North Dakota musician Lawrence Welk said his first real break came in 1937 when his band was playing in Chaska, MN. Will Osborne’s 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 you’re 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 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. The band members all laughed, saying, “Yeah! Sure! Have him book us into Carnegie Hall while you’re 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, don’t you?’ Phil demanded. ‘They’re 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. “We had finally found the name which seemed to really suit us. … Phil Davis had done us a great favor when he found that name.”
Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm
Welk, Lawrence. Wunnerful, Wunnerful. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1971.