Magicians meet in Clanton to hone craft

Published 10:41 am Monday, October 10, 2016

Joe Harrison at Magic Valley Ranch on Saturday, Oct. 8.(Photo by Steven Calhoun)

Joe Harrison at Magic Valley Ranch on Saturday, Oct. 8. (Photo by Steven Calhoun)


Magic Valley Ranch hosted a conference for magicians and other performers Saturday in Clanton.

Magic Valley is operated on Bob Sanders’s property. Every year for the past seven years, he has invited magicians to come and share a weekend honing their craft and socializing.

“It’s like a family reunion of entertainers,” said Sanders. “There’s nothing competitive. It’s more of a testing grounds to get others’ ideas.”

Around noon on Saturday, men and women dressed in a variety of outfits were eating in a cozy wooden shack. A painting of a starry sky stretched the walls of the dining area, and a large cutout of a unicorn stood at its center.

Jack Jones was dressed in a colorful jacket and had on a bright, flowery hat. Jones is a ventriloquist and magician who said he started ventriloquism on a dare from his mother.

“It’s great to be around guys who love magic. We’re here for one thing, and it’s to enjoy magic, talk about magic and learn magic,” said Jones.

He casually pulled a coin from his pocket and made it disappear. Then, he made it reappear as a different coin entirely.

That was only the first of many surprises at Magic Valley.

Joe Harrison, a semi-retired magician with 57 years of experience doing magic, was scheduled to perform Saturday evening.

“I do basically the classics of magic. I first got on stage when I was twelve,” said Harrison.

Harrison has performed for a few big names during his career.

“I was with Elvis for three years when I was 16, 17 and 18 in Memphis,” said Harrison. He said he met Elvis Presley through a job installing mirrors. Presley found out he did magic and invited him to perform.

“They used to have parties – no kids, all adults – and we had them in the swimming pool area. I was learning hypnosis at the time … and he was one of my guinea pigs doing hypnosis. We have about a minute of that on 8mm, no sound film,” said Harrison.

As he recounted his experience with Elvis, the crowd was called indoors to see Matt Adams perform parlor magic.

Adams is from Huntsville, Alabama and his show was called “Magic of the Titanic.” He plans to use the set as an audition at Magic Castle in Los Angeles.

“Sometimes as a professional you have to do routines that only work with an audience, and there’s no way to test that without having an audience,” said Adams.

His show awed the audience, and he asked everyone to speak with him if they thought they knew how he did something, or if they thought a particular part of the show needed work. He has come to Magic Valley for four years now, and values the friendly atmosphere that allows him to get feedback and have fun.

Sanders was proud to have performers from all over the country at Magic Valley, and his hope was that everyone learned something and enjoyed their time at what he called a “family reunion of performers.”