and the Lawrence Welk Orchestra
Simply "wunnerful, wunnerful"!
Lawrence Welk was born on March 11th, 1903 in Strasburg, North
Dakota. After achieving a measure of competence on the piano-accordion, he formed a dance
band in the mid-20s, and soon became immensely popular, with engagements at leading hotels
and endless one-night stands on the country's dancehall circuit. The band was widely
criticized in the musical press for its lack of imagination and simplistic arrangements, coupled with occasionally elementary playing.
Nevertheless, Welk's star continued to rise and his became one of the most successful
broadcasting bands in the history of American popular music. Welk called his style
'champagne music' and he made no concessions to changing tastes, firmly believing that he
knew exactly what middle-Americans wanted to hear. He must have been right, because he
retained his popularity throughout the 30s and 40s, and in 1951 his regular radio shows
transferred smoothly to television. For the next four years he had a weekly show from the
Aragon Ballroom at Pacific Ocean Park, and in 1955 switched to ABC with even greater
success. In 1961, two of his albums spent the entire year in the charts, with Calcutta
holding the number 1 spot for 11 weeks. During his unprecedented chart run between 1956
and 1972, no less than 42 albums made the lists.
During the early 60s there
was always a Welk album in the bestsellers. Also in 1961 he signed a lifetime contract
with the Hollywood Palladium and a decade later was still on television, by now syndicated
across the North American continent. The band's musical policy, which stood it in such
good stead for so many years, had a central core of European music, including waltzes,
seasoned with numerous ballads. Although the band's book occasionally hinted that Welk was
aware of other forms of music, even jazz, the bland arrangements he used watered down the
original so much that it sounded barely any different from the wallpaper music he usually
played. The astonishing longevity of the band's popular appeal suggests that, however
cynical musicians and critics might have been about him, Welk clearly had his finger much
closer to the silent majority's pulse than almost any other bandleader in history. He died
of pneumonia at his home in 1992.
Through the generous donation of the Welk family, North Dakota
State University acquired the Lawrence Welk legacy in 1993. The NDSU Libraries and the
Institute for Regional Studies were given the responsibility of preserving and making
available the music and memorabilia of Lawrence Welk.
schedule at the Lawrence Champagne Welk Theatre - Branson, MO