Lawrence Welk (March 11, 1903—May 17, 1992) was a musician, accordion player, band leader, and television impresario. He was born in Strasburg, North Dakota to Russian German parents.
His music was conservative, concentrating mostly on pop song standards, polkas, and novelty songs, delivered in a smooth, calming, good-humored easy listening style. His show was warm and family-oriented. His "Champagne Music" has been considered the epitome of "square".
In the 1920s Welk lead a big band played engagments in eastern South Dakota area. His band was the station band for popular radio station WNAX in Yankton, South Dakota. During the 1930s, Welk led a travelling big band, specializing in dance tunes and 'sweet' music. The band performed in many places across the country, particularly in the Chicago area. In the early 1940s the band travelled to California for a six-week engagement at the Avalon Ballroom. This gig turned into a 10 year stint, drawing crowds of nearly 7000 on a regular basis.
In 1952, Welk settled in Los Angeles, California. That same year, he began producing The Lawrence Welk Show on KTLA in Los Angeles. The show was first aired nationally on ABC in 1955.
Welk's television program had a policy to only play well known songs and tunes from previous years, so that the target audience would only hear numbers that they were already familiar with. This strategy proved commercially successful.
Much of the show's appeal was Welk himself. Although born in the United States, he spoke with a slight but notable European accent that many, especially ladies, found to be quite appealing. His TV show was recorded as if it were live and was sometimes quite free-wheeling. Welk often took ladies from the audience for a turn around the dance floor. During one show Welk brought a cameraman out to dance with one of the ladies and took over the camera himself.
The reputation for "corny music" notwithstanding, his musicians were always top quality, including accordionist Myron Floren and New Orleans Dixieland clarinetist Pete Fountain. Welk was noted for spotlighting individual members of his band and show. His band was well-disciplined and had excellent arrangements in all styles. One notable showcase was his album with the noted jazz saxophonist Johnny Hodges. Welk's instrumental cover of the song "Yellow Bird" was a hit.
He was married for over sixty years, until his death, to Fern Renner, who bore him three children. One of his sons ended up marrying fellow Lawrence Welk Show performer Tanya Falan.
Welk's California automobile license plate read A1ANA2, referencing his trademark count-off before each number, "A one, and a two..."
His band continues to appear in a dedicated theater in Branson, Missouri even though Welk is now deceased. A resort community in Escondido, California is named after Welk.
Welk is said to have learned English only when he was already an adult because he always spoke German at home. When he was asked about his ancestry, he replied always with "Alsace-Lorraine, Germany" (although this was totally wrong).
He died from pneumonia in Santa Monica, California at the age of 89, and is buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Culver City, California.
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He died from pneumonia in Santa Monica, California at the age of 89, and is buried in Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery in Culver City, California. Ol' Dirty Bastard's death on November 13, 2004 should have a limited impact on the Clan, given that his involvement with the group had been very sporadic for many years. When he was asked about his ancestry, he replied always with "Alsace-Lorraine, Germany" (although this was totally wrong). This renewed interest in the group fuelled rumors that another group album is on the way soon, although nothing concrete has been announced by the Clan themselves. Welk is said to have learned English only when he was already an adult because he always spoke German at home. The concert was released on DVD shortly afterwards, along with another greatest hits compilation. A resort community in Escondido, California is named after Welk. 2004 also saw the unexpected return of the Clan to the live stage, and minus Ol' Dirty Bastard and Method Man (who was filming the Fox sitcom Method & Red) they embarked on a short European tour, before coming together as a complete group for the first time in several years to headline the Rock The Bells festival in California.
His band continues to appear in a dedicated theater in Branson, Missouri even though Welk is now deceased. The Pretty Toney Album was critically acclaimed in the mainstream press, and the independently released No Said Date was well-received by the group's hardcore fanbase and hip hop enthusiasts in general for its unpretentious, back-to-basics approach and in-house production. Welk's California automobile license plate read A1ANA2, referencing his trademark count-off before each number, "A one, and a two...". After GZA released Legend of the Liquid Sword in late 2002, the following two years saw a spate of new solo releases, including new works by Cappadonna (The Struggle), Method Man (Tical 0: The Prequel), Raekwon (The Lex Diamonds Story), Ghostface Killah (who, in his new contract with Def Jam Records, changed his pseudonym to simply Ghostface, and released The Pretty Toney Album), Inspectah Deck (The Movement), Masta Killa (No Said Date), Shyheim, Wu-Element producer Mathematics (Love, Hell & Right) and an untitled work by the ODB (recently released from prison, and then signed to Jay-Z and Damon Dash's Roc-a-Fella Records Label). One of his sons ended up marrying fellow Lawrence Welk Show performer Tanya Falan. The group's latest album (as a group) was 2001 Iron Flag, made without the participation of the still-incarcerated Ol' Dirty Bastard, and which received mixed but mostly positive reviews. He was married for over sixty years, until his death, to Fern Renner, who bore him three children. 2001 saw the release of Digital Bullet (the second RZA album released as Bobby Digital), Bulletproof Wallets (Ghostface Killah) and The Yin and the Yang (Cappadonna).
Welk's instrumental cover of the song "Yellow Bird" was a hit. The W itself was mostly well-received by critics, particularly for RZA's production, and also gave the group a hit single with the uptempo Gravel Pit (which was supported by an extravagant faux-prehistoric Flintstones-inspired video). One notable showcase was his album with the noted jazz saxophonist Johnny Hodges. Ol' Dirty Bastard managed to escape the club, but was captured by Philadelphia police and sent to New York to face charges of cocaine possession. In April, 2001, he was sentenced to two to four years in prison. His band was well-disciplined and had excellent arrangements in all styles. Almost finished with his rehab, Ol' Dirty Bastard escaped suddenly and spent one month on the run as a fugitive before showing up onstage at the record release party for The W, the group's new album. Welk was noted for spotlighting individual members of his band and show. In 2000 the group reconvened to make a new album: minus Ol' Dirty Bastard who was incarcerated in California for violating the terms of his probation.
The reputation for "corny music" notwithstanding, his musicians were always top quality, including accordionist Myron Floren and New Orleans Dixieland clarinetist Pete Fountain. Fans also bemoaned the lack of RZA input on these albums, which were mostly produced by the Wu-Element producers, other lower-ranking affiliates or by outside producers such as the Trackmasters or the Neptunes. During one show Welk brought a cameraman out to dance with one of the ladies and took over the camera himself. Method Man and ODB were still quite popular, and the critics still fawned over GZA and Ghostface Killah, but their sound was becoming heavily imitated by others, and they were no longer superstars of hip hop. Welk often took ladies from the audience for a turn around the dance floor. However, with a seemingly never-ending line of mostly poorly-received releases from affiliates such as Killarmy and Shyheim, a greatest hits album, as well as Wu-Tang branded clothing and video games, the market had been saturated with Wu-Tang products, and the second round of Clan member solo albums didn't do as well, either popularly or critically. His TV show was recorded as if it were live and was sometimes quite free-wheeling. RZA also composed the score for the film Ghost Dog - The Way of the Samurai, directed by Jim Jarmusch, while he and other Wu-Tang members contributed music to a companion "music inspired by the film" album.
Although born in the United States, he spoke with a slight but notable European accent that many, especially ladies, found to be quite appealing. In the space of just three years, RZA's Bobby Digital In Stereo, Method Man's Tical 2000: Judgement Day, GZA's Beneath the Surface, Ol' Dirty Bastard's Nigga Please, U-God's Golden Arms Redemption, Raekwon's Immobilarity, Ghostface Killah's Supreme Clientele and Inspectah Deck's Uncontrolled Substance were all released. Much of the show's appeal was Welk himself. In the midst of such problems, the Clan released yet more solo albums. This strategy proved commercially successful. The investigation never found significant evidence for the allegations. Welk's television program had a policy to only play well known songs and tunes from previous years, so that the target audience would only hear numbers that they were already familiar with. The whole Wu-Tang Clan also fell under suspicion as alleged leaders of a gun-running scheme between Staten Island and Steubenville, Ohio.
The show was first aired nationally on ABC in 1955. He was also in trouble for missing multiple court dates. That same year, he began producing The Lawrence Welk Show on KTLA in Los Angeles. He was also arrested several times for a variety of offenses, including assault, making terrorist threats, shoplifting, wearing body armor after being convicted of a felony and possession of cocaine. In 1952, Welk settled in Los Angeles, California. He then announced a name change to Big Baby Jesus, but never followed through. This gig turned into a 10 year stint, drawing crowds of nearly 7000 on a regular basis. At the Grammy Awards, he protested the Clan's loss (in Best Rap Album) by interrupting Shawn Colvin's acceptance speech.
In the early 1940s the band travelled to California for a six-week engagement at the Avalon Ballroom. The same year, 1998, Ol' Dirty Bastard began a long career of erratic behavior, landing him in both the headlines and jail on a regular basis. The band performed in many places across the country, particularly in the Chicago area. A compilation album, Wu-Tang Killa Bees: The Swarm, was also released showcasing more Wu-affiliated artists as well as including new solo tracks from the group members themselves. During the 1930s, Welk led a travelling big band, specializing in dance tunes and 'sweet' music. The group's close associate Cappadonna, who first appeared on Raekwon's debut and was a large presence on both Ironman and Wu-Tang Forever, followed the group project with March 1998's The Pillage, and soon after Killah Priest (like Cappadonna a close associate of the Clan, though not an official member) released Heavy Mental to great critical acclaim. His band was the station band for popular radio station WNAX in Yankton, South Dakota. However, the live tour supporting the album was cancelled halfway through amid rumors of internal disputes.
In the 1920s Welk lead a big band played engagments in eastern South Dakota area. The group members also appeared much more ambitious lyrically than on 36 Chambers, with many verses on the album being dense stream-of-consciousness narratives heavily influenced by the teachings of the Five Percent Nation. His "Champagne Music" has been considered the epitome of "square". The sound of the album mostly built upon the sounds of the previous three solo albums, with RZA increasing his use of keyboards and string samples, as well as for the first time assigning much of the album's production to his proteges True Master and 4th Disciple (known as the "Wu-Elements"). His show was warm and family-oriented. It was eagerly anticipated and entered the charts at number one ; no mean feat for an album that made very little attempt to have wide commercial appeal, and whose lead single Triumph was a five minutes plus nine-MC "posse cut" with no chorus. His music was conservative, concentrating mostly on pop song standards, polkas, and novelty songs, delivered in a smooth, calming, good-humored easy listening style. With solo careers established, the Wu-Tang Clan came back together to release the enormous double album Wu-Tang Forever in June 1997.
He was born in Strasburg, North Dakota to Russian German parents. Although these albums were released as solo albums, the rule of RZA behind the boards and the large number of guest appearances from other Clan members (Raekwon and Ghostface's albums only had two or three actual solo tracks each and both included tracks which only included other Clan members and not themselves) means they are usually considered as important to the group's evolution as the group albums proper. Lawrence Welk (March 11, 1903—May 17, 1992) was a musician, accordion player, band leader, and television impresario. It was critically acclaimed and is still widely considered one of the best Wu-Tang solo albums. Ghostface Killah released his own debut, Ironman, in 1996; it struck a balance between the sinister keyboard-laden textures of Liquid Swords and the sentimental soul samples of Cuban Linx, while Ghostface himself explored new territory as a lyricist. The two 1995 solo albums remain widely regarded as two of the finest hip hop albums of the nineties.
GZA's Liquid Swords had a similar focus on inner-city criminology to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, yet was far darker, both in GZA's grim lyrics and in the ominous, forbidding production which saw RZA heavily reliant on keyboards for the first time. Raekwon the Chef's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx was a diverse, theatrical criminological epic that saw RZA move away from the raw, stripped-down beats of the early albums and towards a richer, cinematic sound more reliant on strings and classic soul samples. 1995 saw two significant and well-received albums from the group members. Ol' Dirty Bastard found success soon after with Return to the 36 Chambers: the Dirty Version, which saw the 36 Chambers sound become even rawer and rough-edged.
RZA's hands-on approach to Tical, which extended beyond him merely creating the beats to devising song concepts and structure, would continue throughout the first round of solo projects from the Clan members. Method Man was the first member of Wu-Tang to hit stardom with his November 1994 solo album, Tical, produced by the RZA who continued with the grimy, raw textures he explored on 36 Chambers. The Gravediggaz released 6 Feet Deep in August of 1994, which became easily the most famous work to emerge from hip hop's small sub-genre of horrorcore. RZA was the first to follow up on the success of 36 Chambers with a side project, founding the Gravediggaz with Prince Paul (a producer, most famous for De La Soul), Frukwan (of Stetsasonic) and Poetic (of the Brothers Grimm).
Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers did indeed establish the group as a creative and influential rap group in the early nineties (it was released in 1993), allowing GZA, RZA, Raekwon, Method Man and Ol' Dirty Bastard to negotiate solo contracts. Though there was some difficulty in finding a record label that would sign the Wu-Tang Clan while still allowing each member to record solo albums with other labels, Loud/RCA finally agreed and the debut album Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers was popular and critically-acclaimed, though it took some time to gain momentum. The Wu-Tang Clan first became known to hip hop fans, and to major record labels, following the release of the independent single Protect Ya Neck, which immediately gave the group a sizeable underground following. The group have also developed various acronyms for the name (as hip hop pioneers like KRS One and Big Daddy Kane did with their names), including "Witty Unpredictable Talent And Natural Game" and "Wisdom, Universe, Truth, Allah, Nation, and God".
The name of the group itself originates from the Wudang (or Wu-Tang) Mountains in the Hubei province of China which are a traditional center of Chinese martial arts. The two cousins (GZA and RZA) created their rap nom-de-plumes by mimicking the sound that the words Genius and Robert would make when scratched on a turntable. The RZA is the producer of the group's albums, as well as many of their solo projects. The group quickly became known for hardcore violence, thumping, surreal beats and a warped sense of humor, all filtered through allusions to ancient Chinese folklore, mythic legend and martial arts film. The GZA is the de facto leader of the group, as well as being widely regarded as the best lyricist among the group.
The founders of the Wu-Tang Clan were GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard and RZA (who also formed the by-then-defunct All In Together Now Crew). This was the plan from the group's inception: the group would make each of them famous enough to launch multiple side projects, and take over the hip-hop community through saturation of like-minded rappers. All of the nine members have released solo albums and have performed under several subprojects with other Wu-Tang "Family" members and musicians outside the Clan. There are nine original members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
The Wu-Tang Clan is a pioneering hardcore rap group, originally from Staten Island, New York, USA (Staten Island is referred to as "Shaolin" in their lyrics). 2004 Disciples of the 36 Chambers: Chapter 1 (Sanctuary). 2001 Iron Flag (Columbia). 2000 The W (Columbia).
1997 Wu-Tang Forever (Loud). 1993 Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (Loud). UGodz-Illa. Lucky Hands.
Golden Arms. Four-Bar Killer. Baby Huey. Universal God of Law.
Baby U. 4-Bar Killer. U-God (birth name: Lamont Hawkins)
RZArecta (from resurrector - waking up the mentally dead). Prince Rakeem. Prince Dynamite. Prince Delight.
the Scientist. Chief Abbot. The Abbot. Bobby Digital.
Bobby Steels. RZA ("The Rizza") (birth name: Robert Diggs)
Shallah. Rick Diamonds. Louis Diamonds. Lex Diamonds.
Raekwon the Chef (short name: rae) (birth name: Corey Woods)
Joe Bannanas. Dirt Schultz. Cyrus. Unique Ason.
Prince Delight. the Specialist. the Bebop Specialist. The Projessor.
Dirt McGirt. Freeloading Rusty. Joe Bananas. Ol' Dirt Dog.
Big Baby Jesus. Ol' Dirty Bastard (short name: ODB, dirty) (birth name: Russell Jones) (deceased)
Long John Silver. The Ghost Rider. Johnny Dangerous. John-John Blaizini.
John-John McLane. Hot Nixon. Ticallion Stallion. Tical.
The Panty Raider. Shakwon. MZA ("The Mizza"). Methtical (Meth-tical).
Johnny Blaze (from the comic Ghost Rider). Method Man (short name: meth) (birth name: Clifford Smith)
High Chief. Masta Killa (short name: masta) (from the film Shaolin Master Killer) (birth name: Elgin Turner)
Manifesto. Ayatollah. Rebel INS. Fifth Brother.
Inspectah Deck (short name: ins, deck) (birth name: Jason Hunter)
Justice. Allah Justice. The Genius. GZA (pronounced "The Jizza") (birth name: Gary Grice)
Ghost Deini. Black Jesus. Ironman (from the comic Iron Man). Wally Champ.
Starkey Love. General Tony Starks. Tone-Tanna. Pretty Toney.
Ghostface. Tony Starks (from the comic Iron Man). Sun God. Ghostface Killah (short: ghost) (birth name: Dennis Coles)