- Welk Show brings back memories
of happier times
- by Hope Ullman, The Herald-Sun, Durham,
Friday, February 28, 2003
"Goodnight...sleep tight...and pleasant dreams to you."
While times have changed since "The Lawrence Welk Show"
debuted in 1951, its wholesome brand of entertainment never went
out of style for millions of fans.
- The family-friendly musical variety show
airs on 277 public TV stations nationwide, drawing 225 million
viewers each week.
- Folks can catch that old Welk magic tonight,
when "The 'Live' Lawrence Welk Show" swings into the
Carolina Theatre, on its third coast-to-coast tour.
- The tour will celebrate the 100th birthday
of Welk, who lived from 1903 to 1992.
- While the show's innocence may seem at
odds with today's tumultuous times, that is part of its appeal.
The show went national in 1955 and, while the last weekly series
was taped in 1982, Christmas shows were produced every year until
- "One of the reasons the show survived
[so long] is because it's familiar and it takes us back to a
gentler, more peaceful, carefree time in America," said
singer Ralna English, one of six original cast members performing
at the show. "When people watch it now, they feel comfort
- Susie Dowdy, national publicist for "The
Lawrence Welk Show," agrees. "People take comfort in
nostalgia," she said. "You can only watch so much news,
so much CNN. This offers kind of an island, a safe place. The
costumes are bright and people are smiling. It's just a happy
- Recalling a gentler era when families
gathered around the television for good, clean fun, the two-hour
show will deliver song, dance and humor, with a musical mix of
patriotic, gospel, country, jazz, Dixieland, polka, big-band
and Broadway tunes.
- "He wanted to please the American
people, and we're a very diversified bunch," English said,
of Welk, who played the accordion and conducted the orchestra.
- Tonight's live show will pay tribute to
Welk, who would have turned 100 in March. Born to immigrant parents
on March 11, 1903, in a sod farmhouse in North Dakota, Welk set
out on his own at 21, with little more than an accordion and
a dream. He had no money and spoke only German. But nothing could
stop him from giving America the caliber of family entertainment
and music he believed in. Along the way, he created an extended
family of cast members, and fans, who passed along their love
of the show.
- Cast members will sign autographs during
intermission and after tonight's show, an unusual thing for stars
to do in this day and age.
- It's a tradition they picked up from Welk,
who always prided himself and his musical "family"
in personally answering fan mail and signing autographs.
- "It's kept the show on for 51 years
- taking a personal interest in the fans," Dowdy said.
- English will perform alongside fellow
original cast members from the weekly TV series: tap-dancing
and marimba playing Jack Imel; Welk's favorite dance partner,
Mary Lou Metzger; country gal Ava Barber; jazz clarinetist Henry
Cuesta; and saxophonist and crooner Dick Dale.
- Also appearing, direct from the Champagne
Theatre in Branson, Mo., are The Champagne Music Makers ( a nine-piece
touring version of the Lawrence Welk Orchestra); accordion player
Tim Padilla (who, Dowdy said, resembles a young Lawrence Welk);
Russian dancers Pasha and Aliona; and the famous bubble-blowing
machine, which used to spring into action when the orchestra