NDSU Gets High Marks From Welk Kin
Kaser, Andrea. "NDSU Gets High Marks From Welk Kin." Forum, 21 June
Shirley Welk Fredricks, daughter of North Dakota’s famous music
man, Lawrence Welk, said Monday her father’s memorabilia was
in good hands at North Dakota State University.
|Shirley Welk Fredricks,
daughter of Lawrence Welk, and her husband, Bob, look at an
accordion from the Lawrence Welk collection at North Dakota
“Bob, we have found the people who know how to do this,”
Fredricks said with a laugh of relief to her husband, Bob Fredricks,
as university officials explained the archiving process.
Fredricks, executive director of the Lawrence Welk Foundation in
Santa Monica, Calif., is visiting friends and family with her husband
this week. The bandleader’s family donated Welk’s memorabilia
to NDSU in February.
In NDSU’s Institute for Regional Studies, officials showed
the couple memorabilia donated by friends and fans, including tin
TV trays, post cards and record albums. Officials then led them
across the campus to the Reineke Fine Arts Center and into a climate-controlled
room with floor-to-ceiling bookcases along the walls. The bookcases
are filled with Welk’s sheet music and scrapbooks.
The earliest scrapbooks date back to the 1930s, and are filled
mostly with newspaper clippings of Welk’s early career.
“I remember looking at these when I was a young girl and
thinking, ‘How boring. Why would anyone want to save this
in scrapbooks?’” Fredricks said while turning the fragile
pages, which are browning and crumbling with age.
“And it is a gold mine,” University Archivist John
Bye said in response.
The pages emit a sweet odor, which University Archivist John Bye
said was the smell of decomposing paper. Many of the photocopies
of Welk’s music have the same characteristics because of poor
paper qualify, Bye said.
It took archivists about a month to alphabetize and shelve the
estimated 15,000 musical arrangements, many of which were intermingled
with correspondence from musicians asking Welk if they could be
on the show, or if he would feature a particular song.
Archivists hope to begin cataloging the music on a computer data
base by September, Bye said. They also will transfer copies of songs
to acid-free paper in order to prevent further deterioration of
the current copies.
Archivists are currently cataloging the collections donated by
friends and fans. Eventually the archives will have all of the 1,700
recordings of Welk’s syndicated TV show.
The university also has one researcher, Dr. Robert Groves, in California
this month, taping an oral history of former band members.
The university has no concrete plans yet for permanent facility
to house and display the memorabilia, said David Wahlberg, director
of university relations.
“It’s a matter of money,” he said.
At this stage, NDSU is concerned with getting everything cataloged.
Fredericks said her father would be surprised at what NDSU is doing
with his memorabilia.
“He’d be so amazed that anyone in his lifetime would
be interested in it,” she said.
She added that if he were making such a display, he would go to
great lengths to make it impressive.
“It would be a Stephen Spielberg extravaganza...with an accordion
that works automatically.”
Welk, known as the king of champagne music, was born in Strasburg,
N.D., and died in May 1992, in Santa Monica.