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 schedules.
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 like him."
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 service.
(Part of the information for this obituary was provided by the Welk Group of Santa Monica, Calif.)