"Easy Listening Sound Still Captivates Young, Old"
 
by Jeff Korbelik, Staff Writer
Lincoln Journal Star, Sunday, Feburary 24, 2002

Like many in the music industry, Ralna English was saddened by the news of Waylon Jennings' death less than two weeks ago.
 
Jennings died Feb. 13 from complications related to diabetes. He was 64.
 
Fans of English, the sweet singing diva from television's "The Lawrence Welk Show," may be surprised she knew Jennings, the country music star who was just as famous for his hard living as he was for his chart-topping music.
 
Both Jennings and English were Texas born-and-bred, and when Jennings recorded his first record, English was there to sing backup.
 
"I had never seen anybody so scared," she said of Jennings' appearance at the studio. "It was amazing. He was such a shy guy."
 
Over the years, their paths would cross from time to time, including one occasion when she caught up with him at a Los Angeles country nightclub.
 
"I went up and said 'hi' to him and told him I appreciated having him in my life," she said in a phone interview from her Scottsdale, Ariz., home. "He was always so sweet. He made me appreciate country music. He taught me the art of it."
 
English has made an art of her genre - the easy listening sound that still captivates young and old alike.
 
She will be in Lincoln Wednesday to sing with The "Live" Lawrence Welk Show tour. Other featured performers include longtime cast members Mary Lou Metzger, Jack Imel, Henry Cuesta and Ava Barber.
 
Lawrence Welk, who coined such phrases as "wunnerful, wunnerful" and "ah-one, ana-two, ana-three..." died in 1992, but his legacy continues on his nationally syndicated television show.
 
"The Lawrence Welk Show" airs each week on 276 public stations, including 6 p.m. Saturday on Nebraska ETV (Time Warner channel 12). The variety show debuted in Los Angeles in 1950 and went national in 1955.
 
English, who joined the show in 1969, said the program has endured because it's family oriented.
 
"I worry about what's on TV these days," English said. "I'm not a prude by any means, but it's difficult for me to watch sometimes."
 
Another reason the show continues to persevere is its cast. They are like a family themselves, watching over and taking care of each other. They were there for English, when she suffered a breakdown in 1980 and again in 1984 when she divorced her longtime singing partner, Guy Hovis.
 
On Tuesday, they gathered again for support and to pay tribute to Welk's widow, Fern, who had just passed away. English sang four works at Fern's funeral, including her famous rendition of "How Great Thou Art."
 
"Fern was a wonderful lady," English said. "She was the backbone for Lawrence. She kept him stabilized in show business all his life."
 
She then recalled Lawrence's emotional service nearly 20 years ago.
 
"He would have been happy," she said. "We were all in one place celebrating our love for our Lord. It just brought tears to my eyes. It was a joyful experience, and one I'll never forget."
 
If you go...
What: The "Live Lawrence Welk Show"
Where: Lied Center for the Performing Arts, 301 N. 12th St.
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Tickets: $39.50 and $35.00

 

 

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