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Lawrence Welk tribute set for Sunday

The Jazz Arts Group of Fargo-Moorhead (JAG) will be performing "Keep a Song in Your Heart," the music of North Dakota's favorite son, Lawrence Welk, this Sunday, Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. in the Ramada Plaza Suites, Fargo.

There will be a champagne brunch available starting at 11 a.m., at a cost of $20. Concert tickets are $20, call 218-359-4JAZZ (4529) or visit the online website at

Lawrence Welk was born in the heavily German town of Strasburg, N.D. One of eight children, he dropped out of school in the fourth grade to work on the farm, and spoke almost nothing but German up until his teen years. He learned to play polka music on his father's accordion, and at age 13, he began performing professionally at local dances and social events.

Four years later, he convinced his father to buy him his own accordion; in exchange, he promised to work on the farm until he was 21, and to give all his musical earnings to the family up to that point. Upon turning 21, Welk took up music full-time, playing in various polka and vaudeville-style bands around the area.

He eventually formed his own quartet, the Lawrence Welk Novelty orchestra, and in 1927 decided to head south to New Orleans in search of work. On the way, the group stopped in Yankton, S.D., and was offered a one-week deal to perform on local radio; they were such a success that they were signed to a permanent contract.

Welk and his group, which eventually expanded to a 10-piece ensemble, moved on to gigs in Omaha, Neb., and Chicago, Ill., before making his first successful TV appearance on a late-night talk show in 1951.

The idea of working in television captured Welk's imagination, and led him to move to L.A. the following year. "The Lawrence Welk Show" made its national TV debut in 1955 as a midseason replacement on ABC.

Over the next few years, it amassed enough of a following to become one of the network's most popular shows, making catch phrases out of Welk's oft-repeated "wunnerful, wunnerful" and "ah-one and a-two."

Welk played the roles of host and bandleader, populating his play list with pleasant arrangements of well-established standards and pop hits.