The title comes from Stan Freberg’s wonderful 1957 parody of Mr. Welk and his “bubbly” musical style [Wun-erful, Wun'erful], a format that drew more than it’s fair share of ridicule from the more acerbic musical “experts” who, after 1955, fell into a pit known as “only R&R counts.” Among those sharing their barbs and darts with Welk were people like Pat Boone, Paul Anka, Engelbert Humperdinck and Bobby Vinton. Strangely, however, the ones just mentioned all shared one common factor: their music sold in the millions.
In Lawrence Welk’s case he put 42 selections onto the Pop charts between his first in 1938 – Colorado Sunset (# 17), and his last in 1970 – Southtown, U.S.A. [# 37 Adult Contemporary (AC) in March. One crossed over to the R&B charts in 1961 and, before that, he had two make the early C&W charts in 1944 in conjunction with Red Foley.
The problem is, try and find most of them in CD format today. Aside from the many Welk compilations that offer up polkas, Christmas tunes, waltzes, songs of faith, Big Band covers, and even Country, only two purport to present the "best of" Lawrence Welk. This one, and one called Biggest Hits. The latter contains nothing that charted for Lawrence, while this gives us exactly four: Last Date [track 10], Yellow Bird [track 7], Baby Elephant Walk [track 4], and Calcutta [track 3] – the last being his only # 1, that coming in 1961 and which also crossed over to the R&B charts at # 10.
The other sixteen tracks [with the exception of track 1 which more or less became his theme] were never associated with him. Any “best of” would be far more accurate if it included: the first 1944 hits mentioned above; Don’t Sweetheart Me/Mairzy Doats and Is My Baby Blue Tonight, also from 1944; Shame On You b/w At Mail Call Today with Red Foley ; Oh, Happy Day ; Moritat, The Poor People Of Paris, On The Street Where You Live, Weary Blues/In The Alps (with The McGuire Sisters), Tonight You Belong To Me/When The White Lilacs Bloom Again – all from 1956; Liechtenstein Polka ; Theme From My Three Sons and Riders In The Sky – both ; Runaway and Zero-Zero ; Scarlett O’Hara/Breakwater ; Stockholm ; and Apples And Bananas .
As already mentioned, it at least contains his only # 1 – Calcutta – which has a bit of a story behind it. It seems the producer at Dot Records wanted to get out an instrumental version quickly to compete with several vocal versions, and when Lawrence could not be immediately located, several members of the band were called in to record it, including Frank Scott on harpsichord. Released under the billing Lawrence Welk & His Orchestra, Mr. Welk was never a part of his best single ever!
Until a really definitive hits “best of” comes along, this is probably the best you’re going to find.
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A great sampling of some of Welk’s best-known arrangements of popular songs. The #1 hit “Calcutta” is here in its original form. Great sound quality.
I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to this album. Many of the songs such as Tie a “Yellow Ribbon” and “Raindrops Keep Fallin” are done in instrumental form which is preferable to some of the previous versions including lyrics. This album explores some of the many styles with which Welk was so fluent. Even some of the well known hits such as “Love is Blue” are greatly enhanced by that touch of magic accompanied with the light and happy feel that Welk added to every one of his pieces. I have discovered through experience that most non-Welk music is like flat champagne.