First step on a walk into Branson’s history

50 years of live Branson music shows started
in a building on this location.

With all the shows, attractions and other activities Branson has to offer sometimes a person might wish for an activity that’s a little more laid back and moves at a more selfcontrolled pace. In Branson those opportunities abound with one of them being the free “DownTown Branson Historic Walking Tour.”

The tour covers the historic downtown Branson area, is self guided and, without the Old Stone Church and Branson Hotel B&B, Stops 15 and 16, is flat and level. A tour brochure is available from the office of the Downtown Main Street Association (DMSA) located at 119 W. Pacific Street in historic downtown Branson.

Although listed as Stop 4 in the brochure, stop as soon as you get out the door of DMSA. You will be located on the north side of Pacific Street which runs east and west. If you look directly south, across Pacific Street, you will see something that relatively few people who come to Branson have really “seen.”Oh, most people see the parking lot and public restroom. But even as Branson celebrates 50 years of live music shows, most people don’t realize that they are looking at the very spot where “It all started.”

In 1959 the Mabe brothers Bob, Bill, Jim and Lyle, along with Delbert Howard and Chick Allen, decided to provide evening entertainment to tourists visiting the Branson area. They used a simple format of blending popular country music with original unique comedy routines. The name of the show was the “Baldknobbers” and today, 50 years later, the Mabe family is still entertaining Branson audiences using a blend of country and popular music and original comedy.

In 1959, the original Branson City Hall was located up near where the restrooms are located today. The Mabe brothers rented a 50 seat auditorium in the basement and started doing their show two nights a week. The show proved successful and they later moved town to the Lake Taneycomo lakefront before moving to their current location on West Highway 76.

Interestingly, while standing in the same location, if one looks to the southeastern edge of the parking lot, where the alley runs through, they will notice the back end of the Owen Theatre, Branson’s first theatre. It was a movie theatre built by Jim Owen in 1935 to provide entertainment for Branson tourists, a lot of whom were fishing clients of his guide service.

Although almost three decades separated the Owen Theatre from the Baldknobbers, one cannot help but notice the synergy. It is not only a synergy of location, but of purpose, the entertaining of Branson’s tourists. Today, 50 years later and with enough shows in Branson for it to be called the “Live Music Show Capital of the World,” that simple purpose has not changed.