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 ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.