Rockabilly U.S. Music Shows will bring a piece of the past to west Pasco with a series of seven song and dance shows starting Saturday and going through Oct. 25.
"Every show that we do is different — different songs, different skits," said Doyle Armstrong, 60, the founder and backer of the all-volunteer, Branson-style show.
The first two shows, 50s and 60s Oldies, have the same name but mostly different songs and skits, Armstrong said.
"We'll focus on certain groups at each show — the Bee Gees or the Beatles, for example," Armstrong said. Subsequent shows will feature Top 40 hits, older country songs and special themes. Every show, however, ends with a 45-minute tribute to Elvis done by Armstrong himself and closes with a salute to veterans of the U.S. armed services.
"That's kind of a fixture, that dedication to vets," he said.
The 14-piece band performs on a pyramid-shaped set on the stage, with 14 singer-dancers, several singers, mascots, the Rockabilly Man, clowns and Kid Kritters in animal costumes doing the show in front of the musicians.
"We have $500,000 worth of costumes and $1-million in equipment and sets," Armstrong said. In all, there are 132 people involved in staging the shows, building sets, transporting equipment in six big cargo trucks and trailers and operating a self-contained sound and light display," he said.
"We're the largest traveling oldies show in the world," he said. Since 2005, they've performed from Lecanto to Lakeland, Ocala, Wesley Chapel, Ormond Beach and points in between. The performers come from all over Central Florida, many of them Armstrong family members or longtime friends of the family.
"Everybody works full time elsewhere and volunteers for this," Armstrong said.
Anderson has booked shows at the Eleanor Dempsey Performing Arts Center at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School for Saturday; Aug. 9, 23 and 30; Sept. 20; and Oct. 11 and 25, according to the Rockabilly Web site. He'll book shows after that depending on audience response, he said.
"That's a fantastic auditorium at Bishop McLaughlin," he said. "I didn't know it existed, didn't know where it was hiding all this time." The sharply raked front half and stadium seating in the back half of the auditorium gives every audience member a good view of the show.
Armstrong used his own savings from a lifetime of teaching music to bankroll the entertainment enterprise. He said he had three goals: "To keep people from forgetting the great songs of the '50s and '60s; to show our veterans we really appreciate what they have done to protect us; and to provide family entertainment."
Besides, a traveling troupe was a dream of his missionary parents, he said.
"Thousands have told me, 'You take me back to my youth,' " Armstrong said. "One 87-year-old told me, 'I was the prom princess again.' "
An elderly man with Alzheimer's who hadn't spoken for more than two years started talking as he watched the show. "It triggered something in his mind," Armstrong said.
The song selections range from Elvis' American Trilogy to the Righteous Brothers' You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling and many well-known songs in between.
"My first (performing) opportunity was in 1965 with Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, doing Wooly Bully," Armstrong said. "I toured with them, doing co-shows with the Saharas, the west coast 'King of the Bands.' "