- 'Welk' cast
carries on legacy with live shows
March 25, 2003
- By Rich Berry
The Grand Rapids Press
Welk died nearly 11 years ago at the age of 89, but his musical
legacy is very much alive.
Cast members from Welk's television show -- which aired from
1955 to 1982 -- continue to stay busy as an ensemble performing
Welk's trademark-style "Champagne Music" to live audiences
across the country. Welk died in May 1992.
- The "Live
Lawrence Welk Show," featuring singing diva Ralna English,
tap-dancing and marimba-playing Jack Imel, Welk's favorite dancing
partner Mary Lou Metzger, country singer Ava Barber, jazz clarinetist
Henry Cuesta and crooner Dick Dale, will make a tour stop at
3 p.m. Sunday at DeVos Performance Hall.
Welk hired people who were extremely talented. That was what
Lawrence did best," English said in a phone interview from
a tour stop in Las Vegas. "I really do feel his spirit is
with us on this tour. This tour is a lot like the TV show in
format, with more interaction between us. We may do a (solo)
song and then do another with the group, just like we used to
do on the show.
really are a musical family. Lawrence had no idea it would be
that way. This show has been in production for 51 years, and
no other show could have had the long-term success that we have
- Fans of the
"Lawrence Welk Show" remember English for her singing
duets with her former husband and singing partner Guy Hovis.
The pair divorced in 1984 but remain close friends, she said.
- English joined
the show in 1969 and has remained a part of Welk's musical family
ever since. Although the "Lawrence Welk Show" was canceled
by ABC in 1971, Welk immediately began syndicating the show to
television stations around the country. The show finally ended
in 1982, although the cast continued to perform in a series of
prime time television specials in 1984 and 1985. Reruns of the
show began airing on PBS in 1987.
- The "Live
Lawrence Welk Show" was put together by producer Brian Edwards
and Welk's son Larry Welk. Their goal was to recreate the spirit
of the television show in a live setting.
show is more of a production type of show," English said.
"We do a variety of music and song-and-dance numbers. We
do standards, Broadway tunes and jazz. We have a little something
for everyone, including a patriotic segment at the end.
Dale plays the saxophone and sings. Jack Imel is as funny as
all get-out, and he's a great singer. Mary Lou Metzer does tap
and dances with Jack. Ava Barber is our country singer. Henry
Cuesta plays the clarinet. And I'll do some gospel and patriotic
things. It's a great show and we've had great response."
- The patriotic
portion of the "Live Lawrence Welk Show" has a timely
element, but there is not an effort to exploit the war with Iraq,
have said to me, 'Are you doing (the patriotic songs) because
of the war?' " English said. "I tell them that we've
been doing these for years. I never did a show with Lawrence
when we didn't sing 'God Bless America,' and there was never
a dry eye in the house when we finished."
version of "God Bless America" is included on her current
CD "My God, My County," which features 10 patriotic
and inspirational songs.
performance of the "Live Lawrence Welk Show" is the
last show on a 20-city tour. Additional cities likely will be
added later this year.