The last “Lawrence Welk Show” is produced. His immigrant parents migrated to America in 1892 from the Ukraine (Russia) and spent their first winter in North Dakota living under an overturned wagon covered in sod.
Urban legend has it that Lawrence was 21 years old before he could speak English but this is not true. He dropped out of school due to appendicitis at 10 yrs old. At 17 years old, he talked his father into buying him a $400 mail-order accordion (which would be over $4500 in today’s money) and promised to work the farm until he was 21 to pay for it. Welk’s father played the accordion at barn dances for extra money.
His heavy accent and stiff stage appearance were great fodder for comics, but his audience loved it when he played the accordion and danced with audience members. His music was referred to as “champagne music” and the show opened with the sound of a champagne cork popping and bubbles floating across the screen. Catchphrases from the show were “Wunnerful! Wunnerful” and “Ah-one-uh, Ah-Two-uh…”
Despite his refusal to allow rock and roll on his show and the show being a source of material for stand-up comics everywhere, the show maintained consistently high ratings. Despite the ratings, the show was cancelled in 1971 by ABC but Welk formed his own production company and lined up 200 independent stations to air the show which ran for another eleven years.
The fourth grade drop-out amassed a huge fortune from the production company, real estate transactions, and the sales of his hundreds of records. He passed away March 17, 1992 in California.