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Family band The Duttons still going strong

WANT TO GO?

Charleston Community Music presents The Duttons

WHERE: Municipal Auditorium

WHEN: 3 p.m. April 14

TICKETS: Adults $35, students $10, youth under 18 $5

INFO: 304-744-1400

 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Not everybody gets into music because they're looking for fame and fortune. The Duttons, a Branson, Mo., family variety act, got into music because their parents made them.

The band's mom, company CEO and bass player Sheila Dutton, said, "We started our children out on music because we wanted to teach them discipline. We didn't mean to be professional musicians."

It just kind of worked out that way. The seven- to nine-member ensemble has toured the United States dozens of times, played in every state and through much of Canada. They've also toured Europe four times and placed in the top 10 on "America's Got Talent" in 2007.

The Duttons perform at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Municipal Auditorium.

After 20 years, the proud matriarch of this unlikely musical family still sounds a little baffled by it all.

Sheila Dutton said, "If you'd have asked me in high school what I had the least ability in, I'd have told you music."

Dutton hadn't intended to get into music either. The only reason her kids even picked up instruments was because friends told how their kids were learning violin. It sounded like a good idea to the Duttons.

"They became quite proficient at it," she said.

At ages 9 and 10, Timothy and Jonathan Dutton auditioned to play solos for the local symphony. They were featured in a performance.

A week later, a musician in the audience tracked down the Duttons. He told Dutton that he used to be a classical violinist, but he wanted to teach their kids some bluegrass.

Dutton laughed, then asked, "What's bluegrass?"

He explained and the Duttons agreed to let him tutor their children.

"He didn't ask for any money."

A week later, he brought a banjo and a mandolin and the kids began to play them, as well as the violins. Dutton said that somewhere during those weeks they discovered their eldest daughter, Amy, had perfect pitch.

Everything happened pretty fast after that.

"People started asking them to play for them," Sheila Dutton said.

A vague band began to form around the kids, but it was incomplete.

"They decided that, if they were going to have a real band, they needed a guitar player," she said. "My husband [Dean] played guitar when he was a teenager. So they talked him into getting out his guitar and playing with them."

Then they decided they needed someone to play bass.

"I said no way," she laughed, but she did it anyway.

All together, they played shows here and there as a hobby, and then they got booked to play a couple of shows in Europe. While in France, they were featured on a television show and later on a 13-country television network while in Italy.

"The TV station in Rome wanted a video from us," she said. "We told them we didn't have one. We were just a family out having fun."

They made a small music video that took off, and suddenly their little tour was a very big tour.

"We thought we'd just take a semester off and have a great time with the family," Dutton recalled.

But the bookings didn't stop and a single semester off turned into 10 years of touring. They still tour, although after 20 years, with the kids all grown up and with kids of their own, they've cut back on the number of dates on the road.

"We still love to travel," she said, "but it's hard to do that with 23 grandkids."

Instead, The Duttons divide most of the year between their theater and hotel in Branson and their theater in Phoenix..

Their children help run the business.

"They've all kind of fallen into areas that interested them," she said, then laughed. It was a good thing.

"My husband and I hope to retire one of these days."

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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