The History of The Gunfighters and Lagniappe Productions

Six Flags Over Texas

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In the summer of 1975 three young, would-be actors, Michael Goggans, Benton Jennings, and Chris Whatley met while performing gunfight shows together at Six Flags Over Texas.

In 1978, Whatley, believing there was a viable market for professional comedy gunfight shows outside of amusement parks, contacted Jennings and Goggans. Together, the three formed a partnership known as "The Gunfighters" and began to actively promote themselves for festivals, corporations, and special events throughout north Texas.

The Gunfighters have been entertaining audiences since 1978. But how did The Gunfighters evolve into the successful company that is now called Lagniappe Productions? Well, it all started over thirty years ago…

Left to Right:
Chris Whatley, Michael Goggans, Benton Jennings
The Gunfighters at Six Flags Over Texas

Nationwide Tours

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Within two years of forming their company, The Gunfighters were booked in New York City at Madison Square Garden alongside The Charlie Daniels Band, Tony Randal, and a host of well known celebrities. They performed at what was then a nationally recognized New York City nightspot, "The City Limits." They shared the stage as an opening act with The Dixie Chicks, Steve Warner, Bobby Bear, and Johnny Paycheck to name a few. With their own unique brand of western humor, they became a popular touring act performing from coast to coast.

In 1981 they filmed an educational film for seventh grade chemistry classes which won national acclaim and was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. and is still in use to this day. In 1983, The Gunfighters were thrilled to work with many of the great western stars from the 1960’s as they were cast in The All American Cowboy performing alongside well known television greats Clint Walker, Ken Curtis, Ben Johnson, Chuck Conners, Johnny Crawford, Wilford Brimley, Jocko Mahoney, James Dury, Doug McClure and Buck Taylor.

From 1983 through the 1990’s, The Gunfighters continued their reign as the premier wild west comedy gunfight company delighting audiences all across Texas and the nation. As proof of their amazing ability to provide the finest in comedy western gunfight shows, The Gunfighters won numerous performance competitions. This included winning the Texas Old West Show Championship, the premier competition of its kind in Texas, for four years straight – 1996, 1997, 1998, and 1999.

Transition

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By the fall of 1999, having performed together as a professional acting company for over 20 years, changes were afoot and life was pulling each member of the group in a different direction. The talented trio that had entertained hundreds of thousands across the country since their inception in 1978 decided the future of The Gunfighters was best left solely in the hands of Whatley. It was a bittersweet farewell for a posse that had been together for so long, but the agreement was mutual and the decision made.

In 2001, Chris Whatley joined forces with Phyllis Addison who came with her own acting/directing credentials and a passion for performing. Determined to advance the scope of entertainment provided by The Gunfighters, together they developed a wider range Old West entertainment options in addition to the signature comedy gunfight shows. In 2000, Saloon Girls and Cowboy Musicians were added to the lineup. In 2003 they introduced Old West Comedy Murder Mysteries,

By the fall of 1999, having performed together as a professional acting company for over 20 years, changes were afoot and life was pulling each member of the group in a different direction. The talented trio that had entertained hundreds of thousands across the country since their inception in 1978 decided the future of The Gunfighters was best left solely in the hands of Whatley. It was a bittersweet farewell for a posse that had been together for so long, but the agreement was mutual and the decision made.

In 2001, Chris Whatley joined forces with Phyllis Addison who came with her own acting/directing credentials and a passion for performing. Determined to advance the scope of entertainment provided by The Gunfighters, together they developed a wider range Old West entertainment options in addition to the signature comedy gunfight shows. In 2000, Saloon Girls and Cowboy Musicians were added to the lineup. In 2003 they introduced Old West Comedy Murder Mysteries,

Lagniappe

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The rapid expansion of entertainment services necessitated a change in the company name to something that represented more than just comedy gunfight shows. Thus, Lagniappe Productions was born. "Lagniappe" is a southern word of Cajun origin that means "an unexpected gift" or "a little something extra." The name was perfect as it fit the company’s mission statement of "exceeding expectations with the highest level of integrity and professionalism."

Since the original three-person partnership of Whatley, Jennings, and Goggans, Lagniappe has become a company with a roster of over 80 talented performers that produces some 1,300 shows annually. In 2003, Lagniappe introduced their Lone Star Murder Mysteries. An instant hit, these interactive Old West comedy who-done-its have been seen by over 101,000 people thus far. In 2005, The Gunfighters returned to their amusement park roots when Lagniappe Productions secured the contract to provide gunfight shows at Six Flags AstroWorld in Houston. In 2006, the company came full circle when Lagniappe (The Gunfighters) returned to Six Flags Over Texas. Thirty years after performing at the park, Whatley was training a crew of young, would-be actors to perform on the very stage where it all started.

As the momentum of Lagniappe increased, the company moved toward innovation when they produced their very first Pirate stunt fight show for Sea World San Antonio in 2009. It was through this endeavor that Lagniappe began to offer their entertainment services in the Austin and San Antonio areas. Even though Lagniappe Productions’ arms were now far reaching, the company didn’t forget the success that home audiences were providing them. In 2011 Lagniappe Productions’ critically acclaimed, award winning Lone Star Murder Mysteries attained a new home in Grapevine, Texas. The Texas Star Dinner Theater opened to rave reviews and weekly sold out audiences. Read our reviews here!

So there you have it. The history, more or less, of how we got to where we are now.