Last night I watched a compilation from the Lawrence Welk Show on PBS. I remember Mother and Dad tuning in every weekend without fail, during the 60s and 70s. Since it was my job to hate old people’s music, I dutifully turned up my nose at the ricky-ticky, corny, cloyingly sweet production numbers, and snickered at Bob Ralston’s goofy organ tunes, chock full of silly sixth chords. I immediately noticed that most of the large-group singing and the tap dancing was synched, as it would have been too demanding a sound gig to get everything balanced for broadcast in a cavernous TV studio. But I had to admit that there were some pretty fine musicians and dancers on that show. I would pay to see Arthur Duncan.
I still giggled at the drama of Joe Feeney, the Irish tenor and my dad’s favorite part of each program. Irish tenors — how shall I describe them? They are characterized by schmaltzy, emotional performances, with vocal frills like controlled cries, pulls, exaggerated portamentos and soaring falsetto. Hugely nationalistic, you can always find a song or twelve about Ireland in their repertoire.
Anyway, I’d always laughed at Joe Feeney — until I grew up. Male singers should be so fortunate to have that kind of power and control in their pipes, especially above F4.
Here’s a vid of Joe on the Welk show singing “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi.” If you don’t want to listen to the whole thing, start at 1:11 to get to the yummy part.
Maybe it’s the Irish in me, but I adore his sound. He died of emphysema a couple of years ago (although he never smoked), but kept singing throughout the decades. You can read his obit here.
Weird that I can’t find Joe doing “That’s an Irish Lullaby” anywhere. I guess we’ll have to settle for this. HA – loved that movie.
Happy Sumday! Spending some time with BFF Kay tonight, which will be fun.