Grapevine, Texas March 5, 2017
by Nelson Thibodeaux, Editor LNO
March 1, 2017 Branson, Missouri
The last original founder of what was the famous Grapevine Opry, Chisai Childs has died. Chisai passed away suddenly on Wednesday March 1, 2017 at her home in Branson, Missouri, where, after selling the Grapevine Opry in 1981, Chisai purchased the Starlite Theater in Branson
Johnny High, the co-founder of the Grapevine Opry started the famous Johnnie High’s Country Revue in Arlington after the split up of the two entertainers in the late 1970s. Johnnie High, a north Texas country music showman who gave such performers as LeAnn Rimes and Boxcar Willie their early exposure, also died on a Wednesday. March 10, 2010. He was 80.
Mr. High’s daughter, Luanne Dorman, said her father had heart disease. The impresario of “Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue’’ began his Saturday show in 1974 after converting an old movie theater in Grapevine, a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb, into the Grapevine Opry. There he gave Boxcar Willie and Rimes, then a child, some of their first stage experience.
In recent years Childs worked with The Baldknobbers Theatre and served as a producer and host of the annual Branson Terry Music Awards.
In 1974, High began his country music show, when he and dance teacher Chisai Childs of Fort Worth, bought and renovated Grapevine’s Palace Theatre. In 1979, Childs moved to Branson, Missouri, when High opened his Saturday night show at Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. It stayed there for almost 13 years before moving to Haltom City’s Shannon Auditorium.
In 1995, High bought an old movie theater in Arlington, Texas and created the Arlington Music Hall.
Concerning the original team at the Grapevine Opry, Chisai said,”The people don’t come to hear us gab about ourselves or anything else. They come to be entertained, and we try to keep the entertainment center stage.” Costumes to be used in the local show are custom made by Nudie of Hollywood, who also makes clothing for Roy Rogers and did for Elvis. The costumes, some of which cost as much as $10,000, often take half a year to make and involve three or four individual fittings. Chisai’s five “Hee – Haw” appearances, featured her talents in the comedy area. In addition to the two Grapevine Opry shows every Saturday night, Chisai and Johnnie High averaged at least one big road show every week.
Chisai and High emphasized that the show is completely family oriented, to the point that “you can bring your husband, your kids, your mother, and your preacher and everyone will have a good time.” As Miss Talent Teen U.S.A., Chisai toured seven countries with a U.S.O. show while still a teenager, performing with such notables as Bob Hope. Now one of the two main stars of the Grapevine Opry and about to begin taping a series of appearances on the syndicated comedy show “Hee – Haw” Chisai says the Opry venture is responsible for bringing her back to a career she thought she had left “After the U.S.O. tour and some other performances,” she said in a interview in 1974, “I stopped in show business because I didn’t want to go into bars to perform. But those were the only places where there was work. Then I got involved with the Grapevine Opry, which is an alternative to that bar scene.”
Together, aided by Chisai’s aunt, Mrs. R.L Slaughter, the two singers put together what they called “a first class, professional family show.” Chisai drew on a repertoire of more than 50 different acts in putting together each performance. With a background in comedy, she interspersed her singing with comedy bits during the show. “I imitate Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn and several other singers as a part of the act,” she said. “In fact I am the only woman singer I know of who does an Elvis imitation. But I don’t know right now what will happen with that now that Elvis has died.” One imitation that Chisai says is especially popular now is her impression of Miss Lillian Carter, mother of President Jimmy Carter. Chisai currently had four records in release”
Before the split at the Grapevine Opry takes a look back at the start of the Grapevine Opry and two talented entertainers in Grapevine, Texas
High apologized to the audience who had weathered Humperdinck’s performance. “We didn’t want any of those jokes. We didn’t want him to bring women up on stage and make love to them in front of everyone. We didn’t want him to sing for an hour-and-a-half before we could finish making our awards. LNO provided an article on the “Humperdinck Episode>”
The Grapevine Opry in 1984
In a final farewell to the Grapevine Opry, I wrote my last column in 2011 on the Grapevine Opry.
A few photos from our time as the owner of the Grapevine Opry.