the audience as he took the stage. I also have to mention what a gentleman he was at the end of intermission when he personally took the time to seek me out and introduce himself. He not only knows how to entertain people in the best way possible, but he’s also aware of how to make other people feel. He made ME feel important when it was him and his family that were the stars. Outstanding young man who I have a feeling is going to do great things in this life.

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The most surprising performance of the night came from a gorgeous little creature named Megan McCombs. You’ve all seen her on t.v. She’s the pretty little filly that captured Brandon’s heart and is now engaged to marry him. I knew she was a pretty girl, but I had no idea how stunning she really is. She came out for a song in this eloquent, purple and white sequined number that reflected the lights and she took my breath away. That’s how beautiful she was. Then, she opened her mouth to sing. Wow! I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone live and on stage that had as much emotion and feeling as Megan does when she sings. She’s not one of those wispy quiet singers that you have to strain to listen to. She looks like an angel and she sings like a winged creature in an enchanted forest. Sweet, strong, pure and from the heart. This young lady sings from her gut. I don’t know her story yet, but I can tell you, there is one. She puts so much feeling into every single note and as you watch her perform, you can literally see her pull it from somewhere deep inside. If this is what the future of Branson looks like, then I predict another boom.

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At this fairly early point in the show, you know I’m getting a little emotional. Not over the top yet, but I’m feeling the love and I’m allowing my heart to bask in all the music and the fun. Well, Megan comes out and does her sweet, sultry song and she softens me up. Then Brandon comes on stage and does this song about the past, replete with two large screens on either side of the stage showing a collage of Mabe family pictures. It was a look into the past and I knew I was starting to get mushy. Not a second goes by in which to get the misty eyes under control, before the entire ensemble launched into a patriotic medley honoring the veterans in the audience. Oh, yeah, you know by now, it’s a battle not to let my eyes fill with tears and you know it’s a battle  I’m probably gonna lose. The military anthems were sang in such perfect harmony and to accompany the sweet, sweet sound, Brandon invited the veterans present to stand when they sang the song from their branch of the military. They get to the Navy song, and the man seated next to us stands up. I am clapping like everyone else and I look at the Naval veteran and see tears streaming down his face. You could see the pride, the sadness, and the memories in those tears and the fact that this wonderful Branson family show pays this honor to our veterans in every single performance, just made me absolutely lose it. Full on, mascara running tears! Thanks, Baldknobbers!

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Thankfully, the curtain fell quickly after the crying episode and during intermission, I was able to escape to the ladies room to fix my face. I was impressed with the theater from the moment I first saw it, but on a little funny side note that probably only my women friends are going to want to know about, the ladies room was the nicest in Branson! There were lots of stalls and sinks and a nice decor and it even smelled nice. I know the guys don’t care much, but for us women, whenever you attend an event of any size and you need to use the facilities, there are usually three stalls and three-hundred women waiting to use them. There had to be a female Baldknobber involved with the blueprints for the powder room.

I had just enough time when I returned to the auditorium, to get to see Tim and Brent Mabe again and shake their hands and get a hug. I also got to finally introduce myself to Patty and I’m hoping she will agree to lunch with me one day soon. I also got to say hi to Brandon and Megan who really are pretty people, inside and out. And, yes, Brandon, I do know you’re probably not thrilled to be called pretty, but when paired with that fiance of yours, you two truly are pretty people.

The second half of the show began and once again, it was top of the line, quality entertainment. During the show we were gifted with a a rendition of LaBamba from the very talented fiddle player, Nathan Agdeppa. It was fun and definitely not country and he even got the crowd clapping along on the chorus. We also had the pleasure of listening to another fiddle solo from a member of the band that is from, of all places, Tokyo, Japan! His name is Mike Ito and he has been with the band for more than thirty years!

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I think one of my favorite parts of the show and for sure, the most romantic had to be the duet that Brandon Mabe and Megan McCombs sang. They started off on separate ends of the stage with Megan wearing this ruby red dress that was perfectly suited for the number. As the two sang their verses they inched closer to each other in pantomime of the song they were singing. By the time they were just inches from each other and looking deeply into each other’s eyes, it felt like a Disney love story and you know know what a sucker I am for Disney. No wonder I’ve heard Brandon and Megan described as the “Brangelina” of Branson! After seeing them perform that song together, I understand the moniker completely.

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One of the most poignant part of the shows was toward the end and it was the Baldknobbers gospel segment. First off, the women were literally angels in white and kudos to the stage lighting helping to make it look like they were enveloped in moonbeams sent from heaven. The harmonies of the two women, joined by third generation Mabe cousins, Brandon and Denton was as pretty as any I’ve ever heard. The melodies were simple and the tones blended so perfectly together. Denton also sang, The Old Rugged Cross and it was close to another teary moment for me.

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So, you know it was a good evening, with top of the line performances, beautiful costuming, mystical lighting and beautiful songs. What still needs to be mentioned is the comedy performances. Throughout the show, there were constant interruptions by the bumbling duo known as Droopy Drawers Jr. and Hargus Marcel. They told jokes, they interacted with the audience and they just plain knew how to entertain. Tim Mabe told me that hillbilly comedy is the cornerstone of Branson and back in the day, it was what people from up north or out west expected when they came to Branson. It’s a formula that is still alive and well and it’s amazing that it works so well. Every time Droopy and Hargus got into their hilarious dialogs, I would look around at the faces of the audience. Every single one of them had a smile on their face and had forgotten their cares and troubles for just a little bit. They were entertained and that’s exactly what Branson is famous for. Entertaining.

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If you ever get a chance to come to this beautiful and vibrant part of the country, I would encourage you to put the Baldknobbers show on your list of must sees. They’re the original and they know what they’re doing. You’re gonna be entertained and you’re gonna get to escape reality for just a little while. Helping to make it all happen are Brent Mabe, music director, and the rest of the talented band. Brent is also second generation Mabe and is a big part of carrying on this family legacy.

I had a wildly entertaining night and it will definitely live in memories as the epitome of all that is Branson. I want to thank the Mabe family and the entire cast, band and any other Baldknobbers that I might have missed. I can see why ya’ll have been around for fifty-six years and I would hazard to guess that there might just be another fifty ahead!

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Plummer Family Reunion Show

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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