February 1, 2011
Last week, the National Museum of American History added to its permanent collection artifacts donated by the Baldknobbers, a Branson, Missouri-based variety show, which was honored for its contributions to American entertainment and culture.
The Baldknobbers, named after an 1800s vigilante group in the Ozarks, began in 1959, when four brothers, Bill, Jim, Lyle and Bob Mabe, began entertaining visitors on the Taneycomo lakefront, using simple instruments like: washtub bass, banjo, Dobro guitar, washboard and a mule’s jawbone to provide rhythm. Their down-home, family style performances were a hit and became known as “The Baldknobbers Jamboree,” Branson’s first county music-and-comedy show.
From humble beginnings, the Baldknobbers grew in popularity and size, eventually converting an old skating rink into Branson’s first live-entertainment theater. Today, the group, which consists of 16 musicians, vocalists and comedians— including second and third generation Mabes— performs in the 1500-seat Baldknobbers Jamboree Theatre.
Among the items donated to the museum were: Jim “Droopy Drawers” Mabe’s stage costume, hat, washboard and glove; Lyle “George Aggernite” Mabe’s costume and washtub bass and Bill Mabe’s red-and-gold fringe stage shirt and boots. “This donation tells an interesting story about a homegrown genre in American entertainment,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. And one that the Mabe family continues to add to.
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