Festival a favorite for performer
By REKA JELLEMA
Staff writer
Holland Sentinal, Holland, MI

 
Singer Ralna English is no stranger to southern hospitality. But the Texas born-and-bred belle believes that niceness is synonymous with the Midwest."That wonderful Midwest hospitality, there's nothing like it," gushed "The Lawrence Welk Show" star in a phone interview from her Scottsdale, Ariz. home. "The nicest people in the world come from the Midwest."
 
Perhaps English's high opinion of the region is why she keeps coming back to perform at Tulip Time. She said whenever she appears at the festival, she receives a warm and wonderful "welkom" from Holland residents and tourists alike.
 
"I love that town and the people there," she said of Holland. In fact, English said she couldn't wait to perform at Tulip Time, hang out with festival president Mary Duistermars and check out the tulips.
 
The songbird will join two other popular Lawrence Welk acts, accordion player Myron Floren and marimba player Jack Imel, in two Tulip Time shows. They will perform at 4:30 and 8 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at Central Wesleyan Auditorium, 446 W. 40th St. Tickets are $20-$22.
 
English began performing as a youngster in Texas. Her professional career was launched with a junior high school rock 'n' roll band in Lubbock.
 
Soon she was appearing on local television shows and making personal appearances in surrounding towns where she would literally perform on the back of a flat-bed truck in the middle of the town square.Her career took off when she moved to Los Angeles and won gigs singing in Las Vegas. When not performing overseas, she performed with other entertainers, such as Jim Nabors, Steve Martin and Vikki Carr at The Horn in Santa Monica. It was appearances at this famous night spot that led to her long stint as a star of "The Lawrence Welk Show."
 
The Stars of Lawrence Welk have a lot to celebrate, especially this year, English said. Not only is "The Lawrence Welk Show" the No. 1-rated syndicated weekly series on public television, but the show has been on the air for 50 years.
 
"'The Lawrence Welk Show' is the only show that's still in production after 50 years," she said.
 
Television personality Larry King recently aired a special tribute honoring Welk. English joined other popular Lawrence Welk stars including dancer Bobby Burgess and Lennon Sister Janet Lennon on the show. The Welk regulars were joined by Welk's son and grandson.
 
It was a lark, she said.
 
"Afterward, as we were walking out of the studio, I turned to Bobby (Burgess) and said to him, 'What just happened?' It was like a whirlwind," she said of the show.
 
English said that King was curious to hear what it was like to be on the Welk show, where all the performers were paid scale. He also wanted to know what Welk himself had been like.
 
"He asked if Lawrence was after the ladies," English said. "We all died laughing, because that's as far from Lawrence Welk as you can get. He was very straight and narrow. The only woman in his life was (his wife) Fern."
 
The vocalist is very proud of her involvement with "The Lawrence Welk Show."
 
"A lot of us (who got our start on the show) are still going strong," she said.
 
English herself has joined three other Welk alumni to form a singing group called the 4 Wunnerful Women. She and Ava Barber, Mary Lou Metzger and Gail Farrell are having a grand time singing together, she said.
 
Additionally, she keeps busy with charity work. English is an ambassador for Childhelp, U.S.A., a nonprofit group dedicated to ending child abuse.
 
But, performing is still her first love.
 
"It has been my whole life, basically," she said.
 

 

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