A grassroots effort wants to make sure it is saved from the wrecking ball
The Jim Stafford Theatre, an iconic piece of Branson, MO history, is set to be demolished soon, and a grassroots effort to save its famous marquee is underway. Branson Mayor Milton’s Ambassador to Shows Marshall Howden has teamed up with our very own Matt Bailey, who’s a former Jim Stafford intern, to save the marquee.
A pre-demolition auction is being held on Monday, October 25th and the neon sign is one of many items up for grabs. Howden and Bailey have put together a fundraising site to crowd-source money to bid on the marquee.
“The Jim Stafford marquee is the crown jewel of Branson,” Bailey shares. “Growing up and coming to Branson, seeing that pink and blue sign with the guitar neck was the signal to me that we had arrived. I spent a lot of time in that theater.”
Mayor’s Ambassador Howden says the marquee is an important piece of Ozarks history. “The Jim Stafford Theatre stood in the very heart of Branson with its iconic guitar neck marquee rising above the Ozark Hills for decades. This is an invaluable monument to the Branson spirit that must be preserved!”
One hundred percent of the money raised by the campaign will be used to win the Jim Stafford marquee at auction on Monday, October 25th. A local billboard company has promised to help Howden remove the sign from the building and preserve it until a final resting place can be located. If Bailey and Howden are not successful, all money will be returned to donors.
Thousands of items will be available at the auction, including the front doors, back doors, sound equipment, lighting, seats, curtains, and even Stafford’s personal clothing. The guitar and lift he used during a routine where his broken guitar returned to the stage taped will also be for sale.
Stafford is a comedian/singer/songwriter best known for “Spiders & Snakes” and “My Girl Bill.” His song, “Cow Patty,” was used in the Clint Eastwood film, Any Which Way You Can, the sequel to Any Which Way But Loose.
Stafford was a touring musician throughout the 70’s and 80’s but became best known for his theater performances in Branson in the 90’s. At its peak, Stafford’s show was seen by six million people annually.
The Jim Stafford Theatre was known as one of the most lavish theaters on the Branson Strip that brought in world class talent including Billy Dean, Parrotville (A Jimmy Buffett Tribute), Buck Trent and Todd Oliver. Conway Twitty performed his final concert at the theater before dying early the next morning of an abdominal aortic aneurysm at a nearby Springfield, MO hospital.
The theater is three decades old and is where Stafford remained throughout much of his career. After planning to retire in 2014, he sold his Branson house a year earlier and moved to Florida. He returned to the theater in 2015 where he performed regularly through 2019 under new ownership.
No word on when the demolition will take place or what will replace the property and its adjacent lots on the once popular 76 Strip.