Music and Television – The Lawrence Welk Show

The AWESOME! page has random music stuff that I think is cool. You never know what you will find here!

Here’s my fifth installment of the series “Music and Television.” See my other blogs in the series, all in the AWESOME category: American Bandstand, Schoolhouse Rock, Soul Train, and Live From Daryl’s House. You can also find my blog on “Concert Television in the 70s – Midnight Special & Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert” in the AWESOME section of the blog.

If you are age 50 or older, you must remember The Lawrence Welk Show on television. It was a musical variety show hosted by band leader Lawrence Welk, and it included his “Musical Family” – singers, dancers and musicians that Welk hired to perform on the show.

The show originated from Los Angeles, shown on local programming there from 1951 to 1955. In 1955, ABC picked it up for national broadcast until 1971. After ABC cancelled it that year, Welk formed his own production company and sold it to whatever local stations wanted to buy it – this continued from 1971 until 1982. Welk retired in 1982, at the age of 79. In 1985, a Christmas special was produced, the last show where Welk appeared with his musical family.

In 1987, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority produced a documentary film on Welk, and it was so successful, they acquired the rights to rerun the original show. Reruns can be viewed on many PBS stations today – many of them air the show on Saturday night in the same time slot as the original show. Since there are no commercials on PBS, the extra broadcasting times allows for a member of the musical family to act as host to the rerun.

The show was broadcast in black and white until 1965, when it moved to color.

During the 60s, the show consistently was in the top 30 of television ratings – its most popular season was in 1966-67, when it was ranked #12 in the ratings.

Usually, the show opened with bubbles floating around the TV screen and the sound of a champagne bottle opening. The opening theme song originally was Bubbles in the Wine, and later a tune called Champagne Time was used. Each week would have a theme, with singers, dancers and musicians performing throughout the show, often as part of a skit. Welk would introduce each performance and would lead the orchestra. Sometimes, the camera would cut to the audience, where they would be ballroom dancing to the music – often, Welk would choose a lady to dance with him.

The orchestra was mostly a “big band” format, with brass, reeds and strings, supplemented with drums, keyboards (piano, harpsichord and organ), guitar, and accordion. More than 60 musicians were part of the orchestra over the years, and more than 60 singers and dancers were part of the musical family. The costumes worn by the troupe were extravagant and colorful. The music typically were standards from the big band era, patriotic music, pop music, religious music – all geared to appeal to older fans (when you see the audience dancing, you won’t find anyone under the age of 60).

Welk became an icon in the culture of his day, and he and his show were frequently parodied – Welk even parodied himself. Saturday Night Live frequently parodied it in the late 00s and early 10s. He was born in North Dakota and spoke German until he was 21 years old – his English had a distinct German accent to it. He was famous for two of his catchphrases that he used frequently on the show – “Wunnerful Wunnerful” and “Ah-One and Ah-Two.” Welk was born in 1903 and he died in 1992.

Many of the shows are available in full on YouTube – as well as the SNL skits. Every show ended with the company singing Adios, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen. Here’s a clip of one of their endings. Good night!

 

 

 

 

 

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