Music always has been central to Helen Russell's life.
Growing up in Topeka, Kansas, her family both played and attended musical attractions. She sang in church from a young age and by age 16, Russell was playing dates with her own dance band.
Her family traveled to the Lake of the Ozarks area every year for vacation, where they would attend the Lee Mace's Ozark Opry show.
When she turned 18, Russell was hired for what would be a 19-season run at the lake area show. She was no stranger to that stage by that time, having performed in its talent shows throughout her high school years.
"He like to keep young, fresh talent," Russell said. "I'm grateful for that opportunity."
The Mace Show ran 53 years at the lake and on television, providing a career start for many young talents like Russell.
"We saw a lot of really good musicians come and go," she said.
She brought an unusual twist to female performers at the time on Mace's show, as Russell was an instrumentalist, as well as a vocalist. Her main instruments were piano and banjo, but she could pick up a fiddle, bass or guitar, too, to fill in on rhythm.
"Music was always my interest; it's what I love to do," Russell said. "I love to entertain people."
In addition to her musical talents, Russell provides comedy and impersonations into her act today, which she does with husband, Elvis.
"I'm blessed my husband and I can do this together," she said.
They will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday on the Finke Theatre stage for the first time.
The couple — married 38 years — have been performing together for 15 years. He was not a musician, when they met after one of her Ozark Opry shows as he was visiting the lake from Oklahoma.
The pair travel with keyboard, banjoy, bass, props and enthusiasm for audience involvement to more than 150 dates a year in Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. They also have four CDs for sale, including "By Request," released two months ago on Backwoods Recording.
Their covers range from classic country and bluegrass to classic rock and Gospel.
Since they have a following in Mid-Missouri, Russell said they like to change up their show routines for those who see them at different venues. They have all-Gospel shows, dance and dinner shows, and less formal sets for fairs and festivals.
The Finke show will be a more traditional performance, Russell said.
"I love the theaters, the inside," she said. "We're really looking forward to it."
For more information, visit helenrussell.net.
Helen Russell will perform: