McALLEN – Browsing through the McAllen Library, near the end of the "W" names this month, I found five different biographies of this Music Man. I promptly read all five of them.
If you never heard of Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music, you must be very young, because most older people have at least seen and heard the program sometime. It's hard to believe, but Lawrence Welk created television's most long-running musical program.
He can still be heard on the local public television station KMBH (DT 38, Cable Channel 10) on Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m .
Although he is singing with the angels by now, he still sou nds quite good on PBS and I suspect some of the older people don't realize that he is not with us on earth any more.
Of course, the older people remember him better because he broke all records for American television with "The Lawrence Welk Show." One of the best books about him was called "Champagne Music," by Coyne Steven Sanders and Ginny Weissman.
Yet the music goes on and on. Its 25-year run from June 2, 1955, under the sponsorship of Dodge cars and others, finished up his all-time record for a weekly show.
The Champagne Music is called on the first page "it's wunnerful, wunnerful!", a loving and nostalgic tribute, and America's all-time longest-running program. This run continued to make history by chugging along for 25 years.
Lawrence Welk became America's favorite music-maker. Ironically, he never got an honor until his long run was over, because many of the people on Broadway did not like his style of music. But he played all kinds of music and people all over the world heard him and liked him.
He wrote just one of the full books while others wrote about him. What he said is one reason why people still listen, as I do, on those precious Sunday afternoons.
When he first started the book, he told some thoughts in the front of it that deserve mentioning: "I'm going to tell you from the heart the things I believe in, the philosophies that have helped me build up this beautiful life and the personality traits I believe lead to success-the kind of success that lasts a lifetime and transcends any kind of time and any kind of money or fame or fleeting happiness."
One of Welk's books was titled "This I Believe," written with the assistance of Bernice McGeehan.
Some of the best he ever wrote included, "I'm supposed to be in my Golden Years now that I'm in my ‘70s.
Music was and always will be my life. I'm deeply, humbly proud of the place my orchestra and I have been able to create in the hearts of so many people across the nation. It would be very nice to be remembered as a man who brought music to America."
He knew countless thousands of people in his long life, and always seemed a bit awed, because he was a German immigrant who did not learn to speak English until he was a grown man. His unusual speech made many people laugh at him, but he laughed right back. He definitely had the last laugh, because he became a multi-millionaire with his record long run in television.
Reading those five books about him gave me great respect for a man who came so far as a young man who did not speak English, but became one of the greatest Americans in all the arts, and whose music still is available every Sunday afternoon.
If you are one of the few older people who never heard him play and conduct, you should try to see him on "The Lawrence Welk Show." He is called "corny" by some people who didn't like his foreign accent and his choice of music to play, but literally millions enjoy his different kind of music and his wonderful personality.
It is especially good that his music still is available, because it has a style that makes people happy and the huge number on stage add a lot of smiles and by-play that make nearly everyone laugh. I know a few people who have said, "I've never listened to Lawrence Welk," as if he is some hick from the sticks. He may have started that way, but he has made music work for probably a majority of the American, and foreign, places who like his style and his humor and his odd knack of making everyone seem happy. Try it yourself as you go through these days of problems for most people this year.
I still put on a happy face every time I see any of Lawrence Welk's music and comedy and occasionally sentiment that cheers up nearly everyone who hears them if they listen enough. I hope his old Champagne Music will still stay on TV as long as they have the Lawrence Welk Show.