By Will Jones
HOLLYWOOD, Calif.- “Why,” asked Lawrence Welk, “do writers always belittle me and my music? Do they know they’re wrong?”
The kind of writers he was talking about were reviewers, and in particular a writer in the trade paper called Billboard. Welk was holding a copy in his lap. Ray Anthony had started a new TV show for the same sponsor as Welk, and the reviewer started out his piece by wondering if Anthony’s sophisticated (his word) music would be as successful for the sponsor as Welk’s cornball (his word) music.
The piece was a tribute to Welk’s success as much as it was to Anthony’s music.
“Even when they write how successful I am,” said Welk, “they always put in these little digs. They make it sound as though it’s wrong to play a melody.”
“I started a new TV show, too, and look down here where they put it.” He pointed to a review at the bottom of a page. “Isn’t a TV show that plays a melody as important as a show that is jazz?”
“This doesn’t bother Lawrence, you understand,” put in Sam Lutz, his agent and executive producer.
“That’s Right,” said Welk. “It doesn’t hurt me a bit. I’m just asking the question, that’s all. But do you know whom it does hurt? Young people. Young musicians read these reviews, and they get the idea that they have to be a jazz musician to get ahead, that it’s a crime to play sweet music.”
“I’ve started a new TV show to help young people. It’s hard to get started, especially with people giving them wrong ideas. I wanted to do this kind of a show when I first went on TV, and they talked me out of it. When they wanted me to do a second show, I didn’t want to. But I had this idea for a show to help young people, and I said maybe if they’d let me do something like that. So we got together.”
When Welk says he isn’t hurt by such reviews, he isn’t kidding.
His Saturday night show long has attracted the biggest audiences against all kinds of fancy spectaculars thrown against him by NBC and CBS. His brand-new Monday night hour “Lawrence Welk’s Top Tunes and New Talent,” already is getting higher ratings than the established shows on at the same hour.
“Do you think it would be a good idea for me to organize a young band-a sweet band?” asked Welk. “It’s just a thought, I don’t know if I’ll do it. But how else can they get started? They can’t get good reviews.”
“I Lost A Job Once, many years ago, because of a review in Down Beat. I was all booked to play a club, and when they read the review they canceled the contract.”
“I have another question-how can we get more talent on our show from Minneapolis and up in that part of the country? We haven’t had too many applications from around there. It isn’t a contest. They must send us a tape and an un-retouched picture, and if we like them they get a chance to be on the show and we help them get started.”
“We find that a very large percentage of the people who apply are of professional quality that we can use. I think it’s because of the tapes. We have a strict rule that there must be a tape. If they make a tape, they have to listen to themselves, and then they realize they couldn’t make it on a show like this.”
“Once I was interviewing girls for a new champagne lady. I was seeing 20 and 30 a night. But a lot of them weren’t interested at all-couldn’t even sing. They just did it for the fun of it. Some said, ‘I just did it on a dare.’”
“With the tapes we weed ‘em out. We don’t have time to joke around. Now that I’m doing two shows a week, I’m working exactly twice as hard, and I don’t know how long I can keep it up. On the other hand, we must be very cautious that we don’t gripe, because we worked for 30 years for this.”
The decision to use current pop tunes on his new show was a big one for Welk to make, because he fears the double meanings in some of the lyrics. He wouldn’t be caught dead using a lyric with a double meaning on his show, and yet he’s not sure he can catch all of them himself. So there’s a man on his staff assigned to going over all lyrics carefully in search of double meanings.
Comic Dave Barry says Elvis Presley is all washed up-his side-burns are receding.