By Steve Hager
Randy Plummer, of the Plummer Family, is a Branson fixture, perhaps as much as The Presley Family, The Baldknobbers, or Silver Dollar City. Not only is Randy a fixture in Branson, he is one of Branson’s genuine nice guys. He doesn’t know how to simply talk, he exudes; he bubbles over with joy, especially when talking about the things he loves, and, Randy loves a lot. God, his parents, Branson, and Christmas, are things that, Randy loves. They are what drives him. He has a lot to say about all.
Q: When did you start performing?
RP: It was the early sixties. I just remember us doing a family photo shoot in 1964. We were raised in church, and we sang in church. I remember one photo session, and we had our instruments. I had an accordion and my sister had a guitar.
Q: Do you still play the accordion?
RP: Very little. Nothing like my mom. She is wonderful on the accordion. Yeah. I got a guitar, and my sister got an accordion, but then we swapped; she took the guitar and I took the accordion. And, then, later on, I got the guitar back. I still have it. It’s on my album. I put it on my latest album. It’s a Little K guitar. I was at least eight (when I started performing).
Q: So, you performed in church, when did you start performing professionally?
RP: Oh, gosh, we played honky tonks and things, back around ’69. Someone sent me a poster the other day from a show we did in like 1969. She said it was in a book of mine or my grandma’s or something. So, I know it was by 1969. Here’s the flyer. It says, “Christmas Country Music Show. Farmington Auction Barn. The Darrell Plummer Family Band. December 1969.” I’m holding it right now in my hand.
We made our first record in 1968. It’s a little 45. My dad wrote a couple songs that we recorded.
Q: I’d love to hear that.
RP: I have it on my Once Upon a Time album. I put it on the album. We made our first three albums in Nashville in the early 70s.
Q: How many albums have you recorded?
RP: I am up to 32. The family is at 25 or so. You know, I don’t know exactly. I think for Mom and Daddy between 20 and 25.
Q: Are your Dad and Mom still performing?
RP: Well, right now, they are not performing much. My mom plays accordion in church. They go to a little church in Southeast Missouri. We did reunion shows for nine years in Branson, after we sold (the theater).
Q: You did one last year?
RP: No, it was two years ago, actually. We love doing them, but they (Mom and Dad) weren’t able last year. My sister, her husband, and their son, Josh, still perform together, as The Driskills.
Q: Tell me about Branson when you first opened your show.
RP: We first came to Branson on vacation and fell in love with it. We bought a theater in 1972. Branson was much smaller. We were the 11th business on the strip. 11th or 12th on the strip at that time. That’s according to John Fullerton, who I played with in Blue Valley Trail. He is a walking encyclopedia of information about Branson. In fact, he’s working on a book right now.
Q: That was what is now called the Americana Theater?
RP: Yes. Yes. It has been enlarged, and a second story added in the back. But, yeah. Same Building.
Q: When you arrived, there were only a couple of other shows. The Baldknobbers, The Presleys, The Foggy River Boys.
RP: No, they weren’t here, yet (The Foggy River Boys). They were still over at Kimberling City. There was The Corn Crib Theater. Shad and Molly Heller had a show. Over there by Wilderness Settlement, near Jim Stafford’s Theater. They had the The Toby Show. I still miss it (those early days). The other shows, they were all so nice to us. They treated us well. The Baldknobbers treated us especially well. Good people.
Q: What do you miss about it?
RP: I miss having my family here. I miss the camaraderie. There wasn’t as many shows. Then, you had something of your own. Now, you have to work two or three jobs, and you have nothing of your own. Then, you could just walk into the next room if you wanted to see your dad. Now, you have to drive 250 miles.
Q: What’s better now?
RP: The roads. The roads cut down a lot of time for the locals. That’s better. I miss the old-time camaraderie. You felt God here (then). You felt the mystique of the area. Now, there is so much congestion, so many business, you don’t have time to appreciate the mystique or to appreciate God. Not that God is not still here. He is. You’re just so distracted now, with all the lights and the neon and everything.
Q: What else is better now?
RP: Now you have Christmas. In the 70s, we opened (our show) on May 26th and by the last of October, you hit the road. Now, Branson celebrates Christmas like nowhere else. Branson celebrates real meaning of Christmas. Just look at the (drive-through Christmas) displays, like Branson’s Gift of Lights. Sure, it has a lot of fun and fantasy, but you can’t drive through it without learning the real meaning of Christmas.
Q: Speaking of Christmas, you have written a Christmas story, Snowdeer. What inspired you to do that?
RP: Back in 2010, I was thinking about characters, fun characters to put in a story. Then, in 2011, a friend of mine suggested I write a Christmas story. This was March, and I wasn’t even thinking about Christmas. So, I wrote a paragraph, and thought, “This is kind of fun. I need to keep going.” Now, you’re going to think I am crazy. Of course, you know me, so you may think that already. In the floor, the hardwood floor where I was playing bass fiddle, at the Imax theater, I began to see the faces of all the characters I had invented. I can take you there right now, and show you all seven deer that I used in my story, their faces in the knotholes. I could just see them, these deer. Their eyes. It was just God’s way of giving me something to create. It’s kind of fun.
Q: Who did the art for your book?
RP: Raine Clotfelter. He does murals. He did the one on the side of Empire Electric. He travels all over the country painting murals.
Q: After Snowdeer, you produced a CD with the story and music.
RP: I sat in this recliner, and the Lord started giving me songs. They just started coming to me. I know it was God because I am not that smart. I sat down and wrote, I’m Having Christmas on the Inside. About how you can celebrate Christmas anytime, anywhere. If it’s July, you can still have Christmas on the inside.
Then, the Lord gave me another, Christmas Time. It takes the word Christmas. “C” is for the carols. “H” is for the holly, and so on. In three verses, it tells about Christmas. The Lord gave me that. Then I wrote song called, Happy Hoof Dance. It’s kind of a bebop song. It’s lots of fun. Then, Sugar Snow is one of the characters in the story. It’s about a powerful snow that helps power Santa’s reindeer, helps them to fly. So, I wrote and instrumental called Sugar Snow. I have written about six songs. I had to put this and the story on two discs. They wouldn’t fit on just one.
Q: And, now you have a show of Snowdeer.
RP: For five years, we have produced between three and five show in November and December. Right before Christmas. We are not sure where it will be this year. But, Lord willing, we’ll do it again.
Q: And, now you have a sequel to Snowdeer, called, The Adventures of Snowdeer, Plum Puddin and Purple Mouse.
RP: And, I’m working on a third book. I hope to have it out by Christmas.
Q: Tell me about your music. You are not just known as the nicest guy in Branson, but you are also an accomplished country music singer and Gospel music singer. Tell me about your newest release, The Best of Randy Plummer.
RP: It’s a compilation of music that I have performed over the last 44 years in Branson. Some are originals, some are songs that people have requested. Snowdeer’s poem is on there. It is mostly Gospel, but is has country on there, too. I put at least three songs pertaining to my mom and dad on there. Kind of a retrospective of the last 40 years. I have a picture in the album of my folks and I from years ago. I take that history wherever I go. My parents started something great and I am glad to be a part of it.
Q: You also have released Randy Plummer’s Christmas.
RP: I released it first in 2007. It features a song called Ozark Country Christmas.
Q: What inspired that?
RP: You know me. I love Christmas. I always keep my tree up too long. Some of my strongest memories are of Christmas. Christmas is about family, and love, and our Savior, and that tradition is real strong in the Ozarks. Sure, Christmas is about fun and fantasy, but it is about… well, I just love the feel of Christmas. I just wanted to contribute to that tradition. Right now, I have a tree up. As I work on the third Snowdeer book, I put up my Christmas tree to inspire me. People think I am weird, but oh well.
Q: You love Branson, too. Tell me about Randy Plummer, Branson.
RP: I started it in 1986. In fact, I have
the paper in my hand right now. I only wrote four or five verses at first. In 2004, I decided to get serious and wrote five more verses. It tells about gobs of things in our area. I recorded it and called the album Branson.
I had also written a poem called An Ozark Prayer that I had recorded in 1999. I was down at the lakefront, at the park, sitting on one of those concrete benches. You know how it was in the old days down at the water with the steps and the swimming pool and everything. Well, I was down there working on a church program when God gave me this 20-line poem, right there on the lake front, called An Ozark Prayer. That will always be one of my favorite memories because I know God gave it to me. I put that on the Branson album, too. I ended up putting a song I on the album that I wrote and recorded on the first or second night at the Plummer Family, so there is that vintage track on there, too.
Q: You have released The Best of the Plummer Family.
RP: That was more of Mom and Daddy’s project, but I put some songs on it. Them, me, and my nephew, Josh, and some Plummer Family stuff from thirty years ago or so.
Q: So, what do you see in Randy Plummer’s future?
RP: I would like to be in more shows. I have performed in James Garrett s John Denver Tribute show for years. That’s a morning show at the IMAX. I’m looking to sing and play more. I would like to have my own show someday. Whatever the future holds, I want it to honor God, and to honor Branson.