Calvin Gilmore grew up in the Ozarks of southern Missouri. The son of a farmer, on a third-generation farm, he participated in a vanishing Norman Rockwell lifestyle which centered on the one-room community schoolhouse, the country church that his family had helped to found, and the community of farmers that banded together on threshing days.
By the time he was twenty, he had taken his guitar to Kansas City, where he worked in the Hallmark mailroom by day and sang in restaurants and bars in the evenings. When a Nashville label encouraged him to execute a quality demo tape, Calvin needed some capital. He decided to try his hand at real estate, moving to the Lake of the Ozarks, a resort area not too far from where he grew up. His life took an unexpected detour when he met with almost immediate success: within a year he was able to buy the real estate company for which he worked. Just a week after closing the deal, Calvin married Janis Walker. A few years (and two children) down the road, Calvin realized that he wasn’t doing what he had always meant to do. A devoted family man, he wouldn’t consider a life on the road. He came up with the idea of creating a musical variety show so that he could perform and remain in one place: home. It took him three years, but by 1986 he had selected Myrtle Beach as a likely market, found a theater (he would renovate a defunct nightclub), and worked out the financing (he would risk everything); he and Janis moved with their young children to Surfside Beach in March 1986.
The success of The Carolina Opry is the stuff of legend. Over the years, Calvin Gilmore and his casts have entertained millions of Myrtle Beach visitors. In 2015, the show celebrated its 30th anniversary, a milestone by any standard. His exceptionally high standards for talent and production quality have been recognized by the industry and the public. The Carolina Opry is the only show to have won the coveted Governor’s Cup (South Carolina’s highest tourism award), the only show to have been voted the state’s Most Outstanding Attraction, and the only show to be voted #1 every year. Gilmore has spawned the growth of a new entertainment industry on the Grand Strand of South Carolina, and under his leadership The Carolina Opry has blossomed into an institution. It has garnered coverage from NBC Nightly News, USA Today, CNN, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, The New York Times, and a host of others.
Thirty years later, Calvin is still on the forefront of the ever-changing entertainment industry. In 2003 he began appearing on the stage of the world famous Grand Ole Opry, where he never misses an opportunity to invite their loyal nationwide radio audience to visit Myrtle Beach. In 2005, he introduced Good Vibrations and, more recently, the newest production in that series, Time Warp, featuring the iconic sights and sounds of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. In 2014 Gilmore debuted Thunder and Light, a live dance, laser and magic show starring the renowned All That! Clogging Group. In 2015 Gilmore introduced the Myrtle Beach Performing Arts Series bringing celebrity guest artists encompassing a number of genres, including music, comedy and authors. In 2017, Gilmore expanded the magic portion of Thunder and Light into a full feature show starring The Wagsters, Pure Magic.
As we approach the landmark of the 35th anniversary, Calvin reflects on the events of those years: the pursuit of excellence, the creativity, the struggles, and the successes. “I have had the great blessing of being able to do what I love and make a living at it. My heartfelt thanks to all of those who have enjoyed the show down through the years and sent their customers and guests. May we all enjoy many more together.”