Welk Shrugs Off New Rhythm and Blues Fad
Calls it Only a Seasonal Dance Craze
Ames, Walter. "Welk Shrugs Off New Rhythm and Blues Fad." Los Angeles Times, 23 January 1955, sec. 8C.
|He’s Not Jumping- The current
rhythm and blues craze among teenagers leaves Lawrence Welk
calm. He sees it as quick way to empty a ballroom.
A lot of corn has been husked in Iowa sinceLawrence
Welk hid behind a barn and practiced dancing-with a pitchfork.
But he must have learned his lessons well because the dances he
improvises on his Friday evening 8:00 KTLA (5) show are among
the more popular items on the program.
I hasten to add the Lawrence’s partners, first,
Roberta Linn, and the current Champagne Lady, petite Alice Lon,
are quite an improvement over the old pitchfork partner. But someday,
don’t be surprised if he revives the fork routine. He’s
one of TV’s top showmen and certainly inspires his entire
band organization to assert themselves into special routines to
keep the show near the top of all local polls.
“I’ve done pretty well in keeping the
pitchfork out of the picture so far,” Welk admitted when
I trapped him during rehearsals in the Ocean Park Aragon Ballroom
the other day.
He Shrugs off Fad
Since most of Lawrence’s melodies are on the
smooth side, I tried to erase his smile with a jab about the new
teen-age craze for rhythm and blues music. It’s a real fad
that has true music lovers concerned. But Lawrence shrugged it
off as just one of the usual seasonal freaks.
“I guess if the teensters want to go into
contortions when they dance, that’s their privilege. I know
if I played that stuff all night long, I’d empty the Aragon
of my steady customers before 10 p.m.”
Currently Welk and other top-notch bandleaders in
the country are making a serious study of dance music. They feel
they lost a generation of dancers during World War II and don’t
want to lose another generation. One of their big concerns is
the tendency of recording companies to feature small combos singing
novelty numbers instead of trying to sell big name bands for dancing
Father Man of the Soil
“Father always tried to keep me down on the
farm,” said Welk. He happened to be a man of, the soil and
a blacksmith by hobby. Although he didn’t discourage my
love for music, he wanted me to stick around the old homestead.
If he ever knew I danced behind the barn, he never let on.”
“I finally made a deal with him on music.
I promised to stay on the farm until I was 21 if he would buy
me an accordion. I guess he knew he was working on a long-shot,
because he agreed. I took a few lessons and started playing for
wedding festivals, square dances and other community affairs.
When I reached 21, father offered me 160 acres of the farm for
my own. But the long-shot venture didn’t come in. Music
was in my blood and off I went,” Lawrence smiled.
Under Kelly’s Wing
“A gentleman named George T. Kelly who had
an act titled ‘Peerless Entertainers’ took me under
his wing when the going seemed the toughest,” Welk smiled.
“He convinced me a band-leader had to be a good businessman,
a top-notch greeter and, above all, had to be able to fit himself
to the mood of the audience he was playing for.”
How true this held for Welk is shown during the
depression years when ballrooms were closed tight. He found himself
stranded with his crew in Phoenix. After hocking a diamond ring
for $75 to feed the fellows-and his own family-Welk proved to
be a smooth talker by getting a ballroom opened so he could play
dances. His key-a promise to assume all losses personally.
“My assets at the time totaled nothing,”
That proved to be the turning point and Lawrence
admits “God must have been sitting in for a chorus or two
that night. He certainly was on our side.”