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In 1960 two different venues, following the completion of Table Rock Dam the previous year, opened, hoping to capture the attention of the expected influx of tourists. Already, there was an interest in the Branson area due to the writings of Harold Bell Wright who wrote a fictional story in his book The Shepherd of the Hills, shortly after the turn of the century. Five movies were made about the book, including one that starred John Wayne. Due to this book the area was already known as Shepherd of the Hills Country and was already drawing visitors into the area. In 1960 the Trimble Family from Kansas City was owners of the original homestead and their son, Mark, recently returned from military service, started the outdoor drama that is still reenacted today on a site near the writing of the book by Wright.
Also in 1960 the Herschend Family, with the matriarch of the family, Mary, leading the way and with her two sons, Jack and Peter fully involved in the project, began fulfilling the dream of their departed father, Hugo, in building a village where local craftsmen could sell their wares. The opening of the village followed ten strenuous years of improving a cave for tourist visits on the same hillside property. The Herschends named their village Silver Dollar City, and within the next fifty years the brothers had expanded their entertainment into the largest family owned entertainment enterprise in America--with sites and venues scatted throughout the United States.
In 1959 a band of brothers (band is play on words since there were four), the Mabe Brothers, Jim, Bill, Bob, and Lyle, from nearby Nixa, Missouri formed what they called a Hillbilly Band and played at church gospel sings, fox hunts, family reunions and on radio stations in Springfield, Missouri. That year they rented the community room at Branson City hall and began presenting week-end performances. In 1960 they played at the opening of Silver Dollar City and at the Shepherd of the Hills outddoor drama. Thus, the Baldknobbers became the first continuous running show in Branson. The show, the Baldknobbers Jamboree, still performs today.
In 1976 another local family band, with a background similar to that of the Mabes, began performances in Branson. The band, The Presley family, also played at church gospel sings, fox hunts, and family reunions, and also had the distinction of having given regular performances in two different caves. This was the first theater that was built on Highway 76 on what today is known as "The Strip." This venue still performs today and is known as Presleys' Country Jubilee.
Two more music shows quickly followed the Presleys, the Plummer Family Music show that was located near both the Baldknobbers, (who by this time had also moved to the strip) and the Presleys. The final show that became known as the Branson Pioneers was the Foggy River Boys, a suave, harmonizing group whose leader had previously been a part of Springfield radio, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, and the Ozark Jubilee in Springfield.
Each of these group, the two orignal attractions and the four music shows ascribed to a strict code of family entertainment, the theme that still guides Branson after fifty years of history.
None of these early entertainment pioneers had any notion of the extent to which Branson would eventually grow. Fortunately, members of each of these groups are still able to tell the story of their founding.
Since these pioneer years, with events like the filming of the Beverly Hillbillies episodes at Silver Dollar City and the piece by Morley Safer on 60 Minutes in 1991, there has been marked growth in visitors and increased attraction for nationally known entertainers. (When 60 Minutes showcased Branson nationally known stars like Jim Stafford, Roy Clark, Buck Trent, Moe Bandy, Conway Twitty, Mel Tillis, Waylon Jennings, Box Car Willie, and more were performing in Branson. In addition one particular show that was featured in the 60 Minutes piece was already selling out a 2500 seat theatre, often twice a day. Known as The Japanese Fiddler, Shoji Tabuchi still performs in his successful show. Jim Stafford, Buck Trent, and Moe Bandy are also still performing in Branson.)
Today, Branson has more theater seats than are available on Broadway in New York City.