John A. Klein Jr., 78, Laguna Hills, Calif.
John A. Klein, 78, of Laguna Hills, Calif., died Friday, January
31, 1997, as a result of heart failure and stroke.
John was born in Strasburg on June 4, 1918 to parents, John M.
and Ann (Lipp) Klein. Many will remember him as Johnny Klein, the
energetic drummer for The Lawrence Welk Orchestra for over 25 years,
from 1951-1977. He provided the drummmer's "beat" during what was
the height of the Welk Bank's phenomenal Popularity with its weekly
Saturday night television show, extensive recording and touring
Even though Lawrence Welk always called him "Cousin John," Welk
made it clear to everyone that he had hired Johnny "not because
he is my cousin, but because he is a great drummer."
Ambitious and hard working, Johnny served as both the drummer
and the equipment manager for many years, even serving as the driver
of the band truck while on tour.
Ill health due to a bleeding ulcer ended his full-time career
with the Welk Band, but after he recovered, he would often play
for the "Sunday Swing" at the Welk Resort in Escondido, Calif.,
with a group called the journeymen.
In life, he prospered as a husband, father and grandfather. In
addition, he maintained a passion throughout for music and education.
He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education and his teaching
credentials from the University in Missouri in 1948. He also obtained
two Master Degrees, one in Music Education from the University of
Missouri in 1951, and the second in Library Science from the University
of Southern Calif., in 1970. He has been honored with Distinguished
Achievement Awards in the field of Music Arts from both the Universities
of Missouri and North Dakota.
He traveled extensively with his beloved wife, Jan, and continued
to live in the longtime family home in Westchester, Calif., until
his death in 1992.
His death was the result of severe heart failure and a series
of small strokes suffered over the past few months. Until moving
to his daughter's home during his brief final illness, Johnny lived
at Leisure World in Laguna Hills, Calif.
Barney Liddell, a Welk Band member since 1948 who knew and loved
Johnny for 46 years, said he treasured their friendship and remembered
the good times they had together. He called Johnny "Truck One" and
Johnny always called him "Truck Two."
"He was one of the sweetest guys you could ever meet," Barney
recalled. "I didn't know one person in the whole world who didn't
Survivors include two sons, Jay Klein and Jim Klein, both of Calif.,
one daughter, Joan Nugent of Calif., six grandchildren; one brother
and sister-in-law, Jerry and Lila Klein of Dana Point, Calif., and
three sisters and brothers-in-law, Lillian and John Wolf of Sun
City, Calif., Angeline and Joe Schneider of Walnut Creek, Calif.,
and Bernice and John Whitte of Lafayette, Calif.
A memorial Mass was held at St. Anthony's Catholic Church on Saturday,
Feb. 8, 1997, in Laguna Hills. Many Welk Band friends attended the
(Part of the information for this obituary was provided
by the Welk Group of Santa Monica, Calif.)