- Welk's 'family'
puts on a fitting birthday tribute
By Carma Wadley
Deseret News senior writer, Salt Lake City, UT
- March 12, 2003
- LAWRENCE WELK 100TH
BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION, Abravanel Hall, March 11.
- Nostalgia reigned
and celebration ruled as members of the TV's original "Lawrence
Welk Show" took to the stage Tuesday night in Abravanel
Hall. A monthlong tour across the United States is celebrating
Welk's 100th birthday, but the Salt Lake audience received a
special treat. Since March 11 was the day of the famous bandleader's
birth, extra festivities were included.
Featured performers were singer Ralna English, tap-dancing/marimba-playing
Jack Imel, singer/dancer Mary Lou Metzger, country crooner Ava
Barber, musician/singer Dick Dale, jazz clarinetist Henry Cuesta,
accordion player Tim Padilla, and Russian dancers Pasha and Ilona,
backed by the Champagne Musicmakers, under the direction of Bobby
In addition to birthday cake, the Salt Lake audience was
treated to performances by singer Guy Hovis (teaming with English
on "Let There Be Peace on Earth"), accordion player
Myron Floren (his "Battle Hymn of the Republic" brought
the audience to its feet) and appearances by champagne lady Norma
Zimmer and two of Welk's children, Donna and Larry.
The entertainers have still got it, folks. From beginning
to end, the show was filled with good humor, sparkling variety
and ear-pleasing melodies.
Imel was cute as a button, playing the marimba (it's easier
to spell than "xylophone," he said) and tap dancing
sometimes both at once. Dale sang songs he never sang
during his 32 years on the show, "because Joe Feeney always
got to sing them," such as "Danny Boy."
With his renditions of polkas and waltzes and show tunes,
Tim Padilla made you wonder why the accordion ever went out of
fashion. Pasha and Ilona young, new talent introduced
in the Welk tradition combined dance with acrobatics as
they performed ballet, waltz and the Charleston, among others.
Barber playfully twanged her way through songs such as "San
Antonio Rose" and "Southern Nights" and enlisted
help from audience members Joe and Don on a fun "Y'all Come."
English and Metzger were in fine form with everything from
Broadway show tunes to gospel favorites. And Henry Cuesta's clarinet
work was nothing short of amazing. He also teamed with Imel on
the drums for a tribute to Big Band music of the '30s
no wonder Lawrence Welk saw such possibilities in this music.
The show ended with a tender video birthday tribute to
Welk, followed by a rousing medley of patriotic songs. It was
toe-tapping, feel-good music all the way through, a fitting tribute
to the legacy of the bandleader, served up by the entertainment
family he put together so many years ago. All that was missing
was Welk himself, but you sort of figured he had to be there