'Live' to perform in Mitchell
English and other members of the Lawrence Welk family of performers will be kicking-off the "Live" Lawrence Welk Show's nationwide 2003 tour with a performance March 5 at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Other original cast members that will be performing on stage in this memory-filled event will be tap-dancing and marimba-playing Jack Imel, Lawrence Welk's favorite dancing partner Mary Lou Metzger, country singer Ava Barber, singer and musician Dick Dale, and Henry Cuesta, a gifted jazz clarinetist. Also appearing direct from the Champagne Theatre in Branson, Mo., will be the Lawrence Welk Orchestra.
This all-new national tour will pay a special tribute to the 100th birthday of Lawrence Welk, who was born March 11, 1903. He died in 1992.
"I've been in South Dakota many times, and one of the first jobs I ever did when I started at the Lawrence Welk Show was at the Corn Palace," English said from her home in Scottsdale, Ariz.
English was raised in Spur, Texas, and began her professional singing career while in junior high school, performing on local television shows and at public events.
She moved to Los Angeles and began performing at "The Horn" in Santa Monica, along with other regulars including Jim Neighbors, Jack Jones, Vikki Carr and Steve Martin.
"I asked around to see if anybody knew anybody from the Lawrence Welk Show because my grandmother loved him," English said.
It wasn't long before Welk invited her to join his family of performers. But English admits she was a little reluctant.
"I was not a great big fan of the Lawrence Welk Show, and I didn't much want to be on the show," English said. "I just wanted to do one for my grandmother. When they offered me the job my parents had a fit and said you have to do it. So I decided maybe I should give it a shot.
"It has been the most wonderful career," she added. "I believe in God's guidance and his direction and I do think that this is where I was supposed to be. Absolutely without a doubt."
For many years, English and her former husband and singing partner, Guy Hovis, were regulars on the show. But she said they never were able to really make their marriage work, and they've actually gotten along better since their divorce. Their daughter, Julie, is in college in Arizona.
English has toured extensively, including a U.S.O. tour to Japan, the Philippines, Okinawa, Taiwan and Thailand, as well as several CDs, including her newest release, "My God, My Country," which is filled with spiritual and patriotic songs.
The road hasn't always been smooth for English, who suffered a breakdown in 1980, but she believes the bumps and detours along the way have made her stronger.
"Sometimes it brings us to a better place, a stronger relationship with God," English said. "There's a more loving place in my heart for forgiveness and understanding and being able to accept the reality of my life.
"It was tough, but it also made me a much better person," she added. "I'm so grateful. I think God takes our messes and turns it into good."