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Old 01-30-2019, 02:53 PM   #1
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Branson Country USA - February 1, 2019

This week we welcome,one the Branson's first female vocalists, Jan Naylor!

Jan Naylor, one of Branson's earliest female vocalists who performed as part of "The Ozark Mountain Hayride" from 1977-80.
Originally from the "Fayette/Moberly" area, she got her start at the age of 15 performing at the Country Music Hall at Lake Ozark. Even though Jan showed talent at that early age, her mother made sure she stayed as grounded as possible.

"When I was at the Country Music Hall, I met Loretta Lynn and all the other stars who played at the Austin Wood Auditorium at Lake Ozark," she said. "One night, Roy Acuff's fiddler came to the Country Music Hall on their night off and tried to hire me. My mama said 'She's 15, and she ain't going on the road with Roy Acuff.' "And you know, mama was the boss.
After her run at the Country Music Hall ended Jan fell in love, got married and had a few children. Not too long after that, she decided she missed singing on stage. "My husband took a job on the road, and I decided I wanted to move, and I wanted to move to Branson," she said with a laugh. "I came down here in 1976, and immediately got a job in the 'Appletown Opry,' which was at an outdoor theatre where Ripley's Believe It or Not! is now. I sang and my mother danced."

She spent a year at the "Appletown Opry" before getting hired at the "Ozark Mountain Hayride," which opened the same year Bob Mabe opened Bob-O-Links. "I met with Elmer Dreyer, who was building the venue known as the Starlite Theater, and he offered me a job pretty quick," she said. "It was very much a country music show, and we had the full band, and big dresses, and a comedian. "I even did some comedy myself."
Jan performed at the "Hayride" until 1980, and also became a successful business owner, operating an attraction called Pearl Island from 1980 through 1984. "It was a place where you could open up a shell, pick out a pearl and make jewelry," she said. "I did that and jewelry shows at home."

In 1983, Elmer Dreyer's daughter Gayla, who was Jan's co-star in the "Hayride" show, told her they were looking to open a new version of the show, this time in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. "Gayla had been working for the Plummer family after the 'Hayride' closed in Branson, but we were, and are, still great friends, and we were talking about shows and things and she told me her dad wanted to move to Pigeon Forge and do a new show," she said. "She said 'He wants me to go, and I'm not sure if I want to.' I said 'I bet it'll be fun,
I'll go if you go.' (laughs) So we did."
Jan and the rest of the cast moved to Tennessee for a new version of "The Ozark Mountain Hayride," which was called the "Smoky Mountain Jubilee." Naylor performed from 1984 through 86 before returning to Branson. "I did three seasons there and had a lot of fun, but I got tired of Tennessee," she said. "My home is here in Branson, but I still visited
the shows over the years and performed whenever I was there."

Upon moving back to southwest Missouri, Jan decided she didn't want to perform full time anymore, and took several "fun" jobs, as she called them. "I worked security at Silver Dollar City for a few years, and they called me the Singing Security Guard," she said. "They'd let me get up and sing with the bands, and I just had a ball. I also got a part time
job at the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre, where I worked off and on for several years. I greeted buses, I did ushering, I did anything they needed. "During the show, I'd be out in the lobby singing while I worked, and sometimes they'd catch me. I always told them if they wanted me on stage, they'd have to pay me what I was worth (laughs). But I had a lot of fun working there."
Looking back over her 40-plus year career, Jan is all smiles. "That's my life and it's been a lot of fun," she said. "So much of it fell into my lap over the years, and I'm so grateful to do all the things I've done. I always loved being local, and I never really wanted to 'go big.' I got to have my children, wonderful grandchildren, and I still get to live in this town that I love."

In what turned out to be an interesting turn of events, a new attraction called National Enquirer Live! is set to take the place of both the Starlite Theatre in Branson, as well as the former site of the old "Smoky Mountain Jubilee" in Pigeon Forge, both venues Naylor called
home. "That's really strange to think they're both going to be gone, and they're both being replaced by the same business." she said.
You will love Jan's singing and her dynamic personality. You can often see Jan at Grand Country as her granddaughter, Abigial, is one of our star employees at the Fun Spot!

(Jan Naylor biography courtesy of Josh Clark, Branson Tri-Lakes News)

Branson Country USA is performed every Friday night at 10:30 p.m., January - December. For tickets and information, call Grand Country Music Hall. 417-335-2484. This broadcast is brought to you in part by Branson Tourism Center. For more information, please visit: www.BransonTourismCenter.com.

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