Lawrence Welk was born in 1903 in Strasburg, North Dakota. He lived in a sod farmhouse with his immigrant parents, who spoke only German, and was the sixth of eight children. During the fourth grade, he left school to work full time on the farm.
During his youth, Welk learned to play the accordion. He eventually formed his orchestra in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and for years, he played one-night stands. At the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, he developed his famous “champagne music” style—so named after a patron suggested that his music was “light and bubbly, like champagne.”
Welk spent the 1940s directing his orchestra in hotels, and then he moved to Los Angeles to produce The Lawrence Welk Show for television, which debuted in 1955 and ran until 1982.