Lawrence Welk Show
The Lawrence Welk Show was a musical variety show hosted
by former big band leader Lawrence Welk. New episodes were aired in either
a local, network, or syndicated capacity for thirty years.
The Lawrence Welk Show started in 1952 as a local program on
KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, California. The program originated from the
since-demolished Aragon Ballroom at Venice Beach. Later, the show aired
nationally on ABC from 1955 to 1971. When the show was canceled by the
head of programming there, Welk made his own production company and
continued airing the show on independent stations. The syndicated version
of the program aired from 1971 to 1982.
Each week, Welk would introduce the theme of the show, which usually
inspired joyous singing and/or patriotic fervor. He was most known for
delivering these monologues in a thick German accent, which was parodied
in pop culture (even by Welk himself: the two books he authored,
Wunnerful, Wunnerful! and Ah-One, Ah-Two! were so titled because they were
his catch phrases). If the number was more a dance tune, Welk would dance
with ladies from the audience, which he became somewhat known for. For
certain songs, the couples in attendance were also allowed to dance at the
Welk employed many musicians and singers, which were known in the press
as his Welk Family. These singers were bound by an unofficial set of
morals dictated by Welk, and if Welk believed the audience did not find
them wholesome enough, they would be fired. Former Champagne Lady Alice
Lon was fired in 1959 for crossing her legs on a desk. Welk, on-air, told
the audience that he did not tolerate such "cheesecake" on his
show. After he fired Alice Lon on-camera, thousands of letters filled the
ABC mailroom, demanding an apology to Alice Lon, and that she be rehired.
Welk tried to get Lon back but she refused. Norma Zimmer was hired,
starting in 1960; she stayed with Welk for the rest of the show's run.
Welk relied on fan letters to tell him who was popular and who was not.
Often, performers who received a positive reaction were prominently
featured on future shows, while those who didn't meet muster with the
audience saw their solo opportunities diminish before they were let go.
While the show was highly-rated, ABC decided to get rid of it in 1971
since most of its audience was people over the age of 50. His audience was
old because Welk usually had performers sing and play standards from the
'30s and '40s, and the younger viewers were typically out during the
Saturday night timeslot.
Welk started his own production company in response, and continued
producing the show. Some independent stations put it in its old Saturday
timeslot, and in some cases, it drew higher ratings than the network shows
scheduled at that time. Welk retired in 1982; however, classic shows —
largely, from 1967-1980 — were repackaged with new footage (either Welk
or the show's cast introducing segments) for syndication during the
1982-1983 season. Reruns soon made their way to PBS, where they continue
to air to this day; shows from the 1950s and 1960s have also aired, also
repackaged with new footage.
For most of the show's run, the big sponsors of The Lawrence Welk
Show were Dodge and Geritol, the latter being the butt of endless
jokes regarding the show's clientele.
Famous performers who were on The Lawrence Welk Show
- Myron Floren, accordionist (1955-1982)
- Pete Fountain, saxophonist (1957-1959)
- Jo Ann Castle, ragtime pianist (1959-1969)
- Lynn Anderson, singer (1967-1968)
- The Lennon Sisters, singers (1955-1968)
- Norma Zimmer, singer (1960-1982)
- Arthur Duncan, tap dancer (1964-1982)
- Jack Imel, percussionist/tap dancer (1957-1982)
- Bobby Burgess, dancer (1961-1982)