- 'The Live Lawrence Welk Show'
coming to Peoria
Former cast member Ralna
English to perform
- March 16, 2003
- by Brenda Story of the Peoria
- PEORIA - If you're old enough
to remember "The Lawrence Welk Show," you know it had
a "wunnerful, wunnerful" run on commercial television.
- Those tiny bubbles rose from
the stage every Saturday night on ABC from July 1955 to September
1971, then the show was produced in syndication through 1982.
The programs are still broadcast on many television stations
throughout the United States, including Peoria's WTVP-TV, Channel
47, where it airs at 7 p.m. Saturdays.
- And now "The Live Lawrence
Welk Show" is drawing audiences to theaters around the country.
- When the show is performed
March 24 at the Peoria Civic Center Theater, vocalist Ralna English
will be among six original cast members appearing with the Welk
- Other originals include the
tap-dancing and marimba-playing Jack Imel; one of Welk's favorite
dancing partners, Mary Lou Matzger; country singer Ava Barber;
crooner and musician Dick Dale; and jazz clarinetist Henry Cuesta.
- "I think even if young
people do not remember 'The Lawrence Welk Show,' they probably
are familiar with who he was," English said during a recent
interview from her home in Scottsdale, Ariz.
- "I think that generations
of parents have shared this show with their children, and grandparents
have shared it with their grandchildren.
- "It was just that kind
of show. It was a family show, and it was pretty to look at.
We had beautiful sets and colors. Now we are passing it on to
another generation in the form of a live show."
- But when English said when
she first performed on the show, she thought it was just for
one night - she never dreamed she would make it a career.
- "I had an established
career and was very happy with the way things were progressing,"
she said. "I had moved from Texas to California in 1967
and was working at a club in Santa Monica called The Horn. People
like Jim Nabors, Steve Martin and Vikki Carr got their start
- "I wanted to get on
'The Lawrence Welk Show' for just one night because I wanted
to do something nice for my grandmother who always watched the
show," English said.
- English knew the show was
holding auditions near The Horn and found someone connected to
the show who arranged an audition for her.
- "He (Welk) was very
gracious. But he basically said that he didn't have a place for
me, but if anything opens up, I'll give you a call.
- "Well, I figured that
meant, 'Don't call us, we'll call you.' But a few months later
someone left the show, and he (Welk) called and asked me to do
one of his television shows. I was very thrilled."
- That was in 1969. After her
first performance, Welk invited English to become a regular.
- "I almost turned him
down," she said, chuckling. "But my parents threw a
fit, and Guy (English's former husband, vocalist Guy Hovis) thought
that I was crazy. So I thought maybe I should do it."
- But she didn't know she would
become part of a musical legacy.
- "The Lawrence Welk Show"
first aired on KTLA-TV in Los Angeles in 1951 and began broadcasting
nationally on the ABC network in 1955.
- Welk's orchestra, with its
trademark champagne bubbles and easy-listening style of music,
has since found its way into the living rooms and hearts of thousands
for more than 50 years.
- Welk was born in Strasburg,
N.D., in 1903. He was an accomplished piano and accordion player
and formed his first dance band in the mid-1920s. He died of
pneumonia in 1992 at the age of 89.
- "We had so much fun
on the show, but we didn't realize the magnitude of what we were
doing," English said.
- "He (Welk) was charismatic
and brilliant in his performances. He was a great mentor to us
all, and we miss him still."