Campbells Celebrate 25 Years at KY Opry
By Ro Morse
DRAFFENVILLE, KY - This coming weekend, the Kentucky Opry celebrates 25 years of bringing family entertainment to western Kentucky.
Clay and Barbie Campbell know firsthand how much work and fun go into building your own Opry-style family entertainment gathering spot. Drawing, training and keeping talent from the region is hard work - but it's serious fun that the couple has made their business for the past two and half decades.
"Our best advertisement has been word of mouth," according to Campbell. "That's how our reputation has spread through the years."
"People who know the Campbells understand their success has been the result of creative and persistent hard work," said Jamie Futrell, general manager of Bristol Broadcasting, and guest story teller on the Kentucky Opry stage. "Clay is one talented, deep-spirited and energetic man. He's always ready to try a new idea, or give a young singer or musician an opportunity to perform. He recognizes talent when he sees it. He's willing to invest time in teaching them how to be the best they can be. And then he writes books about how he does what he has been successful doing-quite remarkable."
Clay is the front and center man, but he is quick to tell everyone, "Barbie is the one who keeps us all together. She's the one who organizes and makes us look good."
Campbell had a lot of experience in the entertainment world prior to settling down in Draffenville. Campbell played guitar and sang with Lee Mace and the Ozark Opry in 1964, then formed his own band and played on the road until 1980. By 1987, Clay, Barbie and the boys had been to Branson, Missouri many times. They saw the great shows there, and decided to bring that same concept to Kentucky Lake.
The Kentucky Opry had a humble beginning at the junction of Highway 68 and 641 in Draffenville on April 25th, 1988. Crowds were small at first; several of the band members can remember nights when there were 20 or 25 in the audience. One night that first year, the entire show was performed for seven paying customers. There were more people than that on stage.
But word of mouth spread, and by the end of 1988, the little Quonset building was overflowing. Plans were laid to build a bigger facility. In the fall of the next year a new 520-seat theatre was started, and the first show was performed there on New Year's Eve, 1989 to a standing-room-only crowd of over 600 fans.
New restrooms and more seats were added in 2007, increasing seating capacity to 570.
In the midst of training and coaching young talents, the couple also raised three gifted musicians. The Campbell boys - Clayton, Cody and Casey - all grew up in the midst of high expectations from the music industry (their Daddy). Clay taught them and insisted they use the God-given talents each posessed. They performed on the Opry stage often, and the audience loved them.
These days Clayton plays fiddle with the bluegrass group The Gibson Brothers and lives in Nashville with his wife Sarah and dog Peanut. You may catch Clayton at the Opry when he is not working with the Gibson Brothers.
Cody played keyboards and sang with the Opry for ten years until January 2011. He is now pursuing his musical career while playing with the Van Dells and living in Nashville. Cody is engaged to Emily Hoskins and getting married this fall.
Casey Campbell played all his life at the Opry, and still performs whenever he feels the urge. Casey is currently playing in several different groups in the region, playing banjo, guitar, cello and singing.
This weekend, come celebrate 25 years of entertainment at the KY Opry with the Campbells and the Opry cast. The begins on Friday afternoon: See the schedule here and for more details, visit www.kentuckyopry.com or on Facebook:
Friday, May 17
3:30 – 5:30 pm
Open House with meet and greet.
Come say hello and reminisce with Clay & Barbie.
Saturday, May 18
Potluck Dinner (bring a covered dish and join them for supper)
Kentucky Opry Reunion Shows include many guest perfomers.
The Kentucky Opry is located five miles South of Kentucky Dam on Hwy 641 in Draffenville
For more info or to reserve seats, call 270-527-3869 or toll free 888-459-8704 or visit www.kentuckyopry.com or on Facebook