veteran bubbling over coast-to-coast tour
By Carrie Seidman, Albuquerque
Tribune, March 16, 2003
- When Ralna
English was offered a permanent position on "The Lawrence
Welk Show" in 1969, her first inclination was to decline.
- As a young
girl growing up in Spur, Texas (outside of Lubbock), she had
watched the series many a Saturday night with her parents. She'd
even dreamed of appearing on the show to please her grandmother,
who was a huge fan of Welk's.
- She since
has launched a successful singing career, with a regular stint
at a club in California that also featured Steve Martin and Jim
Nabors. As a performer in her 20s, she wasn't too sure about
throwing in her fate with the champagne bubbles set and the man
who regularly heralded his seniors-pleasing singers and dancers
as "wunnerful, wunnerful."
years later, English, who will appear in the Live Lawrence Welk
Show at the Hiland Theatre on Monday night, says she has no regrets.
no," says English, who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and
continues to host syndicated reruns of the show, as well as perform
and record on her own. "I believe this was meant to be.
It's been the most wonderful career for me. This is where I belonged
all those years."
- One hundred
years after the birth of Welk and 11 years after his death at
89 in 1992, English (who declined to give her age) and other
Welk regulars are bringing his long-lived tradition of wholesome
song and dance to the stage.
- The current
monthlong, coast-to-coast tour includes five other stalwarts
besides English: Welk's favorite dancing partner, Mary Lou Metzger;
tap dancer Jack Imel; country singer Ava Barber; jazz clarinetist
Henry Cuesta and baritone Dick Dale, one of the first people
Welk ever hired. It will not include English's ex-husband and
former partner on the show, Guy Hovis - but not because of any
work together all the time," says English, taking a break
from pre-tour rehearsals in Branson, Mo. "He's remarried,
but we're all family."
- That family
feel extends to the traveling show, which, says English, "to
be honest, is a lot like the TV show."
Lawrence Welk Show" first aired on ABC 50 years ago. When
the series was canceled in 1971, the show landed a syndication
deal that kept it in production until Welk retired in 1982.
- Reruns continued
until 1987, when it began to be shown on public television stations,
with clips from old shows interspersed with updated commentary
from hosts like English. Currently it is aired on 275 stations
across the United States, making it the No. 1 syndicated show
- That says
a lot about the staying power of the gentleman English calls
"a happy man who loved what he did." What it doesn't
say is what captivated young talents like English to stick around.
- By way of
explanation, English tells about her recent appearance on "Larry
King Live." At one point, King asked her what she most remembered
he was very charismatic," began English.
roared King. "You must be kidding!"
- For anyone
who remembers the original shows, charismatic might not be the
word that immediately comes to mind for the taciturn Welk. His
demure applause and head bobs after performances was about as
animated as he ever got. But English remembers him otherwise.
couldn't know it from the TV show, but he could take an audience
and have them in the palm of his hand in two seconds flat,"
- English adds
that Welk was a great practical joker and that "he loved
to tease us girls."
- The stage
show will contain many of the elements that made Welk's show
so popular, says English, including gospel tunes, big band swing
music, an adagio dance sequence and a patriotic grand finale.
What it may not contain is the bubbles that were a regular trademark
of the show.
dear, I was afraid you were going to ask me that," says
English, laughing. "They're trying to get a bubble machine,
but I don't know if they've got one yet. I'm going to tell them
people will be disappointed if they don't."
- As for English,
she is not at all disappointed with the choice she made about
her career many years ago.
true, people called the show square," English says, "but
as square as we are, we're still around. We've had the last laugh.
WUNNERFUL' - The "Live Lawrence Welk Show." 7 p.m.
Monday, March 17. Hiland Theatre, Frank A. Peloso Performing
Arts Center, 4804 Central Ave. S.E. $39.50. 262-9301.