Ozarks Life: Performing with a purpose at Silver Dollar City

Brian Arnold continues performing despite two, major life changing events.
Brian Arnold continues performing despite two, major life changing events.
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 5:23 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

KIMBERLING CITY, Mo. (KY3) - Silver Dollar City opens its season on Saturday.

Many, talented performers call the theme park home every summer. That includes Kimberling City’s, Brian Arnold.

“You hope that with your life you do something that makes a difference in people’s lives,” Brian said.

Brian’s life was shaped 116 miles away in West Plains. He wanted to be like his dad, basketball coach Bob Arnold.

“At the age of six,” Brian recalled, “I slipped under a lawnmower, it was just kind of a freak accident. And my left leg was cut off below the knee. (I was) made fun up for having this artificial leg. So (I) grew up with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, you know, you don’t feel like you fit in.”

Brian’s mother, Shirley, had an idea. She bought a used piano for $25. It was a priceless gift for her son. He learned, practiced, and received a music scholarship to SMS (now Missouri State University) but also received a purpose in life. Brian would become a performer.

Brian got his start in Branson working on the strip. No, not at a theater, but at the Walmart.

“In the toy section,” Brian laughed, “which is the worst place in the world to work. You know, because your kids are constantly playing with the toys. And my job was to stock shelves.”

One day, Gary Wilkinson of the Wilkinson Brothers heard Brian could play the piano. He walked into Walmart and offered Brian a job.

“I looked at those shelves and everything,” Brian said, and lit up, “absolutely!”

He started playing piano at the old Roy Clark Celebrity Theater. That led to a full-time job at Silver Dollar City. At first he was playing the piano in a show but later he was a singer with the quartet named Chosen Few.

They became so popular, the group would tour the region in the park’s offseason. On January 16, 1994, Brian was on his way to a jig in Marshfield.

“And my wife said, ‘don’t go,’ and I’m like, ‘I’ll be alright, there’s no problem,’” Brian said.

On I-44 near Strafford, Brian hit a patch of black ice, slid onto westbound lanes and into the path of a semi.

“I got tangled up in the seatbelt,” Brian said. “The seatbelt saved my life, but it’s what caused all the damage because I found myself hanging by my neck out the door.”

Many didn’t expect Brian to survive the night. He suffered numerous injuries including a broken neck and severed the nerves running from his spinal cord to his left shoulder, arm, and hand.

“The whole time I’m lying there, I realized, this is a big deal because I can’t move my arm,” Brian said. “All the thoughts running through your head; I’m a piano player. I make my living as a piano player.”

But the man without movement in his left arm leaned on lessons from a boy without a left leg.

“Even with the mess that I found myself in, God has this unique ability of taking a mess and turning it into a message,” Brian smiled, “which is basically what He did with me.”

Following surgeries, while fighting depression, Brian got exactly what he needed - an emotional phone call.

“Silver Dollar City said, ‘come on back to work,’” Brian said. “Now, you got to understand that the time I’m going to Halo Brace; I look like an attraction.”

Then Brian realized, if he could sing with a paralyzed vocal cord from the accident, why not play piano with the one good hand he still had?

And Brian was back to doing what he loved. Performing in front of audiences at Silver Dollar City and touring in the park’s off-season. Now, he speaks to crowds about both of his life-changing events. And his message: life is not easy so you need a purpose.

“I have every reason to sit at home and give up and ‘oh, woe is me,’” Brian said. “But I just get up every day and I try to realize that I’ve got a purpose. And everybody has a purpose.”

Brian says if you’re going through something tough in your life, his is not too different. Just because he’s performing again after his injuries doesn’t mean he still has his struggles. He thanks his wife who helps him get dressed and handles a majority of the chores around their home.

Brian and Spoken Four open their season at Silver Dollar City on May 30 at the Boatworks Theater.

Brian has written a book about his life. If you’d live to purchase From Victim to Victory, click here to view it on Amazon.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com