He was born in Strasburg, North Dakota in 1903, but listening to him talk you would have thought he was born on the shores of the Danube river. In fact, he didn't even learn english until he was twenty one years old. That however, did not stand in the way of Lawrence Welks road to stardom. As a young man he decided to pursue a musical career path while still working on the family farm in the Peace Garden state.
On his twenty first birthday Lawrence left the farm to make his mark in music leading big bands like the Hotsy Totsy Boys and the Honolulu Fruit Gum Orchestra. As the leader of the house band at WNAX in Yankton S. Dakota, he soon got his own show which led to lots of gigs in the midwest. He settled in with a melodic style known as "sweet" music to distinguish them from the more rhythmic and assertive "hot" bands of artists like Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. After a show at the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, a dancer referred to his band's sound as "light and bubbly as champagne. The hotel had a "bubble machine," which was a prop left over from a 1920s movie premiere and Welks 'Champagne" music became his trademark.
After performing all over the country in 1951 he eventually settled in Los Angeles and began producing the Lawrence Welk Show on KTLA. The program was an instant hit and was picked up by ABC in 1955.
The shows target audience were mainly older viewers, as can be verified by millions of baby boomers that still lament having to watch the weekly broadcast with their grandparents, but the show out lasted many other programs featuring more youthful, contemporary music of the time like American Bandstand or Shindig. This strategy proved commercially successful, and the show remained on the air for 31 years and today repackaged shows continue to air on PBS in the same Saturday night time slot as the original program on ABC. In fact while many longtime TV shows suffered a serious ratings drop during the counterculture movement of the late 1960s, The Lawrence Welk Show survived largely intact and even had increased viewership during this time.
Many performers gained individual stardom because of their association with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra and the exposure offered by the TV show. Myron Floren, Pete Fountain, and the Lennon Sisters were just a few of the many breakout musicians and singers that had successful careers as a result of their association with Welk. His band still performs at a dedicated theater in Branson Missouri.
In addition to his musical talents Lawrence Welk had a keen business sense and had great success in real estate and music publishing. He even holds US patents for a musically themed restaurant menu and for an accordion themed ashtray, lunchbox and tray. Now if we could just get some champagne served to us on one of those trays it would be wunnerful, wunnerful.