- Welk musicians
still uncorking champagne music
By Gina Joseph, Macomb Daily Staff Writer March 08, 2002
Say what you want about "The Lawrence Welk Show," but
after 50 years it's still on the air and one of Public Television's
top-rated weekly series.
"The show's success is a testimony to Lawrence Welk and
his desire to create something beautiful for the American public,"
said singer Ralna English, an original cast member.
- English and
several other stars from the show will perform with the Lawrence
Welk orchestra in "The 'Live' Lawrence Welk Show" Saturday
at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Clinton Township.
is fun," English said, "but I love the live performance
- English tours
across the country, appearing at civic centers, state fairs,
senior expos and in showrooms such as the Taj Mahal in Atlantic
City and Harrah's Club in Reno and Lake Tahoe. She's also been
the opening act for comedian Don Rickles at the Golden Nugget
in Las Vegas and Merv Griffin's Resorts International in Atlantic
- An estimated
2.5 million viewers tune in each week to watch "The Lawrence
Welk Show" reruns on PBS (6 p.m. Saturdays on WTVS-TV Channel
Mary Lou Metzger, tap-dancing marimba player Jack Imel and clarinet
player Henry Cuesta and English remain among the Welk favorites
were really like a family and still are," English said of
the cast. "Even when we're not working we get together."
Welk was born March 11, 1903, in Strasburg, N.D.
- After mastering
a small playlist on the piano-accordion, he formed a dance band.
Welk was in his 20s and dance bands were in their prime.
- Music critics
knocked Welk and his orchestra for its bland arrangements and
no-name acts, however, the group's popularity soared. They played
one-night stands and numerous engagements on the dance hall circuit,
getting bigger responses with each appearance. Eventually, the
show made it on the radio and, after several hit records, made
the leap to television.
- Welk, refusing
to compromise his tastes and insisting he knew exactly what Middle
America wanted to hear, called his style "champagne music."
- But Welk
was open to suggestions.
- English said
several times she and her former husband and singing partner
Guy Hovis brought Welk new music and played it for him. Sometimes
it went on the show, other times in the trash barrel.
wasn't that he was close-minded," English said. "It
was just that he wanted to present a certain type of music to
- Welk's trademark
expression "wunnerful, wunnerful" applied to his music
-- waltzes, polkas, gospel and jazz (watered-down). He also enjoyed
European music and made every effort to feature some of its best
- This year's
tour, which opened at the Tropicana Casino and Resort on the
Boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., retains the show style with
which Welk's audiences are familiar.
the Welk tradition, we will pay special attention to groups who
come to these concerts. That is, the Welk Stars will be available
during the show's intermission to sign autographs, as well as
after each performance," said Brian Edwards of Rocklands
Entertainment, the firm promoting the tour.
- Also appearing
in this show, direct from the Champagne Theatre in Branson, Mo.,
are the young California accordion wizard Tim Padilla and the
Welk Russian dancers Pasha and Aylona.
a really great Lawrence Welk type of show without the man himself,"
English said. "He died in 1992 and we miss him a lot, but
his spirit is with us."
'Live' Lawrence Welk Show" takes the stage at 2 and 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 9, at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts,
44575 Garfield Road at Hall Road. Tickets, $39.50 or $35 (group
rate), may be ordered by phone at (586) 286-2222, or online at
©The Macomb Daily 2002