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- By DEBBIE
News and Observer
- Return now
to the days of yesteryear, when women were "lovely little
gals" and men were "boys" who still had their
own teeth and hair.
- When a song
like "Love Me Tender," which Elvis packed with quivering
passion, could be glossed into spun sugar without a giggle. When
the world was a sweet and peaceful place.
- Return to
the world of "The Lawrence Welk Show."
"return" is not the right word to use. The show never
- The hourlong
variety show debuted in 1955, and ABC canceled it in 1971. But
the show went into syndication, and, in the years after Welk's
death in 1992, repackaged versions of the old episodes have thrived
on public television stations. The show has been on TV for nearly
Welk, in the glory days of his long-running TV show.
- There's the
Welk Resort and Champagne Theatre in Branson, Mo., where surviving
original performers and compatible newcomers perform shows year-round,
plus Welk resorts in San Diego and Palm Springs, Calif.
- Fans can
sign on to welk.buffnet.net to talk about their faves, whether
they be Anacani "the little singing hostess" or able
accordionist Myron Floren.
- And a 16-state
"Live Lawrence Welk Show" tour will stop in Durham
tonight, bringing former cast members Ralna English, Jack Imel,
Mary Lou Metzger, Ava Barber, Henry Cuesta and Dick Dale to the
Carolina Theatre. Also appearing will be Russian dancers Pasha
and Aliona, accordion player Tim Padilla and, of course, the
Lawrence Welk Orchestra.
- Add it all
up, and Lawrence Welk probably tops Elvis as the most frequently
spotted dead entertainer.
- Love it for
the memories or mock it for its treacle, "The Lawrence Welk
Show" has developed a life of its own.
pure Americana," singer Ralna English said in a telephone
raised near Lubbock, Texas, had a local singing career going
when she joined the show in 1969 for what she figured would be
a one-shot deal. She had auditioned just because her grandmother
liked the show so much, but wasn't sure it was the best long-term
gig for her. She never left, even bringing her then-husband,
Guy Hovis, in as her singing partner. English had no idea she'd
be here, 34 years later, still talking about Lawrence Welk.
yes, I'm surprised," she said. "Although I've ceased
to be amazed about all this. It's gone on longer than I ever
thought it would, but generation after generation keeps coming.
Little children love this show because of the music and the dresses
are so colorful."
- Older viewers
fondly remember the big band music. Baby boomers recall seeing
those folks -- their parents -- dance around the living room
floor as gentlemanly Welk gracefully swung women from the audience
for a turn or two to the "champagne music."
the show today, with the women in matching colorful dresses and
men in coordinating sweaters or ruffled shirts singing against
softly sparkling backdrops, is like being at a perpetual prom.
Everyone is on his or her best behavior under the sharp eye of
the chaperone, and no necking is allowed.
- Welk called
most of his performers, regardless of age, his "kids,"
and there was no question that he was the head of what he always
called his "Musical Family." He wrote a lot about the
family concept in six autobiographical books, each of which packs
personal optimism and positive thinking as dense as a Jersey
barrier against which a negative notion would shatter on impact.
- English said
she and her fellow performers didn't think of themselves as a
family at the time, but they do now.
Ralna English acknowledges
the nostalgia for 'The Lawrence Welk Show.'
talked about our children, we shared our ups and downs. I was
close to the other girls, especially, and I made lifetime friends,"
she said. "We didn't realize we had become a family, but
- English thinks
that the show has survived for a couple of reasons. For one thing,
it has become a solid, reliable brand.
- When you
turn on "The Lawrence Welk Show" or see a live performance,
you know what you're going to get (whether you like it or not)
-- no four-letter words or bodacious booty that make you send
the kids out of the room. Viewers get fooled on a lot of shows
today, she said.
- The main
reason the Welk show has hung on is that it fills a niche, and
one that has changed from when the TV show began in 1955.
it started, I think people watched it for the music," she
said. "The big bands were popular, but there were none on
TV at the time and Lawrence filled that niche, that spot. It
was colorful and beautiful, and the music touched people's hearts.
- "I also
had people who had just come over from other countries say they
watched it because they could understand the music and we had
music from all over the world.
there's such nostalgia for a lot of people. It's one of the few
things people can watch as a family."
- Kim Jones,
advertising and marketing communications manager for PBS station
WUNC-TV, said that the Welk show, which airs Saturdays at 7 p.m.,
is one of the station's top 10 shows. Jones said the primary
audience is people age 50 to 55 and older, but that there's also
interest from the children of people in that age group.
- The weekly
shows are old broadcasts repackaged to remove commercials, which
are replaced with new segments from performers. The performers
talk about their days on the show, what they're doing now and
- New Welk
specials are good draws during WUNC's Festival fund-raising time,
and one will be shown in March. "Lawrence Welk: God Bless
America" will air Saturday at 6 p.m. (with Bobby Burgess
in the studio) and be rebroadcast March 15 at 7 p.m. (with Tom
Netherton in the studio).
- English said
that in her travels -- she's on the road about 125 days a year
with the show and her new CD, "My God My Country" --
she gets the sense that people are looking fondly for a place
far from terrorism and war.
was a time when things were so different," she said. "Back
to that peaceful, safe, family feeling."
- Reach Debbie
Moose at email@example.com.
- What: The
Live Lawrence Welk Show.
- When: Tonight
- Where: Carolina
Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham.
- Cost: $38.50,
- Call: 560-3030.