Every time I visited my grandfather in North Loup, Nebraska — there was one unspoken, but wholly enforced rule — on Sunday nights at 7:00pm, you sat down with him and watched the Lawrence Welk Show on ABC television.
It was an hour of a painful persuasion for a young lad to bear — second only to the never-ending reruns of Hee Haw that aired every single weeknight that I was also forced to watch during each visit.
I never learned to like, or even tolerate, the Welk show. The show was a matter of saccharine moments topped with thick frosting of faux frivolity and façade. All show and no substance. Complete spectacle and no plot.
I realize now, many years later, that there was the value of warmth and consistency in the Welk show.
You always knew what you were going to get: Lots of excellent singing and dancing and a big brass band that was tight and always on the beat. The show wanted to keep a song in your heart:
Now, as the world has grown crasser and more delinquent, and now that I am now wiser and better able to see the grand cause of the Lawrence Welk show, I enjoy watching the reruns. For an hour, your troubles disappear and your forbearances melt while you enjoy happy people providing outstanding performances.
Public Television Stations often air reruns of the Welk show — and if you have a chance to sit down and watch the reflections of the cast members as they share the show with you — a grander understanding of the simple plan will be revealed.
One wonky, real life, memory I will always have of the Lawrence Welk show was son-of-Nebraska, Irish Tenor Joe Feeney. He was on the television show for the entire run with Lawrence — almost 30 years.
Joe hailed from Grand Island, Nebraska, and every time he was in Lincoln to visit or to perform at Pershing Auditorium, he’d phone my mother for a date. I would answer the phone and hear, “Joe Feeney calling!” loud in my ear!
Grand Island and North Loup are about an hour away from each other, so I think Joe knew my mother growing up. She liked the attention, didn’t appreciate his relentlessness, but she loves to tell the story how she tamed an Irish Tenor.
I’ve also grown to appreciate Welk. Elizabeth, not so much. Chaim — he hasn’t argued with it yet.
If you have any appreciation for melody in songs, then the Lawrence Welk Show is a prime pacifier for just how good mainstream music used to be. The Welk performances will outlast any modern rap song.
Moreover it always brings a smile to my face.