Lawrence Welk star says show appeals to all ages
For the Herald-Journal
February 21, 2003

After decades of countless interviews, Ralna English is as gracious and natural as if it's her first. During a recent conversation from her Scottsdale, Ariz., home, she even mentioned a bunny making its way across her back yard.
Perhaps it's because she has spent most of her life as a performer and learning from that most congenial TV host, Lawrence Welk. And after all, few programs on TV can match the Lawrence Welk Show for wholesome family entertainment.

"I think the show is such a bit of Americana,'' said English, who began singing with Welk in 1969. "I think it makes us think of a safer, simpler time. There's nothing like it on TV today. Now it's just MTV and shows like that. The Lawrence Welk Show was like mom and pop and apple pie."

The "Live" Lawrence Welk Show will be held on March 1 at 2 p.m. at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium. Including English, six original cast members will be performing old standards as well as a new patriotic arrangement. The tour celebrates the 100th birthday of Welk, who was born March 11, 1903, and died in May 1992.

Tickets are $35 with all proceeds benefiting South Carolina ETV, which broadcasts the Lawrence Welk Show on Saturdays at 8 p.m. The show is typically the station's No. 1 or No. 2 rated program.

The Lawrence Welk Show started locally in Los Angeles in 1951 and had a 16-year run on ABC beginning in 1955, with an additional 11 years in syndication. Today it is shown on 275 public television stations nationwide.
"Lawrence Welk never did the show for money or fame," English said. "He wanted to play music, and he wanted people to be happy. He created from his heart. He was completely natural. And who would have ever thought his show would have been on TV all these years and still be popular? He would have loved that."

English, who has toured with previous shows, said she's always amazed at how many younger fans Lawrence Welk has. The audiences, she said, are filled with people of all ages.

"The show is timeless. I've had parents say while turning the channel their kids saw the program and wanted to watch it, and now the whole family is hooked,'' English said. "And it's those kids, with their parents, who are among the people at our shows."

And English knows all about parents and grandparents who are show fans. It was because of her grandmother that she got her start with Welk. A professional singer since a teen growing up in Lubbock, Texas, in the late 1960s, she was in Los Angeles performing at "The Horn" in Santa Monica with regulars such as Jim Nabors, Jack Jones, Vikki Carr and Steve Martin.

She auditioned for the Lawrence Welk Show in part because of her grandmother, who loved the show. What started as a one-week deal evolved into a career.

"I only planned on doing the show one week. I had a job. But when I was asked to be a regular, my parents had a fit for me to do it, and they were right -- it was a steady job and on national TV,'' English said.

"Now I can't imagine not doing it. The people on the show are my family. When we were all younger, Welk would always talk about us being a musical family. We didn't pay much attention to him then, but now, I see it. We are a family. And we stay in touch."

As for the stop here, English promises a fun, colorful afternoon.
All performers will sign autographs during the intermission and after the show, like Welk always encouraged.

"We learned a lot from him,'' English said. "He was a great mentor, and we still miss him."
Pam Prevatte is a free-lance writer who lives in Spartanburg.

What: The "Live" Lawrence Welk Show
Who: Original cast members Ralna English, Jack Imel, Mary Lou Metzger, Ava Barber, Henry Cuesta and Dick Dale, along with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra and regulars from the Champagne Theater in Branson, Mo.
When: Saturday, March 1, 2 p.m.
Where: Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium

Tickets: $35. Available at all TicketMaster outlets, by calling TicketMaster at 576-1550, at Publix grocery stores or the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium box office, 582-8107.

Something special: To receive $5 off ticket prices, look for the ad promoting The "Live" Lawrence Welk Show in Sunday's Herald-Journal. For more information, call 582-8107.

Did you know? Lawrence Welk Show singing diva Ralna English was named after a Canadian plantation. She says her mom, Lena English, was a real romantic and read books that featured the Jalna Plantation in Canada. Her dad's name was Raul English, thus Ralna.



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