A one … and a two … and a three!

My Saturday nights in the late 1950s were unexciting. Pre-pubescent me turned 10 years old in January 1958 so Saturday nights were spent at home with my parents and three younger brothers (two sisters came later.)

My family acquired our first television receiver in January 1957 and that began a Saturday night tradition. After my brothers and I had all had our Saturday night baths we gathered in the living room and watched the Lawrence Welk television show.

For one hour on Saturday nights the Huisman boys got to watch performers sing, play and dance. Dad turned 30 in January 1957 but was already conservative at that age. He tolerated the worldly music but took a dim view of the dancing, sometimes muttering, “Dat ist verrückt,” or “That’s crazy,” under his breath. At that age I had mixed feelings!

Some baby boomers complain about having had to watch Lawrence Welk with their families when they were youngsters. I have no complaint about that.

Frankly, I enjoyed much of the music and thought the Lennon Sisters were cute. Over subsequent decades, I frequently tuned in to the Lawrence Welk Show on Saturday nights and, in fact, took in a live show at the Welk Theater in Branson nearly 30 years ago.

All of this came to mind a couple of weeks ago when I was watching the YouTube channel on television. This streaming service features many old television shows and I happened to catch the May 2, 1955, network premier of the Welk show.

The Lawrence Welk Show had been televised locally in Los Angeles from 1951 to 1955 when the ABC network picked up the show which was sponsored by Dodge (later by Plymouth) automobiles.

From 1956 to 1959 Lawrence Welk’s show was aired two nights per week. The first of the two was billed as the Dodge Dancing Party and the second show’s title was Lawrence Welk Presents Top Tunes and New Talent.

In total, the Welk show (by whatever title) produced 1,065 episodes. Shows were broadcast in black-and-white from 1951 to September 1965 when they were produced in color for the duration.

The May 2, 1955, episode I watched recently featured many of the original musicians who performed on Welk television shows for decades thereafter.

Welk, himself an accordion virtuoso, joined accordionist Myron Floren for a duet performance of the Twelfth Street Rag in the premier show.

Watching the very young Floren (only 35 at the time of the premiere) reminded me of the time I met him. In the 1940s my boss at my first radio job had worked at a South Dakota station where he met the young Norwegian farm boy who performed daily for the station. He claimed they became good friends and kept in touch over the years.

In the summer of 1967 I was working a remote radio broadcast from the Wright County Fair in Eagle Grove, Iowa, where Floren was scheduled to perform that evening. My boss had accompanied me to the fairgrounds and took off after the remote equipment was set up.

An hour or so later, my boss returned to our remote broadcast van with his friend in tow and introduced me to him. I have never been inclined to get excited over meeting celebrities but of all the musicians of national acclaim I was pleased to meet Myron Floren.

ABC dropped the Welk show in 1971 and it ran another 11 years in first-run syndication. Recordings of the original shows continue to be viewed today, thanks to Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations.

Lawrence Welk passed away in 1992 and Myron Floren died in 2005. Several weeks ago I watched a tribute show on YouTube, honoring all the Welk Show performers who had passed away. Names like Champagne Music Lady Alice Lon, Algona, Iowa’s Dick Dale, tenor Joe Feeney, bass singer Larry Hooper and pianist Big Tiny Little brought back a lot of memories. I was surprised by the number of performers who were deceased, including some of the younger ones.

Looking back, one of my favorite childhood memories is watching the Lawrence Welk Show on television with my parents and little brothers.

A one … and a two… and a three!

Arvid Huisman can be contacted at huismaniowa@gmail.com. ©2024 by Huisman Communications.


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