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Why Lawrence Welk was successful for so long

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Posted: Tuesday, July 24, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 7:20 am, Tue Jul 24, 2012.

In the interest of scientific inquiry, I decided to look into what made Lawrence Welk such a durable entertainer in the hearts and minds of people (over 30) worldwide. I tuned into Channel 6 and sat there for a whole hour the other night, and I think I discovered what his secret to professional longevity was. Speaking for squareheads everywhere, I found he spoke with the exact same accent that the average Wishek, North Dakotan thinks he doesn't have.

You might remember why many Lodi residents, whose roots are firmly the same as Lawrence his own self, were so convinced our recent governor didn't have an accent whatsoever — and still feel the mistakes he made were not of his own making (yeah, right).

Lawrence had the foresight to know that people would like music that didn't cause nervous tension and headaches, music that was written with the care and keeping of tympanic membranes in mind and not cause actual physical pain. His music had rhythm and continuity as well as melody and harmony in mind. He went so far as to feature music one listened to that has lyrics your children wouldn't have to pray for forgiveness because they listened to it on purpose. I suppose the word I was looking for earlier was "comfortable."

One of the reasons I am a classical music fan is the fact that music is predictable. If you have an ear for music, you can always predict the next note, and that is one of the secrets to the longevity of that art. Anything else leads to nervous tension, alcoholism and depression. Studies have shown that cows, even low-brow Holsteins, dry up when subjected to long-term doses of atonal, glass-shattering rock or its bile-stirring derivatives.

Lawrence went farther and saw to it the men on the show sang like their hormones were not askew and weren't causing irreparable harm to their vocal cords trying to reach notes that are even a problem for Steven Tyler.

The members of the band are gifted, and there's a simple explanation for their expertise: When the word went out for auditions, 50 guys showed up for every position. It's no wonder many of his bandsmen were the best of the best — the accordion player fer dang sher.

The pretty-as-a-picture Welk women sing downright prettily as well. Not a one sounded like her voice was tempered with booze and tobacco. (Relax, I ain't sayin' nothing' about tattoos in this column. You already know what I don't know about that subject.) Janis Joplin is my perfect bad example for ink and drink.

Welk did insist on costumes on his show that featured the same colors as the posters in the windows of the 31 Flavors sherbet ice cream cones joint. But then, those were engendered during the times when every retired New Yorker in Florida wore a white belt and matching patent leather shoes thinking he had attained haute monde nirvana So you could say that even the colors on Welk were on the pastel side, nothing nerve-jarring there either. The whole stage looks like a Van Gogh post-impressionist painting of tulip field, only in focus. Cutting off your ear changes everything, you know.

All in all, it was a most entertaining evening and, since I left Wishek at the age of five, I can only imagine the Lawrence Welk show was sorta like the senior prom at Wishek High School only with muddy shoes. The music was the same: 45 rpm discs of Bennie Goodman and Harry James played on a tinny-sounding Sears and Roebuck record player.

Watching the folks in the audience dance on the show was a lot like Lodi High in the '40s. The dancing was about as bad, the haircuts on the men were the same, duck tails and all, and the hair-dos on the gals were much like the Lodi gals. All you would've had to do in making an apt comparison was subtract 30 years from the ladies' ages and add four inches of hair piled up bouffant style. I ain't saying the people looked their ages, but with the changes in dental development, the phoney choppers were almost as obvious as the Hair Club for Men customers.

I used to have a bald friend who wasn't all that fussy about his hair. He did wear his rug backwards at lunch one day. No one mentioned it, but when he went to the little boys' room, he came back a changed man and that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Bob Bader can be reached at bobbyo@softcom.net.

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Welcome to the discussion.

9 comments:

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 6:03 pm on Wed, Jul 25, 2012.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 261

    Mr. Kinderman , the decency you speak of - and yes I agree -where has it gone- is in your pocket . It was in the older generation's pockets before and now it's our turn. You won't find it in Hollywood as "Freedom" has run amock. TV ratings push raunchiness and extremes as being better just like the vampire intrigue currently popular. "Wicked" is exciting - isn't it ? Have you noticed the extreme sports approach on current shows that have no where to go but being sued when someone dies .
    It's already happening. Music is no different.
    Decency is there though and very appealing when you research some of the more popular talented singers. The garbage is here today and gone tomorrow for the most part in that - that world shortens their lives. Harsh to say but rough lives sometimes end rougher. We could influence towards the better if you choose. Instant thrill has always proved to be very short term . Bad language eventually gets thrown out with the wash

    Many good avenues exist and are reasons to get excited about and are to be used to lead the " gangs from the getto " so to speak. That's about all I can say positive about rap , that is when the rap words are right.

    Decency? - Ask yourself where was it 50 years ago. Unbridled freedoms tend to not only make life wonderful but also terrible. All of it . Censored TV shows do not exist anymore because of you and me. It's in your pocket - take it out. Decency is what we make it.
    My heartbeat is a song . I value that and want to share it whether I ramble or not.
    Welk was smart and knew his target audience. Decent ? - Absolutely. Can we agree any more than that ?
    '

     
  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 3:19 pm on Wed, Jul 25, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2363

    Mr. Lauchland, how could I possibly take your words out of context when I quoted one sentence verbatim and then asked a simple question with no discernable answer contained within your diatribe ranging from free speech issues to declaring that "a song is a song?" In response, I'm still left with a guttural "huh?"

    Of course my concern hasn't to do with much more than the fundamental question as to where has our decency fled. One contributor here offers his condolences to Mr. Bader's having to listen to an hour or so of Lawrence Welk when it was clear that no misgivings were pronounced. There was nothing more decent than Welk and his troupe of performers of that era that have been replaced by what exactly, I don't really know except that the ratings for these “musical” programs warn of sexual, language and other “mature” performances that shouldn’t be viewed by people under the age of 18.

    So again, where’s the decency?

     
  • Ted Lauchland posted at 9:51 am on Wed, Jul 25, 2012.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 261

    Taking my words out of context makes them mean what you want them to mean. Go back and read again. A song is a song whether it's intent is celebrating the good or the bad only matters to who is singing it. Can you say the rock and roll you enjoyed when you were younger was all good - I don't think so. You also enjoyed Mr. Welk's music as so did I . What about American Band Stand aimed at the younger crowd. It lasted longer than Welk's success. Again - a positive up beat show. In my parents eyes the Beetles were evil but it was the new generation. The difference being now we are our parents and judge from a different perspective than when we were younger. I do not care for rap or the equivalent of the garbage mouths that have gone to the extremes they have today but isn't that part of the freedoms everyone claim are so important today without any thought of how it may affect someone else.
    I chaparoned a group of high school students to LA one time . On the bus I asked if one of the students didn't have something better to listen to as he had a boom box broadcasting an offensive sexual song on it. He listened to me and changed to something better. The last two girls getting off the bus thanked me for saying something as they had been extremely offended by the words. My son feeling peer pressure at that age embarrassed by his dad demanded that I never do that again. Long term he appreciated the stance I took though.
    It's a learning thing.
    Celebrating evil leads to premature death and setting standards are important but a song is a song whether you dance with war paint on or a tu-tu. In the long run as you and I have recognize positive is good and you enjoy a better and longer life because of it.
    Thank you for taking a stance

     
  • Walter Chang posted at 8:21 pm on Tue, Jul 24, 2012.

    Walt Posts: 1151

    Jerome, you're funny when you feign outrage!

    How do you know of such things as hate-filled lyrics in music?

    But rant filled partisan "free speech" like you've practiced many times while sharing your opinion doesn't offend your senses??

    Hmmm...

     
  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 7:40 pm on Tue, Jul 24, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2363

    Mr. Lauchland wrote, "Our heart's all beat to the same rythyms (sic) and somehow that brings us all to an agreement in music."

    Really? And just what might this "agreement" be? Clearly my heart does not beat to the same rhythm as those who celebrate what I mention in my earlier post that have awards programs honoring those who spew forth such hate-filled lyrics that can only cause a pall to cast over the hearts and souls of those who simply can’t get enough of it.

     
  • Ted Lauchland posted at 2:43 pm on Tue, Jul 24, 2012.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 261

    I exposed my kids to as much diverse music as possible including ageless 1930s to present day styles as well as rock, country, pop , classic, and many others as they were growing up. The purpose was to enjoy music and keep a desire for upbeat attitudes. Rounding out their experiences was so we could all understand each other's generations better including the "squarehead" experience that no doubt brings Mr. Bader's memories of good times back .
    Depth of generational understanding can easily be measured in music. I remember hearing my Dad state that the world was going to blank in a hand basket with the new "rock and roll". Celebrating drugs! I still listen to the Dobie Brothers and the Beetles but I also listen to Roy Orbison and Eric Clapton. Classic , orchestratic music is great and so is Blue Grass. Religious music has a positive approach.
    Watching Lawrence Welk brings me back to standing in my Grandma's living room after basketball practice waiting for my parents to pick me up. Grandma loved it and wouldn't miss a show. My granddad told me one time that the new music (60s) couldn't compare to Bing Crosby's crooning. How could I considered it to even be classified as music! We all have our preferences as each of us holds it special to a memory or feeling from the past. My kids now get excited about certain songs and want to share them with me and I can't identify with them . It's their excitement - not mine. Their memories being created- I am of a different generation. There is decent music out there and the advantage we have now a days as that we have such a long music history to pick from to listen and sing along with to make our days better.
    The garbage has always been there and is quickly forgotten.
    I suppose Mr. Welk's success was more the feel good and upbeat programing than the actual music style itself.

    Our heart's all beat to the same rythyms and somehow that brings us all to an agreement in music.

    What do you listen to Ms. Bobin ?

     
  • Joanne Bobin posted at 12:29 pm on Tue, Jul 24, 2012.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4488

    I find it hard to believe that Mr. Kinderman was ever "hip," as he states.

    Otherwise, there is so much more music being produced today by solo musicians and bands that has no profanity, "murder, rape and mayhem."

    To lump all modern music in this category insults a great deal of decent musicians.

    I still do not understand why Bob Bader persists in using the term "squarehead" when this is clearly an ethnic slur. I know he thinks it is cute because he grew up using that word, but it is no longer acceptable, especially in print in a newspaper.

     
  • Eric Barrow posted at 8:00 am on Tue, Jul 24, 2012.

    Eric Barrow Posts: 1565

    Mr. Bader said...I tuned into Channel 6 (Lawrence Welk) and sat there for a whole hour the other night.

    Sorry you had to go through that.

     
  • Jerome Kinderman posted at 6:48 am on Tue, Jul 24, 2012.

    Jerome R Kinderman Posts: 2363

    Well Mr. Bader, as a purely non-scientific attempt to determine just why Lawrence Welk's music along with his show were so successful for so long, I think I can define it with just one word: decent.

    Sure, even for "hip" guys like I was back in the 60's and 70's who found enjoyment in much of the Rock and Roll sounds, I could still appreciate the absolute decency that came from this man, his orchestra and all of his performers. Naturally, I couldn't openly admit my admiration and affection for Welk and others like him around my buddies - most of them clearly would not understand. Or maybe they would have.

    But in an era now where music simply isn't melodic anymore; where the lyrics are laced with profanities and suggestive of murder, rape and mayhem; where is the decency? Why celebrate the dark side of humanity when there's still so much good out here to build our music and lyrics around? I sure wish I had the answers to these questions.

     

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