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Champagne Music

 

Dakota Datebook, North Dakota Public Radio
September 7, 2005


North Dakota musician Lawrence Welk said his first real break came in 1937, when his band was playing in Chaska, MN. Will Osbornes band was playing in nearby St. Paul, and one day Welk told his band he was taking them into the city for lunch and to listen to a real artist at work. One of his band members joked, If youre going to treat...[the] guy must be good!

What Welk really liked was Osborne's trombone section. I used to think it sounded something like cows mooing, he said, only very artistic cows!

After the luncheon performance, they were walking back to their car when Lawrence was inspired to step into the luxurious St. Paul Hotel and ask for a booking. They all laughed, saying, Yeah! Sure! Have him book us into Carnegie Hall while youre at it. To their surprise, the manager asked when they could start. It was the start of something big.

By the end of 1938, the band was in Pittsburgh playing three nationwide broadcasts a day. In his book, Wunnerful, Wunnerful, Welk wrote, One day our announcer, Phil David, came striding into the dining room with a whole stack of letters in his hands and an excited gleam in his eyes.

Lawrence, I want you to take a look at some of these letters, he said. See if you notice the same thing I do. I took the mail and began to run through it, and almost immediately I saw what he meant. All the letters had nice things to say about our music, and in addition almost everyone added words to the effect that it sounded...sparkling, light, effervescent...bubbly, happy.

You know what these letters are saying, dont you? Phil demanded. Theyre saying that dancing to your music is like sipping champagne. Lawrence, you've got yourself some Champagne Music!

The moment he said it, I knew it was right, Welk wrote. Suddenly everything fell into place! From America's Biggest Little Band to the Hotsy Totsy Boys and The Honolulu Fruit Gum Orchestra, we had finally found the name which seemed to really suit us the Champagne Music of Lawrence Welk. It led naturally to a Champagne Lady later Lois Best was actually the first girl to wear that title and all the boys became Champagne Music Makers. In many ways it marked a real turning point for us. Phil Davis had done us a great favor when he found that name."

With our new title came a real flash of inspiration, Welk wrote. I dug out the song I had written years before to celebrate Shirleys birth, Youre My Home Sweet Home. Originally I had written it as a slow, sweet legato ballad, a kind of hymn to my daughter, but now I began to play the same tune at a much faster tempo, with a few added runs and frills. The result was a light, frothy piece which seemed to suit our musical style perfectly, and I began to use it as our theme song. When people asked me what the name of it was, You're My Home Sweet Home just didnt sound right to them, and so one day I decided to have a contest to give the song a new name...Within a matter of days we had found the name we wanted Bubbles in the Wine.

But... Welk continued, we had trouble trying to get the sound of a champagne cork exploding out of the bottle, which we needed to go along with our new theme. At first we tried opening a real bottle, but we never got the same effect twice, and it was almost impossible to get it opened at the exact moment required in the song. I finally solved the whole thing by sticking my finger in my mouth and popping it out with a whoosh something I still do today and something the boys tell me I have developed into a real art form. I may not play the accordion as well as Myron Floren, Welk wrote, but I play a champagne bottle much better than he does.

Source: Welk, Lawrence. Wunnerful, Wunnerful. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971.

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