Plummer Family Show

The Plummer Family Show

by Joshua Heston

“You gotta see Branson!”

That’s what Randy Plummer remembers friend — and Shepherd of the Hills’ performer — Harold Goad telling the family in 1971.

It was the beginning of one of the most popular family shows in Branson, Missouri.

The Plummers — of Knob Lick, Missouri — were no strangers to country music.

Darrell and Rosie had been singing and playing on stage for years. It wasn't long before their kids, Melody and Randy, began showing musical talent too.

“My sister is just super-talented,” says Randy, “But in the Plummer Family, we decided there was no one star. Everybody just did their thing and made it happen.”

The Plummers certainly did make it happen.

Waiting just long enough for Melody and Randy to graduate from their respective grades in Knob Lick, the family held a sale, moved to Taney County, and opened the theatre — all in a matter of two days.

Their first show — on May 26, 1973 — sold out.

Thus began one of the most successful and longest-running shows in Branson history.

“We tried to change the show a lot,” remembers Randy. “We didn't want people who came year after year to see the same thing. But you would take something out and then an audience member would come and say, ‘You didn't do such-and-such.’

“We did the song Muleskinner Blues for years. We would take it out because we were sure the people would be tired of it but someone would always want to hear it and we'd put it back in.”

In fact, the Plummers worked hard to develop what has become a classic Branson combination — a good, clean family show with a variety of country, bluegrass, gospel and Ozark comedy.

Rosie played the accordion and keyboards, Darrell the rhythm guitar, Randy the bass guitar, while Melody shone on lead guitar, fiddle, bass, drums, and banjo.

All sang lead and Rosie, Melody and Randy focused on close harmony work as well.

It was a combination that brought audiences back year after year.

“Then we’d hit the road the first of November,” continues Randy, “and do somewhere around 50 shows between November and April. We played a lot of high school auditoriums. Folks in Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, and of course, Missouri, booked us the most.”

Branson continued to grow through the ‘70s and the family's hard work continued to pay off.

The theater was expanded several times, taking the seat number from an original 572 to a final total of 850. And on occasion, country stars would drop by — at times just to sit in the audience.

“I remember vividly seeing Dottie Rambo and her husband Buck in the audience, down on the right of the stage,” says Randy. “And I feel bad about it now — Miss Dottie probably had to buy her ticket like everybody else even though she was a legend!”

Another time, George Jones watched the show from back stage. Harold Morrison played on the show, as did Jamie Haage, Tim Cagle and Harley Clements.

Clements, originally from southeastern Missouri as well, played with the Plummer Family Show for 21 years.

Jamie Haage remembers the Plummer Family Show as the first place he performed as a comedian:

“Darrell Plummer needed a comedian for some reason. So 1986 was the first time I did Jim Dandy.”

In 1985, Darrell and Rosie were even inducted into the Ozark Music Hall of Fame.

Those awards may still be seen on display in the Ralph Foster Museum on the campus of College of the Ozarks.

By 1990, however, Branson appeared to be changing drastically.

CBS’ Sixty Minutes had visited and the town became a magnet for big-name entertainers as well as a series of quick-buck investors.

It seemed the folks who had built their shows purely on talent and hard work would soon be overshadowed.

After 18 succesful years, Darrell and Rosie decided to retire from Branson in 1990, moving back to Knob Lick. Melody and her family moved from Branson as well.

The family theater on Highway 76 was sold.

Randy chose to remain. To this day, he plays multiple shows in Branson and writes songs regularly.

“I'm really thankful to the Lord to get to live here,” he notes “I love the Ozarks and Branson and am very, very proud to be a part of the history here!”

January 1, 2009

plate 1. The Plummer Family Show in 1987. Front row, from left to right: Darrell Plummer, Rosie Plummer, Jeannie Johnson, and Randy Plummer. Second row, from left to right: Mike Tawfall, Richard Kennedy. Van Johnson. Eddie Lane. Harley Clements, Lonnie Hoppers, and Jamie Haage.

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plate 2. Rosie and Darrell, June 11, 1954.

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plate 3. At Shepherd of the Hills, from left to right, Harold Goad, & Melody, Randy, Darrell, and Rosie Plummer (Spring 1971).

the Plummers

plate 4. Randy, Melody, Rosie and Darrell Plummer, Farmington, Missouri, December 1972.

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plate 5. Plummer Family Show Theatre, Highway 76, Branson (January 1973).

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plate 6. Darrell and Rosie Plummer, George Jones, Eva Mae and Harold Morrison, Branson, 1987.

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plate 7. Remaining Plummer Family Show bilboard, Highway 65 south of Branson (November 1997).

Photos courtesy of Randy Plummer.

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Tony “Nearly Famous” Hampton

(Bonne Terre, MO) Those who have seen The Plummer Family Show are familiar with “Nearly Famous,” the seemingly bumbling, friendly hillbilly who occasionally wanders across stage in a fat suit, beaming to the audience and then turning to reveal a fake plummer’s crack. The play on words becomes obvious. The audience laughs.

“Tim Conway was one of my all-time favorites, as was Stub Meadows with the Baldknobbers, and Willy Make-It,” explains Nearly’s alter-ego Tony Hampton, who grew up in Irondale, Missouri. “I try to put myself in the audience. I like to make people laugh.” He joined Darrell and Rosie Plummer’s Farmington, Missouri-area theater in 2002.

Darrell, Rosie, and their talented kids Randy and Melody, made history in Branson when they opened the third theater on the now world-famous 76 Strip back in 1973.

Hampton traveled extensively with the Plummer Family Show from 2002 through the present, performing in Texas, Oklahoma and South Dakota. “We played Oklahoma every spring and fall,” notes the comedian and bass player, “and they treated us like big stars. There were 1,200 people at most shows. I never really get stage fright when I’m on stage, although when I auditioned live with Darrell, I did get a little nervous.

“We didn’t know each other real well at the time but now we just feed off each others’ banter. They make me feel like part of the family and Rosie even presented me with fake adoption papers! I’m “Liquid” Plummer according to those papers. They are wonderful people.”

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July 19, 2014

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