Industry Update

January 1, 2007

Concert series finale at Branson Landing Huge Success

Thousands of listeners gathered Oct. 1 on Branson Landing’s Town Square to hear the Springfield Symphony with special guest Andy Williams for the grand finale event of the Landing’s Special Summer Music Series.

Directed by Ron Spigelman, the Springfield Symphony performance concluded a series of 13 free evening concerts since mid-June at the Town Square. Regional and national pop and rock groups performing for the series included Venice, the Motown Experience, Lennon Sisters, Brewer & Shipley and others.

The concert also served as the opening event of Landing in the Pink, an event to promote October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. On that day, the Landing promenade was illuminated in pink and pink rosebuds were distributed to guests. Several retailers donated gift baskets for a raffle and offered specialty merchandise to commemorate the event.

The summer concert series was arranged by Midwest Concerts and Events, which also manages the street entertainers who perform music, dance, magic and other “atmosphere” activities on the Branson Landing promenade.

“Part of Branson Landing’s event and entertainment plan is to offer visitors an additional layer of musical entertainment in the wonderful gathering place that is Town Square by offering mini-concerts,” said Marketing Director Linda Antus. “We were able to bring together the community, tourists and people who live within about 75 to 100 miles of Branson to enjoy the beautiful evenings and fountain-filled atmosphere. We will continue to offer this type of entertainment on an occasional basis. The keyword will be variety.”

For the holiday season, “Branson Winter WonderLanding” will be celebrated Nov. 3 to Feb. 28. Specific plans for the retail-focused event were not yet complete by press time.

Branson Landing will also participate in Hot Winter Fun, the community’s January-March tourism promotion program. Events and entertainment for 2007 will be posted on the Web site by the end of the December.

Reservations are being taken for meetings, conventions and events. Meeting planners can gather plenty of information and schedule their events at


Bill Kay’s Chuck Berry Bash

It was sometime this past April that William Kay, Jr., owner of association management company Kay Group, Inc., first saw the 1987 movie Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll. The movie documents rock icon Chuck Berry’s rise from humble beginnings in St. Louis and culminates with a star-studded 60th birthday celebration concert at Fox Theatre in St. Louis’ Grand Center. For Kay it was a “Eureka!” moment, and the birth of an obsession. Realizing that nearly 20 years had gone by since that historic concert, it dawned on him that soon Berry would be celebrating his 80th birthday. The more Kay thought about it, the more he wanted to share his newfound enthusiasm for all things Chuck Berry with his friends and associates.

Kay is accustomed to organizing events such as the annual Mid-America Emmy Awards Gala, and his mind began to swim with the possibilities of a Berry-themed event, a kick-off celebration for Berry’s upcoming status as an octogenarian.

“I just couldn’t let Chuck Berry’s 80th birthday pass without ensuring that my friends witness one of the greatest pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll,” says Kay. “We’re so lucky to have him in St. Louis and I thought my peers were taking for granted that he’s available to see every month. He’s one of rock and roll’s best lyricists who developed some of the greatest trademark guitar licks of all time.”

On the evening of Wednesday, September 13, Kay fulfilled his intentions, drawing a crowd of invited guests to the Tivoli Theatre in the University City Loop for a showing of the newly released DVD version of the movie on the theater’s large main screen. Kay’s event planning skills were in evidence as every other row in the auditorium was roped off, allowing a novel approach to beverage service in which servers were able to reach thirsty customers by taking advantage of the empty rows. Before the show began, a buffet table in the aisle offered a variety of hors d’oeuvres.

In addition to the movie itself, which was presented with the new director’s introduction that appears on the DVD, Kay screened two other classic film clips featuring Chuck Berry tunes. First was the retro rock ‘n’ roll dance scene from Pulp Fiction featuring Uma Thurman and John Travolta doing their boogie woogie best to Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” followed by the prom scene from Back to the Future in which Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly stuns the audience and his backing band by playing “Johnny B. Goode” after the band’s guitarist (Berry’s fictional cousin Marvin) injures his hand. Marvin steals away to call his cousin on the phone to clue him in to “that new sound he has been looking for,” and the rest, as they say, is history.

The 1987movie offers an even-handed picture of Berry, who can be every bit as difficult to work with as he is revered as a progenitor of rock music. We see Keith Richards, who served as musical director and MC for the 1986 concert, struggling with Berry’s hard-headed and prickly nature, while in his introduction director Taylor Hackford points out that this is to be expected from the original rock ‘n’ roll rebel. Meanwhile, countless testimonials, including Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and John Lennon attest to Berry’s considerable influence on the future of the medium.

“My vision for the evening became a reality,” says Kay. “After the movie, in which we were given a glimpse into the life and personality of the legendary Chuck Berry, we were able to literally walk down the street and see the man perform in person.” Kay had purchased 160 tickets for Berry’s show that evening at Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room, and all who were in attendance for the film were invited to watch Berry perform.

A Chuck Berry performance is nothing less than an exercise in sheer charisma. It is all about the man himself, and just seeing him onstage, guitar in hand, grinning that mischievous grin, is more than worth the price of admission. He is not a virtuoso guitar player, he doesn’t always even get his own lyrics right, but the audience is invariably swept along by the energetic stage show of a man who has honed his craft and paid his dues for more than 50 years. His songs, his lyrics, his signature guitar licks are legendary, and to see them in person is to witness history in the making.

Bill Kay knew all of this, and used his talents and resources to promote awareness of this valuable resource, a national treasure who still lives in the St. Louis area and continues to perform once a month to a standing-room-only crowd at Blueberry Hill.

The evening, by all accounts, was a success. Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll and happy birthday, Chuck Berry!

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