By Dave Woods
Digital market development manager
BRANSON, Mo. —
Max and Janine Bacon and their family have performed on Sundays for more than 23 years.
“Every Sunday on stage is like a family reunion,” Max said. “It’s been a good opportunity to get the family together each week. They are all busy with the grandkids and their sports, but we know we are going to see each other once a week.”
Max and Janine, who anchor the Bacon family’s shows, perform weekly at Grand Country Music Hall with their three sons and two daughters. They perform old-time gospel music and traditional Ozarks country music classics on stage.
On Sundays at 2 p.m., the family focuses attention on their “Gospel Jubilee,” a tribute to hymn-based evangelical gospel music. At 7 p.m., the family turns their attention to country classics during “Ozarks Mountain Jubilee,” focusing on the genre’s best-known hits and artists, old and new.
During the two decades of their family’s shows, it’s never been a full-time gig. The family’s entertainment engagements have been a sideline.
“It’s not a full-time income, and we are not under the gun to maximize profits,” said Max, a former circuit judge and congressional candidate. “It stays fresh because of that. Sometimes when you do the same thing day in and day out, you lose the enthusiasm.”
Max is a retired Greene County circuit judge who once lost a bid to become the representative for the 7th Congressional District.
“I have a great fondness for the people of Joplin,” he said, laughing. “I ran for U.S. Congress in 1988 and lost to Mel Hancock. The Joplin Globe was the only newspaper in Southwest Missouri that endorsed me.”
Janine is a former Springfield school teacher and son, Doug, the couple’s oldest, is a lawyer. The younger male siblings, Brad and Greg, are school teachers.
“It’s just a privilege to be with my children each week,” Janine said. “People come through and say, ‘You have done such a good job with your kids.’ I didn’t do anything. The Lord did that for me. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s just a fun to spread the word.”
The family comes by their musical talents naturally. Janine’s cousin played mandolin on “The Andy Griffith Show” with the Darlings half a century ago. He was a young musician in Kansas City and played the kind of music Janine and Max loved.
“My family always loved that kind of country,” she said. “When my family had the opportunity to do a country show, we loved to do it.”
Janine’s parents were both musical, Max said. Most of Max’s family, he admits -- not so much.
“Janine’s mother could always pick up a tune or play a new instrument by ear,” Max said. “My dad was tone deaf, but my mom could sing.”
The Bacon family’s entertainment philosophy is simple: They like audiences to leave feeling better than when they arrived.
“We don’t want them to come in feeling sad or blue and go away feeling the same way,” Max said. “We want then to have an uplifting experience. Hopefully they will.”
Janine said that some audience members feel something more than the thrill of a concert.
“Some people feel like they have been to church and had a religious experience,” Janine said. “That’s great. It is really entertainment, but gospel entertainment.”
“We hope they get the gospel out of it and witnessed it,” Max added. “The primary idea is entertainment. We want them to go away happy and entertained.”
Max called performing on stage a privilege -- one that his family is blessed to get to do each week, especially when the audience appreciates the old gospel songs they perform. Janine said the era of music resonates with audiences.
“We’re not so much into the contemporary gospel in the churches now,” she added. “I like the songs that came out of the old gospel hymnals. The songs that you grew up with. That means more to me. We get people who tell us the same things, (that they) don’t get to hear them anymore.”