Lawrence Welk

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Lawrence Welk (March 11, 1903 – May 17, 1992) was an American musician, accordionist, bandleader, and television impresario, hosting The Lawrence Welk Show from 1955 to 1982. His style came to be known to his large number of radio, television, and live-performance fans (and critics) as "champagne music."


Early years

Welk was born in the German-speaking community of Strasburg, North Dakota. He was sixth of the eight children of Ludwig and Christiana Welk, ethnic Germans who immigrated to America in 1892 from Odessa, Ukraine, which was then part of the Russian Empire.[1]

The family lived on a homestead, which today is a tourist attraction. They spent the cold North Dakota winter of their first year under an upturned wagon covered in sod.[citation needed]

Welk decided on a career in music, and convinced his father to buy a mail-order accordion for $400.[2] He promised his father that he would work on the farm until he was 21, in repayment for the accordion. Any money he made elsewhere during that time, doing farmwork or performing, would go to his family.

A common misconception is that Welk did not learn English until he was 21. In fact, he began learning English as soon as he started school. The part of North Dakota where he lived had been settled largely by Germans from Russia; even his teachers spoke English as a second language. Welk thus acquired his trademark accent, a combination of the Russian and German accents. He took elocution lessons in the 1950s and could speak almost accent-free, but he realized his public expected to hear him say: "A-one, an-a-two" and "Wunnerful, Wunnerful!" When he was asked about his ancestry, he would always reply "Alsace-Lorraine, Germany," from where his forebears had emigrated to Russia (and which, at the time of Welk's birth in 1903, was still under German control).

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