Best Kept Secret
years Dean Kay was the COO of Lawrence
Welk's music publishing companies during which time he built Welk's
copyright holdings into one of the largest, most respected and highly
independent music publishing companies of all time. Chances
are no matter how you consumed music during the 70's and
80's you couldn't go a day without hearing at least one song -
and more than likely many songs published by Lawrence Welk.
Standards, pop, R&B, country, rock 'n' roll, adult contemporary - you name
it - songs owned by the maestro -
and written by the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century - came
at you via radio, TV, movies, Broadway, concert
halls, boom boxes, home stereo systems, elevators, grocery store
ceilings and everywhere else music was presented.
and the Brill Building
for Welk's music publishing empire was Santa Monica, CA. But, as
the company grew, it became more and more apparent that a New York
was needed to promote the ever expanding catalog and provide more
for a growing roster of exclusive songwriters. Welk's first New York
office was opened in the world famous Brill Building, the epicenter of
east coast rock 'n' roll. Dean revisited the legendary location
It Was On To Nashville
acquisition of music publishing legend Bill Hall's (lower left)
company, Welk made a major commitment to country music. Bill
on to run the Welk's Nashville division as did the amazingly prolific
of writers who had been the corner stone of Hall's success in Nashville
... Bill Rice, Jerry Foster, Dickey Lee and Bob McDill, who, during his
unprecedented career, produced at least one number 1 hit song (and many
times more) for 25 years in a row!
G. (Bill) Hall achieved success as a music producer, promoter and
He began his music career in Beaumont, TX, opening a recording studio
working as a booking agent for such artists as George Jones and Benny
eventually becoming Jones' manager. Hall also had hits with J.P.
"Chantilly Lace" in 1958 and Johnny Preston's "Running Bear" in 1960.
he joined with Sun Records engineer Jack Clement, to form the Gulf
Recording Company, working with artists such as Jerry LaCroix, Johnny
Edgar and Johnny Winter, Roger Miller, Bob McDill and Tex Ritter. The
later formed one of the most successful country music publishing
in Nashville, Hall-Clement (BMI) / Jack and Bill (ASCAP) which
eventually sold to Lawrence Welk. Known affectionately as the
Bill was one of the last great 'characters' on
Music Row. He passed away in 1983.
And The Hits
Kept On Coming - Awards, Awards and More Awards
fact, so successful was the Welk Music Group in every genre of popular
music that one year the company received the
of the Year" award at every major
industry event that recognized such endeavors
Pictured... BMI's Frances Preston and Ed Cramer. Welk's Bob
Holyfield, Don Williams, Bill Hall and Dean
Welk's Doug Howard and Downtown Doyle Brown - George Strait - Welk's
Bob Kirsch and writer Tommy Rocco- ASCAP President, Hal David, Dean,
ASCAP's Connie Bradley.
Welk's Nashville operation expanded its roster of songwriters, artists
and producers, Welk's Real Estate Division decided it was time to build
a building in the middle of Music Row to house its incredibly
sister company. The building featured a state of the art
studio as well and offices for it writers and staff. The
between the creative and promotional staffs the office encouraged
the Nashville Division to even greater heights.
Nashville Team Gathers to Celebrate
1. Phil Thomas (W) 2. Doyle Brown (S) 3.
Cynthia (Rodgers) Candilora (S) 4. Reba McEntire (W) 5.
Tate (W) 6. Tom Campbell (W)
7. Kerry Chater (W) 8. Susan Longacre (W)
9. TBD 10. Jerry Gillespie 11. Robin Gordon (S) 12.
13. Vickie Clark (W) 14. Doug Howard
15. Donnie Clark (W) 16. Hunter Moore (W) 17.
Larry Cordle (W)
18. Bob McDill (W)
19. Betty Lane Thrasher (S) 20. David Wills
(W) 21. Milly
Catignani (S) 22. Jim Sales (W) 23. Dickey Lee (W)
Bob Kirsch (S)
Mark Collie (W) 26.
(S) 27. Ronnie Scaiffe (W) 28. Thad Tarleton
29. Tommy Rocco (W) 30. Dennis Knutson (W)
= Songwriter (S) = Staff - Thanks to Cynthia
for saving many of the Nashville pictures featured on this page.
with Michelle and Dean Kay
Michelle, Dean's wife, and Dean. Picture was taken at the world
Palomino Club in North Hollywood, CA in the mid 70s. Lawrence was
on hand to introduce country singer Ava Barber, the latest addition to
his television show cast, to the world. The crowd at the Pal was
stunned when the king of corn walked into the room overflowing with of
cowboys, bikers, beer, booze and good hearted women lookin' for good
men. Surely, the term "culture shock' was coined on the spot;
by the end of the evening, true to form, Lawrence had everyone in the
eating out of his hand and dancing the polka. He was truly one of
the most magnetic entertainers of all time as well as being a genuinely
warm and ingratiating human being.
The People What Make You and the People What Break You
people that worked behind the scenes for Welk were always the best.
wish I had pictures of everyone who was part of the publishing
here are some of them.
At A Gathering of the Administrative Staff From All Welk Offices
to back: Socorro Harris, Denise
Row: Mary Coller, Kathy Senn, Sharon Higgins, Alisa (Liguori) Stratton,
Row: Willa Hubert, Candy Cole, Jeff
Brabec, Ester Levine, Milly
Catignani, Penny Paine, Deborah Horton, Cynthia (Rodgers) Candilora
let the tall guy be the boss.
(A special shout out to
Willa who put up with me, my handwriting, my spelling and my
for almost 20 years.
heads of Welk's publishing offices in the US meet with the 'big boss'
strategy sessions. Dean,
Hall (Nashville), Joe Abend (New York), Lawrence, Kim Espy and Evan
of the catalog, once again, called for the expansion of Welk's
footprint. Opening an office in London was the next logical step. John
Merritt (far right) was chosen to head the office. In this picture,
in a restaurant in Cannes, France, Michelle and Dean celebrate John's
along with Iqbal, whose organization, IQ Music Ltd., oversaw the
administration of the Welk catalogs.
Management Meeting in Nashville:
Ted Lennon, Executive VP, Teleklew Productions
(parent corporation to
Welk's various enterprises), Larry Welk, then President of Teleklew
Productions, now Chairman and CEO of The Welk Group, Inc. responsible
for an ever expanding variety
of Welk branded enterprises), Dean, Bob Kirsch, VP Wek-Nashville, John
Merritt, Managing Director, Welk-London, Rick Neigher, Managing
Touch of Music Publishing History
Welk decided to go into the music publishing business when, in 1958,
manager, Sam Lutz, suggested he purchase Harry Von Tilzer Music
Co. the owners of "I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl That Married Dear
Dad," "Bird In A Guilded Cage," "When My Baby Smiles at Me" and
more early 20th Century favorites. Lawrence was sold on the idea when
told him that he would receive performance royalties every time he
one of those songs on his show. Once in the business, Lawrence
his board of directors soon realized how valuable owning copyrights
be and set out to acquire other available works whether they were good
for the Welk Show or not. Over the next 31 years, that decision
to the purchase of over 100 music publishing companies and over 100,000
copyrights which included a broad array of every conceivable
of popular music. Estate planning led to the sale of the company in
to PolyGram's publishing division. Lawrence passed away in 1992.
Monuments To A Great Man
name Lawrence Welk, to this day, still evokes his personal commitment
honesty, integrity, hard work and living the American Dream. He
on his parents farm in North Dakota until he was 21 when he left home,
virtually penniless, with his accordion and a dream of becoming a band
leader. He spoke only German until he left the farm.
The path he followed to success has been well documented. His
shows are still among the most highly rated PBS offerings today. Many
his music and non music related business ventures continue to prosper
the Welk brand.
Santa Monica Bay in Southern California stand three monuments to
Welk - three buildings he built during his career that testify to the
perseverance and belief in himself that led him to become, arguably,
most successful American big band leader of all time. Two of the
buildings, one at either end to the triad, included, among their
the offices of Lawrence Welk and his various enterprises including the
home base of his music publishing company. The center building, a
condo complex, is where Lawrence and his wife Fern enjoyed their years
in retirement. I can't deny that it became a little difficult to
concentrate on the music publishing business on summer afternoons when
hundreds of sail boats sailed out of Marina Del Rey and onto Santa
Bay or on those days when dazzling sunsets were too spectacular to go
But, business got done and wonderful memories remain. I'm
of Lawrence, and all the great people that worked for him - and for me
- every time I visit Santa Monica or anywhere along the coast where the
buildings are visible - and every time I fly out of LAX.