Branson 2015!

 Driving in the rain

Driving in the rain


I’ve been creatively shut down for 2 months. In that time, the only creative thing I’ve done is a revision to a screenplay and I got out some play proposals. Life keeps throwing curve balls at me – things that require time and energy and dont’ leave you any room for anything else.

There are various ways to recharge. But for me, one of them is:


Branson puts you in a state of mind unlike any other place. For some reason, when you are up on that strip, you forget the worries and problems of everyday life. The things you are confronted with are all about fun: What restaurant do we eat at? What show do we see? Where do you want to go next?

So, my alarm went off at 4am, and by 4:20 I was in the car, in the dark, eastbound and down. It started raining this side of Springfield, and rained most of the rest of the way.

But, by 1o-ish, you are there! And the rain stops and one of the first fun things you do is to drive around and see what has changed. Every day there is something new in Branson.

We have seen it all. We first went to Branson in 1978. At that time, there were 5 shows on the strip, and the daytime entertainment was: Silver Dollar City. Now, there are shopping malls and wonderful restaurants, and every imaginable tourist trap.

But for us, daytimes are for shopping.

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This is one of my favorite views. I am sitting on a bench outside the green roof mall. I love the 4 spires reaching for the sky. The rain has gone and the sun could not be any more mighty.

Lunch is a Danna’s. I have never had a bad meal there.

Our supper left a lot to be desired. We have had supper at this same place for 5 or 6 years. This was the year that we decided not to go back to that place.

Dessert was at Billy Bobs.

Then it was off to the show.

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I decided to see the Grand Jubilee. For musicianship, this is top of the line. Other people follow singers or stars. I follow musicians.

There is a trend in Branson towards more karoke style things. But when I pay out entertainment dollars, I want to see real music. Real singing. (I have no interest in seeing the current pop princess who can NOT sing, and who has to lip sync in order to be able to hit all her dance moves.)

I have even heard of – in the past – some Branson shows that will pull a parking lot attendant, put him in a show jacket, hand him an instrument and put him, a non musician, on stage.

That’s not what I want to see. I want to see and hear and observe Real Music.

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Emcee Mike Patrick (right), will stand on this stage and tell you that every note  you hear is played live. Every song you hear is sung live. (That’s Jamie Haage on the left, playing the character of Jim Dandy. He’s hilarious. And a talented musician to boot!)

For Branson, which is supposed to be: entertainment capital of the world

How sad is it that that announcement is the exception, rather than the rule?

All musicians and singers at Grand Country are top notch.

I know that using backing tracks is standard across all spectrums of the music industry. Everyone does it. And I guess there are good ways to utilize the tech, and ways to use it to fake-out or cover up.

But, I find myself shaking my head. I have worked for DECADES to build my talent. If I go out there on stage, I am playing live. I am singing live. Right or wrong, hit your note or mess it up, in my opinion, play it live. That’s what a singer/musician should do.

And I’ve spent about 5 days, thinking about this blog post and thinking about taking this stand. I took the stand with my travel companions. When Mike Patrick announced they were singing and playing live on that stage, my travel companions applauded – as did I.

But the technology has evolved in so many ways. Am I taking a stand, which will later come back to bite me in the ass? I texted my (Oklahoma) audio engineer to ask if he used pitch correction on me in studio. He doesn’t use autotune, but he spoke in some technical language about recording options that cover some of the singer’s pitch issues. I guess nothing is absolute. The permutations and decisions that one can make in a recording studio are overwhelming.

I think back to our first time in studio. Don and I recorded a song “Mud Dog Hill” (video is over to the right). It was my first time in a big studio. I was ready. I had planned. I had arranged. We were prepared.

And our first time out of the gate, we got a better quality of recording than I ever thought I’d get by the END of our career. And this was the first time.

And I spent the next 3 weeks talking about that particular audio engineer (our Kansas engineer): He is amazing. He made us sound so good. He is super talented.

Don listened to me talk about the engineer for 3 weeks. Finally, one day he’d had enough. We were in his pickup going somewhere. He pointed at the CD player. He said, “Yes ____ is amazing and wonderful and talented, and we are lucky to get to work with him.” Then he pointed to the CD player. And he said,  “But THAT – is US!”

Yeah. We played. We sang. We produced. We arranged.

We Made the Music!

We worked for it. Practiced. Built it. Got good enough.

Being a musician is not a small thing. It takes a long time to get good enough.

So, when I make a decision about where to spend my entertainment dollars, then maybe I’d like to follow people who have put the years worth of work into it, building it. Making music. Entertaining.

Branson sunrise.

Branson sunrise.

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Branson morning


The strip.

The strip.

The strip

The strip

You never see the Strip this empty, but it is before 7 am and we are on our way to Breakfast.

So…did we have a good time?

Oh Yeah!

Did it work? Did something about this magical place recharge me?

Well, I came home and made several proposals and got them sent out to the world. Yeah. The ‘sales’ part of creativity is just as intense as the ‘creative’ part of creativity.

Something in me woke up. Creativity bubbling to the surface.

One other sidebar:

A couple weeks ago, I did submit for an acting gig. The casting director is…shall we say, not quite respectful of people’s time. He lets things run down to the last minute, and leaves people hanging and doesn’t give enough time or notice.

So, a couple weeks ago, I made the submission. About 2 pm the day before, they wanted a photo sent to them. (which I had already sent). But I was at the day job, and didn’t have the right stuff with me. So, I emailed them and said I’d send the photo when I got back to my computer, which turned out to be after 7 pm. Keep in mind, they are filming the scene the next day.

Their email said, “We are considering using you tomorrow…” etc.

And I never heard from them again.

Until…the day before we go to Branson. We have our plans made. Other people are involved. I have already loaded the car in prep for the 4 am leave time.

At 4 pm the day before, the casting company started calling my cell. I was on duty at the day job and can’t exactly take personal calls all day long. These people called me 4 times between 4  and 6:30 pm. They left 1 voice mail and sent 1 text – with an emergency needing me to act the next day. Who knows what the call time would have been?

If I hadn’t had plans, would I have gone?

Yeah..probably. It was my day off, and I do enjoy my acting gigs.

But still…for them to leave something to soooo late, then expect everyone to jump and heave to, to accommodate their schedule – without planning ahead…

Yeah…when we are working with other people, we really, really try to be respectful of their time and efforts. And not treat them like objects who only exist to serve our needs.

The final tally:

Branson, 1

Creativity, 1

Movie company: ZERO!!!



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