Pete's November 1999 Article.

"Our Trip to Branson" by Pete Bennett

The Bus ride was long, but enjoyable, all 923 miles of it one way. The weather was very cooperative and stayed in the 80's all but one day, the day we left Pennsylvania.

Doris and I took a 5 day bus trip to Branson, MO recently and I thought that you would like to hear about the fun we had in that great and beautiful resort area. So, come along!

I, as you probably already know, I love country music and live entertainment. We chose the right place to go for both. Although the music wasn't all country Branson is now promoting itself as the entertainment capital of the world. Not many dispute it!

I really love all types of music anyway. With its Shows, Lake Taneycomo, Table Rock Lake, and Bull Shoals Lake, Branson has all of the features that is necessary for a great family vacation area. The area is south of St. Louis in the Ozark Mountains which was filled with the most spectacular colors this time of year.

We boarded our bus for our trip at 6:00 a.m. in Butler and traveled to Effingham, Illinois arriving there at 6:00 p.m. central time. We did make several rest stops along the way. The next morning at 7:00 a.m. it was on to Branson, arriving there at about 4:00 p.m. Then, after a short rest we went to our first of ten shows, the Dixie Stampede. The dinner show there featured lots of entertainment on horseback in the pretense of a confrontation between the Yankee and Rebel Armies, Civil War style. During the show we were served a four course meal without eating utensils. Hum!!

Next it was on to the Shoji Tabuchi. Let me say right off that Shoji has the best show in Branson! The Japanese born entertainer has a fabulous, colorful show with over 100 people in the cast or producing the onstage excitement. By the way, his daughter Christina is featured in his show and his wife Dorothy is its producer.

At 17, Tabuchi and friends went to a local concert in Japan featuring the touring American country star Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys. Until that time Tabuchi had had no exposure to country and western. That concert proved fateful. Acuff's violinist Howdy Forrester was enchanted by young Tabuchi with the birdlike sounds he produced in his rendition of "Listen to the Mockingbird". Tabuchi went up to meet Acuff and was graciously invited to look him up if he ever came to the United States. For the first time Tabuchi began entertaining dreams of becoming a professional musician, an American country and western musician The next was a trip to the US and the rest is history. Shoji appeared with Mel Tillis for a time and became close friends. Mel tells a story about going out in a boat fishing with Shoji and they were using fish as bait and soon they were all out of bait. Shoji had eaten it all, thinking it was sushi!!

In his Branson Theater, Shoji puts on 2 shows a day and actually does 468 shows a year and is well deserving of his fame. He is a very talented guy. Don't miss his show if you ever venture to Branson.

The following day we went to the Mickey Gilley Theater for the Jim Owens Morning Show. It was a great country fun show. Jim Owens, although not considered a BIG star is one of the best entertainers in Branson. He has made several movies in which he portrayed the late/great Hank Williams. Most of the music in his show was country with lots of country humor also featured. He has a great back-up band. From there it was dinner then on to the Mel Tillis show. Mel performed most of his hits and was well received by his audience. Actually he stuttered his way through it! Mel's show features his two daughters Connie, who sings country music and Carrie April who sings opera. Mel says, nnnnNot gggGrand ooooOle ooooOpera either! His seven year old grandson Marshall is also featured in the show.

That night we had our first canceled show as Andy Williams had laryngitis. The replacement show was the Osmond Brothers at their Theater. Their show features brothers, Wayne, Merrill, Jay & Jimmy brothers of the more famous Donny & Marie of TV fame. The show was a very family oriented show with many of the new generation Osmond children now added to the cast.

The next day we had a luncheon Cruise and Show on the Showboat Branson Belle, a 278 X 78 foot paddle wheel boat which takes you on a leisurely two hour cruise on Table Rock Lake while you are entertained by one of the best shows in town. The show was another very family oriented show. An interesting note about the Showboat Branson Belle is that it was constructed right there on the banks of man-made Table Rock and when they were ready to launch it were concerned that the boat would not slide well on the rails down to the water so they used 260 cases of bananas as lubricant. The bananas were placed on the rails and it slid down perfectly. Now that location on the lake near the dock is loaded with carp.

Next we went to the Lawrence Welk Theater to take in the Lawrence Welk Show. It was wonderful and was very reminiscent of his long running TV show. Although Lawrence passed away in 1992 at age 89 his band continues to entertain in Branson. Many of the original stars from the TV show are still on the bill. The Lennon Sisters, Jack Imel, Ken Delo, Bobby & Barbara and last but not the greatest honky tonk piano player in the whole world, Joanne Castle. She brings the house down with her rendition of ...The Twelfth Street Rag!

Now there is only one Big Band that I like better then the Lawrence Welk Band and we were lucky enough to see them next. Appearing with Bobby Vinton at his Blue Velvet Theater, none other then the fabulous Glenn Miller Orchestra. I was in heaven!\par \par BILLBOARD MAGAZINE calls Bobby "the all-time most successful love singer of the 'Rock-Era'". Well I think he was BETTER then that. During the first ten years of the rock era, Bobby had more #1 hits than any other male vocalist including Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. He's a native of Canonsburg, PA and really enjoys playing for the Pennsylvania bus tour groups. Bobby is all entertainer. He spends most of his show in the audience with his fans. He too has a family oriented show and his two daughters and son Jennifer and Kristin and Robbie appearing with him. Also his mother Dorothy adds a very funny segment to his lively, colorful and amusing show. Bobby was always billed as THE POLISH PRINCE and his most popular hits were Roses are Red, Blue Velvet, and Mr. Lonely although he had many more. During his career he sold over 75 million records. Not bad for a Pennsylvania kid!

For everyone with Internet access you can find much more information on these shows the web just by typing the name in a browser. Try the NEW browser, google.com.

The next morning it was up at 6:00a.m. and we headed off for home stopping for several hours at Players Island Casino Resort on the banks of the Mississippi in St. Louis. Funny the Casino's always complain about water on their floors when I'm inside one. I cry every time I drop a quarter in one of those things. Well, let me tell you they won't get rich from me, or me from them! From there went into downtown St. Louis to visit the Gateway Arch. If you've never been here folks, plan a trip. This site is another attraction you shouldn't miss. It's a site to behold.

The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park was established on the banks of the Mississippi River, on December 21, 1935, to commemorate the westward growth of the United States between 1803 and 1890. Cost for the $30 million national monument was shared by the federal government and the City of St. Louis. The park features the Gateway Arch, designed by architect Eero Saarinen who won the design competition in 1947. The stainless steel structure rises 630 feet high from a 60-foot foundation and spans 630 feet at ground level. Its classic weighted catenary curve sways 1/2" - 1" in 20 mph wind. Construction on the nation's tallest memorial began in 1961 with the "topping out" in 1965 and dedication in 1966.

You can ride to the top of the arch, for a panoramic view of the surrounding area by taking one of the two trams to the top. Each tram contains eight small capsules similar to the barrels used in cement mixers. Each train capsule has a 5 foot diameter barrel that is open on the front and closed on the back. The back has a center pivot shaft, and surrounding the open front there is a frame with rollers, so the barrel can rotate within the frame that is supported by wheels running in the channel-shaped tracks. There are 5 seats in each barrel, so the weight of the passengers helps keep the capsule in an upright position. Some find the ride scary but I found it exciting.

From there we headed home with several rest stops along the way.

It was a great tour and I would recommend it for all who read this. Enough country music for me and lots of different kind for others plus colorful and exciting entertainment.

Before I go, here are some BIBLICAL QUESTIONS I heard on the bus:

Q. Who was the greatest financier in the Bible? A. Noah. He was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation.

Q. Who was the greatest female financier in the Bible? A. Pharaoh's daughter. She went down to the bank of the Nile and drew out a little prophet.

Q. What kind of motor vehicles are in the Bible? A. Jehovah drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden in a Fury. A. David's Triumph was heard throughout the land. A. Honda ... because the apostles were all in one Accord.

Q. Who was the greatest comedian in the Bible? A. Samson. He brought the house down.

Q. Where is the first baseball game in the Bible? A. In the big inning, Eve stole first, Adam stole second. Cain struck out Abel, and the Prodigal Son came home. The Giants and the Angels were rained out.

Q. What is one of the first things that Adam and Eve did after they were kicked out? A. They really raised Cain.

Q. What excuse did Adam give to his children as to why he no longer lived in Eden? A. Your mother ate us out of house and home.

Q. Which servant of Jehovah was the most flagrant law breaker in the Bible? A. Moses. Because he broke all 10 commandments at once.

God Bless, see you next month!


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