Delightful schmaltz

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.

7 thoughts on “Delightful schmaltz

  1. Mavis

    I sure remember watching LW with the parents each week. I actually hated when it was Joe’s turn to sing. I thought he sounded like a girl! Amazing how our thoughts/feelings change as we get older. Now and then I’ll turn to PBS and watch the show. Brings Mother and Dad closer in my heart, I guess.

    HAAAAAAA! Steve Martin cracks me up!!! I could play that rendition of Irish Lullaby over and over and over…..tickles me insides, lass.

    1. Rat Fink Post author

      It is funny how growing up expands the ol’ paradigms, Mavis. My hope is that I will mellow out a bit when I reach my dotage…the fate of a thousand teenagers rests on that hope. LOL

      “Hush now, don’t ye crrryeeeeeeee…” HAAa

  2. PKPudlin

    I had a warped upbringing – whaddya want from a family of musicians – and was introduced at a tender age to Stan Freberg. He recorded this the year I was born….

    This was released on an LP – the video really doesn’t have anything to do with the recording. You have to listen all the way to the end….

    In true family tradition, I exposed my own two to the Marx Brothers early on, and now they know all the words to songs like ‘Lydia the Tatoo’d Lady’. Fortunately no one called CPS…..


    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Hey I read about this on one of the sites I looked at for my research, but didn’t listen to it. Like lots of “dated” comedy, I’m sure it was funny back then. Now, not so much. But I could just be one of them smart-aleck brats what don’t like anything. :-)

      Ah yes, Lydia! My guys sang that a couple of years ago…I think they thought it was not so funny. I definitely laffed!

  3. Suzanne

    OK I got you all beat!!! My dad, a high school band director, was really into making music with odd ball gadgets. I grew up listening to Spike Jones and PDQ Bach. Back then I didn’t “get it” most of the time but loved the funny sounds.

    Here’s a Spike Jones video

    There are more at YouTube (Der Fuhrer’s Face, Laura (high-larious!!), Hawaiian War Chant). I’ve just spent the last 1/2 hour watching listening to Spike Jones and His City Slickers and having a good laugh!)

    PDQ Bach is just outrageous and there are a few at YouTube, Beethoven’s Fifth is my favorite

    You hear an orchestra playing the 5th in the background and there are commentators giving play-by-play like you hear at a sports event. Have a listen, it’s good stuff!!! Especially when they hear a french horn make a flub…well just listen!

    1. Rat Fink Post author

      I love PDQ Bach from the olden days! The 5th is hilarious, as is an album I used to have called The WURST of PDQ Bach. Had a picture of a huge sausage on the front. HAA

      Concerto for Horn & Hardart
      Iphegenia in Brooklyn

      All classics! And I’d never listened to much Spike Jones – that was hysterical.

      1. Rat Fink Post author

        PS – the best thing on the record was a middle movement of one of the pieces, which featured 3 oboes playing a sad, Baroque-influenced refrain …. on just the reeds. LOL


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