Johnny Klein of Los Angeles poses in the Pin Palace in Strasburg with his sisters, Angie Schneider of Walnut Creek, Calif., left, and Berniece Whitte of Lafayette, Calif

A Tribute to Johnny Klein, 1918-1997

Burke, Allan. "A Tribute to Johnny Klein, 1918-1997." Emmons County Record, 4 March 1997, 1.


(Editor's note: this story is reprinted from the July 18, 1991, Prairie Pioneer, Pollock, S.D., as a tribute to Johnny Klein, who died January 31, 1997. Among Johnny's survivors is his aunt, Mrs. Kathryn Klein of Strasburg.)

No one is more excited about the restoration of Lawrence Welk's childhood home than Johnny Klein.

Klein, who now lives in Los Angelas, was the Lawrence Welk Orchestra' s drummer for 25 years, 1951-76. He joined the orchestra just before the Lawrence Welk Show debuted on national television.

He visited the Ludwig Welk homestead Monday afternoon with his sisters, Angie Schneider of Walnut Creek, Calif., and Berniece Witte of Lafayette, Calif.

Natives of Strasburg, Klein and his sisters were Monday supper guests of their aunt, Katie Klein of Strasburg. Katie's late husband, Leo, was a brother of their father, the late John Klein. Their mother is the late Ann (Lipp) Klein.

Johnny is still a favorite in the Los Angeles area. He plays two nights a week with a four piece combo at a popular steak house. .'It's fun-I love it," he said.

After graduating from high school in Strasburg in 1936, Johnny enrolled in the University of Missouri, Columbia. He earned both a B.A. and Master's Degree from the university. Before graduate school, he served in the U .S. Army for four and a half years. He played drums both at the university and in the Anny.

"When I was in graduate school I saw in the St. Louis paper that Lawrence Welk was playing at Forest Park. I went to see the show and found out that the drummer couldn't play he had the flu. I filled in for him. He soon left the group to pursue other things, and I joined the band," Johnny explained.

Last year, Johnny and a dozen other Welk orchestra veterans visited Lawrence and Fern Welk on Welk's 87th birthday (March 11). "We played for him, and it was great to see his response." Johnny said.

Among the others in the group were Russ Klein, Mickey McMahan (trumpet), Bob Smale, Bob Havens (jazz), Laroon Holt, Barney Liddell (trombone), charlie Parlato and Joe Rizzo (bass).

Johnny said the Lawrence Welk Show re-runs do not appear on the Los Angeles stations, but the show is on the air in San Diego and many other California cities as well as throughout the United States and much of Canada. .

For Johnny Klein, seeing the newly completed restoration of his former boss's childhood home made this trip back to Strasburg extra special.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller