Terry Wayne Sanders: Meet the man behind Branson’s most beloved characters | Entertainment
In Branson, you’ll find a few performers who work for multiple theaters, shows, and attractions, but chances are you won’t find anyone in town with such a busy schedule as Terry Wayne Sanders.
For more than four decades, Sanders has entertained locals and tourists alike with his hilarious comedy, multitude of characters, and unwavering love for the Branson area. On July 20, Sanders was greeted by a crowd of around 50 to talk about his 42-year Branson career at the Branson Centennial Museum for their Tuesday Talks series.
Currently, the comedian has seven different jobs at Branson. In 2021, Sanders is celebrating his 42nd season with Silver Dollar City, his 20th season playing in the Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama, his 15th season playing at Big Cedar Lodge, his sixth season with CJ Newsom’s Classic Country and Comedy in the Americana. Theater and its second season to make Facebook Live for Little Hacienda’s Taco Tuesdays in Hollister.
When not on stage, Sander also hosts a TV show on The Vacation Channel and, along with his wife Dede, Sanders also runs Grandma Beulah’s Airbnb.
Sanders said his love for Branson began in 1965 when his grandfather took the family from Mountain Grove to Branson for a little getaway.
“We were able to go to Silver Dollar City because at the time Silver Dollar City was free. You had to pay $ 1.25 to enter Marvel Cave. That was the time, let me tell you. Now people go to Silver Dollar City and ask, “How much? Then they say, ‘Is there a cave?’ Sanders said. “The very first day there in Silver Dollar City, I said to my family and my grandfather who brought us there, I said, ‘Grandpa, thank you. I said, ‘I want to be here someday.’ He laughed, thinking I was just a silly kid who wanted to play hillbilly and maybe be on a train, but I knew right away that was what I wanted to do.
From Silver Dollar City, the Sanders family traveled to town where they attended two shows, which only reinforced Sanders’ desire to someday become a Branson performer.
“We saved enough money to attend a show that night called The Shepherd of the Hills Outdoor Drama. The same has happened. I was hit, ”Sanders said. “I said, ‘I want to be on this show.’ The following night we were also able to go to the Baldknobbers Jamboree. Oh my God. I said, ‘I want to be on a music show.’ There the seeds were planted and that’s what I wanted to do.
After graduating from Mountain Grove High School in 1977, Sanders began attending Southern Missouri State University in Springfield, where he graduated in 1982. While still in college, Sanders received his degree. first job in Silver Dollar City.
“I got my job in 1980 at Silver Dollar City. I had the best time of my life. I was working on a ride called Rube Dugan’s Diving Bell, it was an underwater ride in case you never heard of that. It was phenomenal, ”said Sanders. “It was my first day job. Of course, I realized it was a trick, but I was like, ‘I’m not going to take a trick. It’s going to be a spectacle. And it was.”
As Sanders has repeatedly told those attending his presentation on Tuesday, he likes to stay busy. So it was no surprise to anyone he knew at the time when he accepted a second job in 1980.
“My second job was a night shift with Mr. Shad Heller and the Corn Crib Theater. He had a production called The Toby Show, ”Sanders said. “I loved working with Shad Heller. He was my hero, he was my mentor and he was my friend. He also appeared in five episodes of “The Beverly Hillbillies” which were filmed here in Branson. “
Fast forward only a few years, and Sanders found himself introducing audiences to one of his oldest characters.
“I’ve been Homer Lee since about 1983. I was with a band called The Wilkinson Brothers. They were the hottest show in Branson, Missouri in 1983. They built a whole new theater and they stayed there for many years, until they lost it, ”Sanders said. “Another band has come to town called The Braschler Music Show. They said, ‘We would like to have a comedian. Our’s will continue his writing career. Would you be our actor? I went with them. I thought I would try it for a few years. I was with the Braschlers for 17 years and loved them so much.
Another character who has played a major role in Sanders’ life and career has been his tribute to late television personality and actress Joan Rivers.
“Joan Rivers has been a reference for me for many years. I’ve always been a fan of his comedy and his style, ”said Sanders. “She was brash and insulted like a sailor, but there was something that said, ‘This woman is amazing because she understands. She was so smart. She was the smartest person I have ever known.
In 1984, Sanders stated that a Pizza Hut had been built next to the Wilkinson Brothers Theater. On opening day he walked in and it was there that he was introduced to the love of his life.
“We all welcomed this little blonde personality as well. Her name was Deanna Zane Edwards, also known as Dede. I fell in love with this girl from the start. She was just something special, ”Sanders said. “Guess what. Six nights a week I had Pizza Hut.
After four years of dating, the two tied the knot in 1988. The following fall, Sanders received his next big opportunity.
“In the fall of 1989, show producer and director Hee Haw came to Branson looking for new blood, so they went to all of the shows,” Sanders said. “He came to Braschler’s Music Show. They saw me and we talked after the show. ‘Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you too. ‘ Nothing big. Alright fine. The next day I get a call from my boss Jim in Silver Dollar City. “Hey Terry, those Hee Haw guys are here to see you. I said, ‘No, no, no. They saw me last night. He said no. They want to see you back here in action. They saw you on stage and they want to see you working with people.
After his street performances at the SDC that day, he returned to the Braschler Theater where Janice Braschler handed him a business card with a phone number and instructions for calling “those guys from Hee Haw,” which he did. did right away.
“I called them and they said, ‘Terry, if you don’t mind in about two weeks, we’ll take you to Nashville, Tennessee. We want you to film 13 episodes of Hee Haw, ”Sanders said. “I said, ‘M’mmm okay! I got there and it was kind of like being in Branson and working at Silver Dollar, because everyone was a friend. Lulu Roman was there. Ray Clark was there. Grandpa Jones too. It was just amazing.
In December 1990, Sanders’ first child, Austin, was born. Soon after, their second son, Evan, followed. In January 2020, Austin was killed in a vehicle crash in Ozark. Sanders also explained to those in attendance the impact of his son’s death on him, his family and the community.
“Despite the sadness, Austin still inspires us. He lived great, he had a great life,” Sanders said. “We had wanted him with us for a long, long time, but the Lord had a better idea and we just have to. say, “Lord, I trust you. This is what you have to do. This is called blind faith.”
In addition to those already mentioned, Sanders has also worked with Pierce Arrow, The Grand Jubilee, The Branson Brothers Show, and Shoji Tabuchi. Additionally, Sanders has brought his Barney Fife character to life on several occasions over the years to support the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
To learn more about Sanders or to see where and when you can find him in concert, visit homerlee.com.