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Johnny Klein, Drummer

1/31/2004:

Johnny Klein was born in Strasburg, in 1918, the oldest of five kids in his German-Russian family. He studied music, and while finishing his Masters Degree in Music Education in St. Louis, his second-cousin, Lawrence Welk, came to town with the Welk Band. It was 1951, and Johnny was teaching at the time, but Lawrence tried to persuade him to become his drummer. Johnny was hesitant to give up his day job, but Welk convinced him they were headed for a golden future in California, and Johnny finally agreed.

Lawrence always called him Cousin John , but he made it very clear that he hired Johnny “not because he is my cousin, but because he is a great drummer.”

Klein remained the drummer for The Lawrence Welk Orchestra for over 25 years, and in the meantime completed another masters degree, this time in library science. He died seven years ago, today, in California.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm