The Wunnerful, Wunnerful Lawrence Welk

Thursday, July 16, 2009
As someone who was born to middle-aged parents (mom was 42 when she got pregnant with me; a victim of the low-dose birth control pills they were experimenting with in the early 70s) I may just about be one of the few kids who grew up in the 70s watching the very uncool Lawrence Welk Show. Does anyone else remember this musical variety show? Perhaps you did if you had the misfortune of being babysat by your gramdmother on a Saturday night, as much of its viewer demographics were people over the age of 45. I still know most of the lyrics to the closing song: "Good night, sleep tight, and pleasant dreams to you. Here's a wish, and a prayer, that every dream comes true. And now until we meet again....adios, au revoir, auf Wiedersehen....good night!"

To say The Lawrence Welk Show was corny would be a grave understatement. At the opening of each show, bubbles would be seen floating around and the sound of a champagne bottle could be heard being opened. Lawrence Welk, a former big band leader, would then appear in his trademark plaid suit and introduce the theme of the show in his German accent, often mispronouncing the words on the cue cards (according to Wikipedia, his once introduced songs from World War I as "songs from World War Eye.")

Wait. They played songs from World War ONE on this show? See what I mean?

Fake sets were the norm. Along with a group of dancers and singers who came to be known as the Welk Family, the musical guests were as far removed from the popular singers of the time (the show started in the 50s, but had its heyday in the 60s and 70s): The Lennon Sisters, Joe Feeney, Lynn Anderson, and Larry Hooper, to name a few. The more wholesome, the better, because that was one of Welk's strict requirements. In fact, he fired a singer/dancer named Alice Lon for crossing her legs while sitting atop a desk during one musical sequence, telling his audience on the air that he didn't tolerate "cheesecake" on his show. Fans pressured him to rehire Lon, but she wouldn't accept Welk's apology and refused to return. A clarinet player from his band also left the show when Welk refused to let him "jazz up" a rendition of a Christmas carol.

Still, Welk had his moments when he loosened up. He once appeared on stage dressed like a hippie and participated in a parody of the music of the time, as in this clip here:

But my favorite moment is when the cherub faced couple known as Gale and Dale do "one of the newer songs" of the time, "One Toke Over the Line." Welk calls it a "heartened spiritual." The debate is still out on whether Welk knew the real meaning of the song. I say the accordian player introducing the singers is a wee bit nervous, don't you think? It seems appropriate that he's dressed in green.

And here's the famous closing sequence. And ah-one, and ah-two...good night!

By the way, one of my favorite lines from "American Beauty" is when Kevin Spacey tells Annette Benning, on her choice of dinnertime music, "From now on we're going to alternate our dinner music. Because frankly, and I don't think I'm alone here, I'm really tired of this Lawrence Welk shit."


  1. LOL! I am also the child of older parents (which was unusual back then) and oh we watched Lawrence Welk, and Hee Haw and all sorts of stuff. Lawrence Welk, ugh - yes, you described it perfectly. I remember it all, the bubbles, the goony smiling happy weird people singing and singing AND singing. Super corny.

    Good to know I wasn't the only one, because back then it sure felt like I was! :)

  2. Lidian, it's so nice to know I did not suffer alone. Only one of my friends have parents who also watched the show.

    In retrospect, I actually have a lot of appreciation now for Lawrence Welk, if I were to catch footage of his band playing, say, a medley of Glenn Miller songs.

    I should probably also mention here that my mother is far from being a "victim" for having me...she always says I was the best thing to happen to her!

    Do a search for SNL Lawrence Welk - there is a hilarious SNL parody out there featuring Anne Hathaway, although I couldn't post it because some people would most definitely find it offensive.

    I hope you viewed the "One Toke Over the Line" is classic!

  3. Just got done watching a retro episode of Lawrence Welk. I am one of this kids too!

  4. My grandmother used to watch this all the time. My Dad still watches it. It's so bad that my brother and I laugh about this.

  5. my parents were not older but i still watched lawrence welk as a kid. i loved it then and i love it now and whenever my grandchildren are here on a saturday night we watch lawrence welk on pbs ;) i love the retro blog btw!! keep it up :)

  6. I, too, was a child of older parents. But we only watched Lawrence Welk when Aunt Henrietta or Aunt Jeanne visited. As we watched, theadults would talk about the performers. "Didn't she just get married?" "You know, he started dancing when he was little." "You'd never know she just had a baby." Lawrence Welk's musical family was like a REAL family to me. I felt like I knew them.
    But my favorite memory was when I was a teenager. I happened to catch a retro-cast of the Lawrence Welk Show, & was watching it when my friend Margaret dropped by. She laughed at me for watching "that old fogie stuff", but then she got interested in it too. Before long, we were watching and talking about the performers, just like my parents, aunts, & uncles did when I was little. It was fun!

  7. I'm sorry to hear that anybody couldn't appreciate how fabulously skilled those virtuoso musicians on the Lawrence Welk show were.


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