Bob Leftridge—devoted husband, loving father, beloved family member, cherished friend to a great many, and legendary entertainer—died peacefully on September 21, 2023. For decades, Bob was a popular and admired performer in Branson, celebrated as a singularly talented man of music and comedy.
Bob was born January 19, 1942 and raised in Lentner, Missouri, by his parents Dolph and Lillian Leftridge alongside his sister, Joyce. Educated in a one-room schoolhouse, young Bobby led the life of a spirited country boy, developing a love of the outdoors and demonstrating a remarkable musical talent. After acquiring his first guitar from an uncle, Bobby was soon playing and singing for audiences, mimicking his Grand Ole Opry heroes and winning local talent shows. Bobby and childhood friend Bill Atterberry formed the comedy duo Luther and Goofer, becoming a local hit and appearing on the Quincy, Illinois, television show Possum Holler Opry.
In the early ‘60s, Bob and Bill took their comedy act to Lee Mace’s Ozark Opry, the popular Lake of the Ozarks variety show where Bob would study the comedy and emcee skills that would later become a lifelong career. In 1964, at Austin Wood’s Ozark Nashville Opry, Bob impressed visiting Nashville artists with his honeyed lead vocals and guitar skills, including Jerry Rivers, the famed fiddle player for Hank Wi lliams, who recruited Bob to move to Nashville and join the prominent country band the Homesteaders.
In Nashville with the Homesteaders, Bob became a Grand Ole Opry mainstay, worked alongside the era’s biggest country-music stars, traveled the world with the band, performed at Carnegie Hall, sang lead vocals on the 1966 hit single “Show Me the Way to the Circus,” and released the classic 1967 album, A New Frontier. A terrific songwriter, Bob penned half of the album’s songs and also wrote hits for other Nashville greats like Lester Flatt and Johnny Paycheck. Bob’s two sons, Shane and Steve, were born during his time in Nashville.
In the early ‘70s, Bob returned to Missouri, settling in southwest Missouri where he became frontman for the Ozarks Country Jubilee in Springfield and later Branson, starting the career that would make him a legend. As the longtime emcee of the Presleys’ Country Jubilee and later the Baldknobbers Jamboree, Bob became known as the consummate emcee, country singer, impressionist, flat top guitar picker, bass vocalist, and comedy straight man. In a career that spanned eight decades, Bob played tens of thousands of shows and entertained many millions of people.
Despite his life as a local celebrity, Bob loved life’s simpler things—card games, baseball (and baseball caps), golf, the outdoors, kids, jokes, naps, bacon foldovers, candy, Coca-cola, and his life at home with Kay, the love of his life for over forty years. Bob loved spending time with his boys and traveling back home to Shelby County in north Missouri to be with his parents and sister and her family, never missing a country Christmas back home.
Perhaps Bob will be most remembered for his extraordinary sense of humor. After all, making people laugh was his favorite part of show business, and, as anyone who knew him can attest, the jokes never stopped when the shows did. Bob was a world-class collector and dispenser of jokes, one-liners, and impromptu humor, always delivered with impeccable timing and charm. With a life dedicated to spreading joy and wholesome amusement, Bob Leftridge leaves behind an incredible legacy of love and laughter.
Bob is survived by his wife Kay; his son Shane, daughter-in-law Colleen, and grandchildren Jack and Evaline; his son Steve and grandchildren Henry and Logan; his sister Joyce Killen, brother-in-law Tony, and nephews Mike Killen and Keith Killen; and countless other beloved great-nephews, great-nieces, beloved family and dear friends.
A visitation will be held for Bob Leftridge at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 30, 2023 at First Baptist Ozark with a memorial service to follow at 11:00 a.m. under direction of Adams Funeral Home, Ozark, with Dr. Phillip Burden and Pastor Chris Thixton officiating.