For 26 years, Lawrence Welk and his orchestra's light and bubbly renditions of popular and standard songs could be heard every week on network television. Welk's show was aimed squarely at older middle-American sensibilities and was filled with a mixture of squeaky-clean, fresh-faced young singers and dancers, smiling musicians in polyester suits and older, more established performers such as the Lennon Sisters.
Welk was born one of eight children in a homestead near Strasbourg, ND. While still in grade school, a lengthy illness permanently curtailed his formal education, but provided him with the opportunity to pursue his interest in music. As a young man, Welk played accordion at local gatherings. He eventually founded a small band, which he called the Biggest Little Band in America. The band gained attention in 1935 when they began performing on a South Dakota radio station. Listeners compared Welk's music to sipping champagne and that is how it came to be known as "Champagne music." Welk and his Champagne Music Makers toured the country, playing at some of the top hotels and resorts until the early '50s when they began appearing on KTLA television in Los Angeles. The show continued to be produced through the mid-'70s. In the '90s, shows were repackaged and shown as nostalgic retrospectives on public television and other sources. In addition to contributing his music, Welk, with his peculiar and thick Germanic accent (his parents hailed from Alsace-Lorraine), also contributed to the American lexicon with his distinctive "wunnerful, wunnerful."