by Rebecca Roe
West Michigan Senior Times

When I hung up the phone after my interview with Ralna English I noticed I was in an exceptionally upbeat mood. Ms. English had been a delight to speak with. The minute she answered the phone, her warmth and friendliness made it seem like I was talking to an old friend. Only I wasn't. I was speaking with Ralna English, one of the most popular performers during her 13 years on The Lawrence Welk Show.
English was raised in a small town called Spur, a suburb of Lubbock, Texas. Her professional singing career began with a junior high school rock 'n roll band in Lubbock. Soon she was appearing on local television shows and making appearances in local towns where she'd literally perform on the back of a flat-bed truck in the middle of the town square. While a student at Texas Tech, English was chosen from several hundred hopefuls from across the nation to perform in the campus review of "Six Flags Over Texas" in Dallas. She was spotted by a record company executive.
A couple of years later English decided to move to Los Angeles. She started singing in Las Vegas at Caesar's Palace and at Harrah's Club in Lake Tahoe. When she wasn't traveling with her own U.S.O. tour, Ralna performed with other regulars such as Jim Nabors, Jack Jones, Vikki Carr and Steve Martin at "The Horn" in Santa Monica. It was her appearances at the famous night club that led to her more than a decade as a star of The Lawrence Welk Show.
You'd probably have a hard time finding an adult in this country who hasn't heard of the famed Lawrence Welk or his show. Part of that may be because the show is celebrating 50 years on television this year. The Lawrence Welk Show actually continues to be the #1 rated syndicated weekly series on public television.
English has many fond memories of her years performing on The Lawrence Welk Show. The relationships she formed became a wonderful part of her life. "We were a family that grew together and we've stayed close over the years," she commented. English was very heavily influenced by Lawrence Welk. "Lawrence was charismatic, a consummate performer who cared so much about his audience," she noted. "I took that with me when I left but it took me a while to hone. The presence of Lawrence will always be there. How he handled his life and work...I took his legacy with me."
English realized now she was so young when she started the show that she took a lot for granted. "You don't tend to appreciate what's happening in life when you're younger," she said. "I've grown to understand life is a have to enjoy each moment, don't look too far behind or too far ahead."
English recalled for me her favorite memory. "I was performing at Madison Square Garden in front of 22,000 people---standing room only. I sang "How Great Thou Art" but when the song ended, it was could hear a pin drop. Then the thunderous applause started."
Since appearing on the Welk Show on television, English also appeared on The Merv Griffin Show, The Mike Douglas Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
This May, Ralna English will be performing at Holland's Tulip Time festival. According to English, a Lawrence Welk performer has made an appearance at Tulip Time for the last 20 years. English herself hasn't performed all those years, but she has made several Tulip Time appearances and actually considers it one of her favorite places to perform.
"The people there are very affectionate and I feel like they've become my friends," she noted, the smile in her voice was apparent. "I'm excited and looking forward to going back again."
When I first saw a picture of Ralna English, I did a double-take. "You do realize this article is for a senior newspaper don't you?" I asked Susie Dowdy, The Lawrence Welk Show National Publicist. "Is she a senior? she looks so, well, young." Dowdy chuckled and assured me Ralna is a proud AARP card carrying member.
When I mentioned my conversation to Ralna, she laughed, told me she's in her '50s then admitted she's been blessed. Well, blessed combined with the fact she works out all the time, diets, and basically does everything right. English realizes in her line of business it's important to look your best, but important to be healthy, too.
Without a doubt though, a positive attitude about life is the most important thing to Ralna English and it's her advice to other seniors, too. "It's important we don't become cynical or staid in old age," she noted. "We need to keep an open mind and heart and realize that change equals growth," she added. "We need to allow change and new people in our lives and combine them with the old. We need to read and learn new things."
English realizes it isn't always easy to stay upbeat. "We all have tragedies and sorrows, but we shouldn't dwell on them," she firmly noted. "I wake up to a new day and thank God for all the gifts of that day--blossoming trees, a setting sun, a child at play..."
English knows about sadness and depression first-hand because she had a breakdown in the early '80s. With medication and her doctor's help, Ralna made a full recovery but she hasn't forgotten what it felt like.
Today Ralna English is a very busy, vibrant woman. She spends 125-days-a-year on the road performing. When she's not on a stage or in a recording studio, Ralna enjoys spending time with her daughter, reading a good book or playing tennis. Her schedule is also filled with numerous charity appearances, telethons and church concerts.
Life has been an interesting journey for Ralna English, but at the end of the day, it has really just begun.
If you would like to find out more about Ralna English and her upcoming performances, including Tulip Time, visit her website at


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