Lawrence Welk

From Academic Kids

Lawrence Welk (March 11, 1903May 17, 1992) was a musician, accordion player, band leader, and television impresario. He was born in Strasburg, North Dakota to Russian German parents.

His music was conservative, concentrating mostly on pop song standards, polkas, and novelty songs, delivered in a smooth, calming, good-humored easy listening style. His show was warm and family-oriented. His "Champagne Music" has been considered the epitome of "square".

In the 1920s Welk led a big band played engagements in eastern South Dakota area. His band was the station band for popular radio station WNAX in Yankton, South Dakota. During the 1930s, Welk led a travelling big band, specializing in dance tunes and 'sweet' music. The band performed in many places across the country, particularly in the Chicago area. In the early 1940s the band travelled to California for a six-week engagement at the Avalon Ballroom. This gig turned into a 10 year stint, drawing crowds of nearly 7000 on a regular basis.

In 1952, Welk settled in Los Angeles, California. That same year, he began producing The Lawrence Welk Show on KTLA in Los Angeles. The show was first aired nationally on ABC in 1955.

Welk's television program had a policy to only play well known songs and tunes from previous years, so that the target audience would only hear numbers that they were already familiar with. This strategy proved commercially successful.

Much of the show's appeal was Welk himself. Although born in the United States, he spoke with a slight but notable European accent that many, especially ladies, found to be quite appealing. His TV show was recorded as if it were live and was sometimes quite free-wheeling. Welk often took ladies from the audience for a turn around the dance floor. During one show Welk brought a cameraman out to dance with one of the ladies and took over the camera himself.

The reputation for "corny music" notwithstanding, his musicians were always top quality, including accordionist Myron Floren and New Orleans Dixieland clarinetist Pete Fountain. Welk was noted for spotlighting individual members of his band and show. His band was well-disciplined and had excellent arrangements in all styles. One notable showcase was his album with the noted jazz saxophonist Johnny Hodges. Welk's instrumental cover of the song "Yellow Bird" was a hit.

He was married for over sixty years, until his death, to Fern Renner, who bore him three children. One of his sons ended up marrying fellow Lawrence Welk Show performer Tanya Falan.

Welk's California automobile license plate read A1ANA2, referencing his trademark count-off before each number, "A one, and a two..."

His band continues to appear in a dedicated theater in Branson, Missouri even though Welk is now deceased. A resort community in Escondido, California is named after Welk.

Welk is said to have learned English only when he was already an adult because he always spoke German at home. When he was asked about his ancestry, he replied always with "Alsace-Lorraine, Germany" (although this was totally wrong).

He died from pneumonia in Santa Monica, California at the age of 89, and is buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Culver City, California.

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