Got the following news release yesterday. We’re printing it exactly as we received it. See if you can spot an error in it. (Hint: I’ve been with WDAZ-TV for thirty-five years.)
To: Terry Dullum, Grand Forks Herald
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
“The Lawrence Welk Show” Celebrates
25 Years on Public Television
A major television milestone will be reached Saturday, September 3rd when “The Lawrence Welk Show” celebrates the beginning of 25 years of Champagne Music on public television. That day,viewers will also have the opportunity, for the first time, to see the 1955premiere episode of “The Lawrence Welk Show.”
Since 1987, more than 2.5 million fans of the longest-running, weekly-syndicated music/variety series have been tuning in each week to their local PBS station to watch Lawrence Welk and their favorite “Musical Family” members sing and dance.
“The Lawrence Welk Show” was first broadcast in 1951 on KTLA in Los Angeles. In 1955, the ABC network picked it up for national broadcast. When ABC dropped the series in 1971 after running successfully for 16 years, Welk persevered by forming his own production company and began syndicating it directly to commercial stations individually. It stayed on the air in weekly national syndication until1982, often reappearing each December with new Christmas specials until 1985.
In 1987, after PBS funded and aired a very successful fund-raising special, “Lawrence Welk: Television’s MusicMan,” Robert L. “Bob” Allen, then the executive director of the statewide PBS affiliate OETA-The Oklahoma Network, formed a partnership with Welk Syndication and began offering the weekly series to public television stations.
At first, Allen said, some station executives were unsure. “Some thought Lawrence Welk’s accent was corny,” recalling Welk’s Russian-German-inflected speech.”But, when their station raised record pledges and dollars from the Welk special,they realized there were a wealth of loyal fans and viewers in their audience that were underserved and signed up for the weekly series.”
Welk’s mature audience, Allen said, was suited for non-commercial public television.”Commercial stations weren’t interested in the older demographic because that group is set in their purchasing preferences. They’re not likely to change even their toothpaste. But on the other hand, they’re more likely to donate money to support their interests, he said. “And once they make a pledge to public television, they fulfill it…and they’ve been fiercely loyal to ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’ for a record 25years.”
“My father was very successful with his ideas and vision,” his son Larry Welk said. “He had wonderful gut feelings for certain things and he knew what viewers wanted to hear and he made sure they played and sang that kind of music each week. He hired fabulous musicians and wonderful singers and dancers. I think that’s why the show is still on the air and still so popular with the fans.”
Ralna English, longtime singer on the Welkshow, recalls talking with Welk about their tough times and his upbeatattitude.” He had a career long before he came on TV. He came up performing in small venues and workedhard,” she said. “But he was always positive. I never knew him to benegative. He always looked to the bright side.”
Encores of the weekly TV show, garnered from more than 1,000 episodes taped between 1955 and1982, are now hosted by Welk Stars Mary Lou Metzger and Bobby Burgess and are broadcast on more than 270 public television stations.