- English lessions
'Lawrence Welk Show' singer
Ralna English brings her charm and memories to Cypress Gardens
Saturday and Sunday
- By DAVE WIETHOP
Weekend Plus Editor
- Polk County News, serving
Winter Haven, Florida
- March 15, 2002
- Gracious to a fault, singer
Ralna English acts like she truly doesn't mind a phone call too
early in the morning.
- "This is fine, fine!"
she exclaimed from her Arizona home. It's clear that she wasn't
expecting the call for several more hours, but English is too
polite to indicate exactly how long she has been awake.
- After all, she was trained by
one of the kings of gracious behavior. This is Ralna -- as in
"Guy and Ralna" from "The Lawrence Welk Show."
- Aah, the Welk Show.
- "It's a phenomenon. Who
knows why it has lasted so long? Maybe because it was always
family entertainment first and foremost," English enthused.
"It was beautiful, colorful, lively and so much fun to be
- "The Lawrence Welk Show"
began a 16-year run on ABC in 1955 and enjoyed an 11-year run
in syndication afterwards. The show can now be seen on PBS.
- The show usually revolved around
a theme -- the Fourth of July or a hoedown, for example -- and
featured the Welk Orchestra and soloists and other acts like
Guy and Ralna. The broadcast ended with Welk inviting a lady
from the audience for a dance to "Champagne Fanfare"
or "Bubbles in the Wine," his signature tune.
- This was a formula that worked,
but the Welk show had something extra.
- "He had certain standards
about things that he wanted," English recalled. "It
was his show and he had the last say-so -- as it should be. I
had no problem with it. Some people had a problem with that,
and they didn't stay long."
- That's as much gossip as English
was going to offer about the bandleader.
- "I liked him a lot,"
she said, "He was the most charismatic man I've ever met.
Part of why the show worked so well is because of that charisma."
- A native of the Lubbock, Texas,
area, Ralna is the daughter of Raul and Lena English (hence her
unusual first name, a combination of her parents' names).
- After a stint at Six Flags Over
Texas, English moved to Los Angeles, then found herself singing
in Las Vegas casinos before joining the U.S.O. for tours through
- Appearances with Jim Nabors,
Jack Jones and Steve Martin at a club in Santa Monica, Calif.,
led to her long run on the popular "Lawrence Welk Show."
- For years, she performed with
her then-husband, Guy Hovis, as part of Guy and Ralna, but the
off-stage partnership ended in 1984.
- They're still very close and
perform together occasionally and have several appearances scheduled
- "It seemed like the love
story of the ages, didn't it?" she said, her voice "smiling"
through the telephone lines. "But we've learned to take
our messes and make them into something good."
- Meanwhile, Guy has moved out
of the entertainment business and into politics, serving on the
Washington, D.C., staff of Sen. Trent Lott, a Republican from
Mississippi. They're both active in the life of their daughter,
Julie, who's a student at Arizona State University, along with
their own busy schedules.
- Even though the Welk program
left national syndication in 1982, English and other veterans
of the show regularly take part in show retrospects.
- The most recent special, "Lawrence
Welk: Milestones and Memories, a Musical Family Reunion,"
was filmed live at the Welk Theatre in Branson, Mo., and is available
on videotape. The show features a first-time-ever performance
by Bobby Burgess and his three dancing partners (Barbara Boylan,
Cissy King and Elaine Balden), the Lennon Sisters, Pete Fountain,
Tom Netherton, Anacani, Myron Floren and guest appearances by
all five living Champagne Ladies, Lois Best, Jayne Walton, Helen
Ramsay, Roberta Linn and Norma Zimmer, who has held the title
- English said the special was
"an absolute thrill" to make, adding that its always
fun to work with other Welk performers.
- Fortunately, English gets to
do just that on a regular basis. Her show Saturday and Sunday
at Cypress Gardens will feature another Welk veteran, Ken Delo.
- English said her show features
some of her older songs like "Tangerine" and "Lovesick
Blues," as well as a little gospel, some Broadway and Hollywood
(often something from "Cats" and "New York, New
York") and some contemporary classics like "Wind Beneath
- "The Live Lawrence Welk
Show" continues to draw large audiences, with appearances
throughout the Midwest this winter and spring, as well as in
Atlantic City's Tropicana Hotel.
- English headlines this show,
along with Mary Lou Metzger, Jack Imel, Ava Barber, Henry Cuesta,
The Welk Orchestra, Pasha and Aliona, and Tim Padilla.
- English also tours with "Four
Wunnerful Women," with Ava Barber, Mary Lou Metzger and
Gail Farrell. As if that's not enough, English makes appearances
at churches and has a 1 1/2-month gig at the Welk Resort in Branson
late this year with the Lennon Sisters and Henry Cuesta.
- Barring any breaking news events,
English will also appear on CNN's "Larry King Live!"
on March 25 at 9 p.m. for a tribute to the bandleader. She will
be joined by Bobby Burgess, Janet Lennon, Larry Welk Jr. and
Larry Welk III. The show had been postponed from September.
- English is also active as an
ambassador for Childhelp USA, a privately funded charity that
focuses on the prevention of child abuse and treatment for victims.
The singer said she gets a great deal of joy from her work with
the organization. Still, it's the association with Lawrence Welk
that keeps her name before the audiences.
- "After all these years,
people still love what we did with the 'Welk Show,' English said.
"I have more work now with these concert dates than I ever
have. That should tell you something about the show's legacy."
- The Ralna English and Ken Delo
concert is free with paid admission to Cypress Gardens. For more
information about English, visit www.ralnaenglish.com.