Renowned bandleader Lawrence Welk began his own variety series in 1955... and it has never stopped running. Each program was straightforward musical numbers from Welk's band (many of which had featured solos at one point or another), as well as vocal selections and dance numbers from the show's cast. Most of the introductions to the performances, read stiffy by Welk, were kept short. Many of the shows revolved around a certain theme (e.g., "The Music Man" or the Fourth of July), with appropriate songs and dance numbers. The most famous of the featured singers were the Lennon Sisters (Dianne, Janet, Kathy and Peggy), who were featured most every week for 13 years. At the end of each show, Welk would invite women from the audience on stage to dance with him as the theme, "Bubbles in the Wine" (and later, "Champagne Fanfare") played. The show enjoyed a 16-year network run on ABC, and later a succesful 11-year syndicated run. Just months after the original series ended, older shows (from ... Written by
Brian Rathjen <email@example.com>
Reminds me of every trip I ever made to my grandparents' house.
And maybe that's why I still find myself checking out a few minutes of it most Saturday nights on public television. You can't listen to that stale band, bland numbers, or tawdry accordion playing without wondering how in the hell people back then didn't die of boredom. But like clockwork, whenever I was visiting my grandparents in Sioux City, IA, when this show came on their world screeched to a halt and anyone in the room over 60 was mesmerized. They watched this thing as closely as I watch a football game I have money on. And the younger family members would frantically search out a TV in another room so as not to hear even one tap of that black guy's shoes. Let alone an entire lifeless song.
When you look at the band members, it looks like Nixon's Silent Majority all picked up instruments and decided to beat back the minions of anything un-American with their phony smiles and mellow tones. The audience members were mostly elderly folks without much taste in either clothing or music themselves. Every now and then, some of them would be invited on stage to dance with Mr. Welk himself. My grandmother even claimed she once danced with Mr. Welk, though this story has never been authenticated.
Frankly, there's nothing really like this on television today. It's so earnest and squeaky-clean that it either makes you cringe or long for the days of decades long ago when someone could be taken off television for simply saying the phrase "water closet". There were no doubt edgier shows on television at the time this show was at its peak, but most old folks I've known were watching this instead. None of my grandparents are left, so watching this show is actually one way to channel their memory. But I just cannot take more than a couple minutes of the blandness. I'll be generous and give it 7 of 10 stars since it has meant so much to so many people.
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