1 9 5 5 – 1 9 8 2 (USA)
Bandleader Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers, a popular dance band in the US in the 1930s and 1940s, were first seen on television as a summer replacement in 1955.
The very traditional show was panned during its first season, but it stayed on the air for many years to become one of the most successful and fondly-remembered shows in TV history.
The show enjoyed a 16-year network run on ABC, and later a successful 11-year syndicated run.
Welk’s theme music Bubble In The Wine, which was played as soap bubbles swirled behind the band; his polka-dancing with whoever his current “Champagne Lady” was at the time; his large cast of regular singers and dancers; and Welk himself, with his slight German accent (even though he was born in the United States) and his “a-one and a-two” down beat before each number began and “Wunnerful . . . wunnerful” when each song ended, became familiar to millions of loyal viewers over the years.
The show proved to be especially popular with senior citizens who longed to hear the popular music of their past, without having to listen to the all-too-common rock and roll beat that had begun to dominate pop music.
Cast members of the Welk show became familiar “friends” to dedicated viewers, who knew everything about their favourites, including when they were married, had children, appeared on other shows etc.
Among Welk’s original cast members were his first “Champagne Lady”, singer Alice Lon (who was fired in 1959 for showing “too much knee” and thousands wrote in to protest); his second “Champagne Lady”, Norma Zimmer (who remained with the show until it left the air in 1982); tenor Jim Roberts; accordionist Myron Floren; pianist and organist Jerry Burke; baritone and saxophone player Dick Dake; pianist and bass singer Larry Hooper; violinist Dick Kesner; singer/violinist Bob Lido; pianist Tiny Little Jr; guitarist Buddy Merrill; gravel-voiced trumpeter Rocky Rockwell; and The Sparklers Quartet.
The show’s musical numbers became increasingly more elaborate over the years, and the programme featured various themed shows such as special Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas and Easter programmes, and shows that had barn dance, ice skating, dance party and birthday party settings.
In 1971 The Lawrence Welk Show left network television and became a syndicated show. New shows were produced for the next 11 years and attracted a sizable number of new viewers as well as keeping old fans who remained faithful to the show.
In later years, early shows were re-released under the title Memories With Lawrence Welk, which also featured commentary and interviews from former Welk show regulars.