She and other Lawrence
Welk regulars have revived that unmistakable champagne sound
- by Sandy
- The Whoot
newspaper, Atlantic City, NJ
- When The
Live Lawrence Welk Show appears in the Tropicana Showroom on
Friday and Saturday, vocalist Ralna English will be among five
original cast members appearing with the Welk entourage. English
has enjoyed a long and "wunnerful, wunnerful" association
with the Welk Show. But it's a career that almost didn't happen!
- When the
singer first performed on the show in 1969, she thought that
it was just for a one-night stint, and that was just fine with
her. She already had an established career and was happy with
the way things were progressing. "I had moved from Texas
to California in 1967 and was kept busy doing so many things.
I was working at a club in Santa Monica called the Horn where
people like Jim Nabors, Steve Martin and Vikki Carr got their
start. But 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 recalled during a
phone interview from her Scottsdale, Ariz. residence.
- As luck would
have it, another performer at The Horn knew someone connected
with the Welk Show who arranged for English to audition with
Welk. "Lawrence listened to me sing. He was very gracious
and very charismatic with that big smile of his. And he said
basically, 'You know, I don't have a place for you right now,
but I'll give you a call if anything opens up.' And I thought,
'Well, that means don't call us, we'll call you.' But a few months
later a girl left the show and he [Welk] called and asked me
to do one of his television shows. I was very thrilled, of course."
- Ralna's initial
appearance was followed by an invitation from Welk to become
a show regular. "My first inclination was to turn the offer
down. I really had not planned for my career to be The Lawrence
Welk Show. I just wanted to do that one show. But my parents
threw a fit and Guy (her former husband, vocalist Guy Hovis)
thought that I was crazy. So I thought maybe I should do it."
- English joined
the show and became a part of a musical legacy that began more
than fifty-years-ago. "It has been the most wonderful career
for me; I have learned so much and grown so much," she said.
- The Lawrence
Welk Show first aired on KTLA TV in Los Angeles in 1951 and began
broadcasting nationally on the ABC network for years later. Its
casual, easy-listening format featured smiling performers dressed
in colorful outfits, celebrity guests, and of course, The Lawrence
Welk Orchestra with its trademark champagne bubbles. The show
landed a syndication deal that kept it in production until Welk
retired in 1982.
- Welk was
born in Strasburg, North Dakota, in 1903. He achieved a measure
of competence on the piano and accordion prior to forming a dance
band in the mid-nineteen-twenties. He died of pneumonia in 1992
at the age of 89.
did our last television show at ABC Studios in Hollywood in February
of 1982," English recalled. "Then in 1984, we did a
special and in 1985 we did another special.
1987, Public Television came into our lives with a show about
Lawrence Welk called Television's Music Man. Because of its success,
Bob Allen from OETA - a public television station in Oklahoma
- brought it to public television nationally on a weekly basis.
Basically, we take the old shows and we do what we call 'wraparounds.'"
Wraparounds are original Lawrence Welk shows introduced and hosted
by original Welk performers, including Ralna. The hosts relate
interesting tidbits about their years on the shows and often
perform some of their current music. "I just did a wraparound
in Escondido and Guy (Hovis) also did a wraparound in Escondido;
we were there at the same time.
the particular show that I hosted, Guy played the guitar, I sang
'Amazing Grace' and we did a duet together. And then on his show
we did a duet together," Ralna explained. Both shows were
taped for future broadcasts of The Lawrence Welk Show, which
is viewed by more than two and a half million Welk fans each
"We are celebrating more than 50 years on television this
year and this is unprecedented; no other show is still in production
after so many years," Ralna said.
- Ralna expressed
her thoughts about the reasons for the success and longevity
of the Welk show. "I think that it's a family affair. Generations
of parents have shared this show with their children; grandparents
have shared it with their grandchildren. It's a show that the
whole family can sit and watch, as opposed to the language and
sexually oriented programs on TV today. And it was pretty to
look at visually. We had beautiful sets and colors.
had so much fun on the show but we didn't realize the magnitude
of what we were doing. This man (Welk) was charismatic and brilliant
in his performances....He was a great mentor and we miss him
still. We have a place in Branson called the Champagne Theater
and every time that I walk in there and stand on that stage I
think how he would love to perform for the people there."
- Larry Welk
Jr., is the producer of The Live Lawrence Welk Show. In addition
to English, it features original cast members Ava Barber, a country
singer who's recording of "Bucket to the South" ranked
high on the charts; Henry Cuesta, a clarinet virtuoso who has
been compared to Benny Goodman because of his technical mastery
of the clarinet; Jack Imel who is known for his marimba experitse
and his fast-stepping tap-dancing skills, and singer/dancer Mary
Lou Metzger, the gal who danced with the champagne maestro at
the end of each weekly television show. Also appearing are Welk
Russian dancers Pasha and Aylona, accordionist Tim Padilla, and
The Lawrence Welk Orchestra.
a fun show," English said, "And it's very notalgic."