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|Also Known As:||Died:||May 17, 1992|
|Born:||March 11, 1903||Cause of Death:||pneumonia|
|Birth Place:||Strasburg, North Dakota, USA||Profession:||Music ... bandleader accordionist TV host|
Genial American bandleader whose brand of "Champagne Music" lilted weekly across American TV airwaves for nearly three decades.
Welk left home at age 21 to begin his career as an itinerant musician. He eventually formed his own "Biggest Little Band in America" and achieved success on the radio in the late 1930s with his band's bright, danceable renditions of popular songs. The label "Champagne Music" reportedly stuck after call-in listeners likened his music to the sipping of champagne.
In the early 50s Welk and his band began performing on a local LA TV station, and viewer response was such that his program--considered hopelessly schmaltzy even in its prime--eventually went nationwide courtesy of ABC. Welk's Germanic accent (his parents were from Alsace-Lorraine) became a favorite of impersonators everywhere, his "Wunnerful, wunnerful" and "Ah-one an' ah-two" all but entering the American idiom.
By the early 70s, Welk's unchanging format, replete with black tap dancer, middle-aged "Champagne Lady" vocalist and maidenly female singing trios, seemed even more out of touch, and ABC cancelled the show in 1971. Welk, however, had the last laugh, earning more money during the next 11 years of syndication than he ever did during his first 16 with ABC. If anything, a rapidly graying working-class America eager for nostalgic escapism embraced their keeper of the flame more warmly than ever before. The affable merrymaker continued waving his baton on TV and later on tour well into his eighties.
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