NDSU Gets High Marks From Welk Kin

Kaser, Andrea. "NDSU Gets High Marks From Welk Kin." Forum, 21 June 1993.

Shirley Welk Fredricks, daughter of Lawrence Welk, and her husband, Bob, look at an accordion from the Lawrence Welk collection at North Dakota State University.
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.

“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.

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