In his youth Frankie Yankovic moved from nearby South Euclid to Cleveland, Ohio, the capital of one of the two main branches of the American polka tradition, known as Cleveland-Slovenian. There he became proficient in accordion playing, and eventually established his own band, the Slovene Folk Orchestra.
After World War II, with the Yanks, he scored a crossover sensation with Just because, and for a while it seemed that his dream that “polkas should…be as popular as rumbas” could be realized. In spite of several “official” retirements, Yankovic continued to perform into his 80s.
Lawrence Welk’s hour-long world as presented on The Lawrence Welk show—with its smiling singers, brightly colored sets, color-coordinated male and female outfits, and flawless band performances—were stress-free and wholly detached from the outside world.
His was a sealed-off, accident-free utopia soundtracked by an endless supply of what the maestro called “champagne music”. Once a week, Welk presented viewers with one of the most otherworldly—and most underappreciated—psychedelic chiffon musical paradises ever seen on television.
This according to “The maestro from another planet: In praise of Lawrence Welk’s otherwordly chiffon paradise” by Ken Parille (The believer XII/6 [July-August 2009; online only]).
Today is Welk’s 110th birthday! Below, the maestro celebrates on the dance floor.
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