'Welk Show' Tour Bubbles into City
by Rick Rogers
- Daily Oklahoman,
- Long before
the days when channel surfing became a national pastime, Saturday
night viewers had few choices during television's prime time.
"The Gale Storm Show," "Have Gun Will Travel,"
"Get Smart," "My Three Sons" and NBC's "Saturday
Night at the Movies" each enjoyed substantial runs. But
"The Lawrence Welk Show" outlasted them all.
- The popular
music variety show anchored one of ABC's Saturday night slots
from July 1955 to September 1971. The show continued in production
and was syndicated through 1982.
- Nearly two
decades later, "The Lawrence Welk Show" is still drawing
substantial audiences, both in Branson, Mo., and on tour. The
"live" version of the show comes to Oklahoma City on
Tuesday for a single performance at the Civic Center Music Hall.
"The Lawrence Welk Show" began as a summer replacement
in 1955. TV Guide's assessment of the show was that it lacked
"the necessary sparkle and verve to give it a chance against
any really strong competition."
- Viewers clearly
disagreed. Welk's formula of old-fashioned music presented by
wholesome singers kept audiences tuning in every weekend. Much
of its appeal was due to a group of regulars, including accordionist
Myron Floren, Irish tenor Joe Feeney, ragtime pianist Jo Ann
Castle and a vocal quartet known as The Lennon Sisters.
- Along with
many others, they became part of Welk's close-knit family, a
steadily growing group that has since introduced that brand of
music to subsequent generations.
- The "live"
production coming to the Civic Center will feature dancers Jack
Imel and Mary Lou Metzger, country vocalist Ava Barber, jazz
clarinetist Henry Cuesta and singer Ralna English.
- English joined
the show in 1969 and remained a regular through its final broadcast
in 1982. She has since teamed with many of her colleagues for
special engagements and tours.
- By the late
1960s, English had worked as a singer for more than a decade.
Hoping to parlay her considerable experience into something more
permanent, English finagled an audition at Welk's Santa Monica,
The famous bandleader didn't have an opening at the time, but
two months later, he invited English to make a guest appearance
on his show. Soon thereafter, she became a regular.
- English often
appeared on the Welk show with her then-husband Guy Hovis. They
divorced in 1984 but still perform together in various Welk reunion
- English attributes
the show's enduring appeal to its focus on family. But when asked
whether the show was targeted to a specific demographic, she
answered with an emphatic no.
was pure Lawrence Welk - what he liked, loved, created and wanted
to produce," she said. "I think when he created his
'musical family,' he didn't really know how much of a family
we'd become in the end.
know each other well, and we keep up with everyone's children
and grandchildren. I'm convinced Lawrence Welk would be very
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