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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Spanning the Decades, While Reflecting upon the Classics
After a few years on local television, Lawrence Welk continues to host his Saturday evening song and dance variety program before a national audience for another 27 years (1955-82).
Wholesome, nostalgic, quality presentation become the order of the day, as Lawrence Welk, with his thick Germanic accent, introduces his Orchestra, singers and dancers, and sometimes comedy sketches each week, usually taking time out for one instrumental number to welcome a string of lovely audience females to spin around the dance floor.
Episodes often spotlight one select theme, with an occasional tribute to a famous songwriter, as Jerome Kern, Henry Mancini, Johnny Mercer or Harry Warren, or a tribute to a music genre, as Swing Bands, Country & Western, Patriotic Songs, Hymns or Show Tunes, or a tribute to a holiday or season, colors, states, flowers... oh, just about anything healthy and wholesome, with fashionable costuming to suit the occasion.
Lovely soprano Norma Zimmer joins the cast as Welk's "Champagne Lady" near the end of 1960, and thankfully doesn't follow up on her plans for an early retirement, which is often discussed for more then two decades throughout the program's run.
Other recognizable singers who achieve fame for many fine performances upon "The Lawrence Welk Show" include Jimmy Roberts, Bob Ralston, Bob Lido, Joe Feeney, (Dianne, Peggy, Kathy and Janet) the Lennon Sisters, Guy Hovis and Ralna English, Gail Farrell, Dick Dale and Tom Netherton plus many orchestra members and other vocalists (although it may be considered a mixed bag of sorts in that regard).
Myron Floren, the "Happy Norwegian" accordionist, stands out from the band with his friendly perpetual smile, while capably accompanying the orchestra, while standing in a well-deserved spotlight of his very own.
Jo Ann Castle also performs before the spotlight with her dynamic piano arrangements, her instrument often decorated for every event, and even igniting in flames on occasion.
Arthur Duncan steps to the beat with his famous tap dancing routines during his weekly segments, as do Bobby Burgess and Cissy King with their range of meticulously-choreographed dances, ranging from Ballroom to Country. Bobby remains upon the program a bit longer than Cissy and, therefore, has other dance partners, but when it comes to performance, these three (Arthur, Bobby and Cissy) rank right up there with the best of the all-time greats.
So, this series lives up to its promises of quality entertainment, spanning the 1950's with the 1980's, and holds up quite well today in PBS rerun packages, which are introduced by "Lawrence Welk Show" alumni, who also offer interesting behind-the-scenes commentary in lieu of commercial breaks.
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