Lawrence Welk's Best Kept Secret
For 18 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 successful 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.
 
 


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Lawrence Welk and the Brill Building
Home base 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 outpost was needed to promote the ever expanding catalog and provide more opportunities for a growing roster of exclusive songwriters. Welk's first New York City office was opened in the world famous Brill Building, the epicenter of east coast rock 'n' roll.  Dean revisited the legendary location in 2008.
 
 


 



Then It Was On To Nashville
With the acquisition of music publishing legend Bill Hall's (lower left) publishing company, Welk made a major commitment to country music.  Bill stayed on to run the Welk's Nashville division as did the amazingly prolific group 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!


Bill Hall

William
G. (Bill) Hall achieved success as a music producer, promoter and publisher. He began his music career in Beaumont, TX, opening a recording studio and working as a booking agent for such artists as George Jones and Benny Barnes, eventually becoming Jones' manager. Hall also had hits with J.P. Richardson's "Chantilly Lace" in 1958 and Johnny Preston's "Running Bear" in 1960. Later, he joined with Sun Records engineer Jack Clement, to form the Gulf Coast Recording Company, working with artists such as Jerry LaCroix, Johnny Allen, Edgar and Johnny Winter, Roger Miller, Bob McDill and Tex Ritter. The two later formed one of the most successful country music publishing companies in Nashville, Hall-Clement (BMI) / Jack and Bill (ASCAP) which  they eventually sold to Lawrence Welk.  Known affectionately as the "Colonel,"  Bill was one of the last great 'characterson Music Row.  He passed away in 1983.


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And The Hits Kept On Coming - Awards, Awards and More Awards
In fact, so successful was the Welk Music Group in every genre of popular music that one year the company received the
"Publisher of the Year" award at every major music industry event that recognized such endeavors


 
 
 
 

BMI: Pictured... BMI's Frances Preston and Ed Cramer.  Welk's Bob McDill,
Wayland  Holyfield, Don Williams, Bill Hall and Dean

 
 
 
 
 


 
 

ASCAP: Welk's Doug Howard and Downtown Doyle Brown - George Strait - Welk's Bob Kirsch and writer Tommy Rocco - ASCAP President, Hal David, Dean, and ASCAP's Connie Bradley.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 

As 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 successful sister company.  The building featured a state of the art recording studio as well and offices for its writers and staff.  The interplay between the creative and promotional staffs the office encouraged catapulted the Nashville Division to even greater heights.

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<><>Nashiville Office Groundbreaking
Welk's Nashville Team Gathers to Celebrate
1. Phil Thomas (W)  2. Doyle Brown (S)  3. Cynthia (Rodgers) Candilora (S)  4. Reba McEntire (W)  5. Danny Tate (W)  6. Tom Campbell (W)
7. Kerry Chater (W)  8. Susan Longacre (W)  9. TBD  10. Jerry Gillespie  11. Robin Gordon (S)  12. Steve Bogard (W)
13.  Vickie Clark (W) 14.  Doug Howard (S)  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)  21Milly Catignani (S)  22. Jim Sales (W)   23. Dickey Lee (W)  24. Bob Kirsch (S)
25. Mark Collie (W)   26.  Dean (S)   27.  Ronnie Scaiffe (W)  28. Thad Tarleton (S)  29. Tommy Rocco (W)  30. Dennis Knutson (W)
(W) = Songwriter  (S) = Staff  -  Thanks to Cynthia Candilora for saving many of the Nashville pictures featured on this page.

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Lawrence Welk with Michelle and Dean Kay

Lawrence, Michelle, Dean's wife, and Dean.  Picture was taken at the world famous 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 timing men.  Surely, the term "culture shock' was coined on the spot; but, by the end of the evening, true to form, Lawrence had everyone in the room 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.
 
 


<>But, It's The People What Make You and the People What Break You
The people that worked behind the scenes for Welk were always the best.
I wish I had pictures of everyone who was part of the publishing company's great success,
but, here are some of them.


Taken At  A Gathering of the Administrative Staff From All Welk Offices
Front to back: Socorro Harris, Denise Mishanec. Second Row: Mary Coller, Kathy Senn, Sharon Higgins, Alisa (Liguori) Stratton, Ph.D,
Third Row: Willa Hubert, Candy Cole, Jeff Brabec, Ester Levine, Milly Catignani, Penny Paine, Deborah Horton, Cynthia (Rodgers) Candilora
They let the tall guy be the boss.
(A special shout out to Willa who put up with me, my handwriting, my spelling and my doodles for almost 20 years.


 
 

The Execs

The heads of Welk's publishing offices in the US meet with the 'big boss' for strategy sessions. Dean, Bill Hall (Nashville), Joe Abend (New York), Lawrence, Kim Espy and Evan Archard (LA).

 
 


 
 

London Calling
The expansion of the catalog, once again, called for the expansion of Welk's promotional footprint. Opening an office in London was the next logical step. John Merritt (far right) was chosen to head the office. In this picture, taken in a restaurant in Cannes, France, Michelle and Dean celebrate John's appointment along with Iqbal, whose organization, IQ Music Ltd., oversaw the administration of the Welk catalogs.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Welk Senior Management


Senior 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 Welk-Nashville, John Merritt, Managing Director, Welk-London, Rick Neigher, Managing Director, Welk-L.A.

 
 
 
 
 
 

A Touch of Music Publishing History
Lawrence Welk decided to go into the music publishing business when, in 1958, his manager, Sam Lutz, suggested he purchase Harry Von Tilzer Music Publishing Co. the owners of "I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad," "Bird In A Guilded Cage,"  "When My Baby Smiles at Me" and many more early 20th Century favorites. Lawrence was sold on the idea when Sam told him that he would receive performance royalties every time he played one of those songs on his show.  Once in the business, Lawrence and his board of directors soon realized how valuable owning copyrights could 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 led to the purchase of over 100 music publishing companies and over 100,000 copyrights which included a broad array of every conceivable genre of popular music. Estate planning led to the sale of the company in 1989 to PolyGram's publishing division. Lawrence passed away in 1992.

Lasting Monuments To A Great Man
The name Lawrence Welk, to this day, still evokes his personal commitment to honesty, integrity, hard work and living the American Dream.  He worked 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 television shows are still among the most highly rated PBS offerings today. Many of his music and non music related business ventures continue to prosper under the Welk brand.


Overlooking Santa Monica Bay in Southern California stand three monuments to Lawrence Welk - three buildings he built during his career that testify to the tenacity, perseverance and belief in himself that led him to become, arguably, the most successful American big band leader of all time.  Two of the buildings, one at either end to the triad, included, among their tenants, the offices of Lawrence Welk and his various enterprises including the home base of his music publishing company. The center building, a luxurious 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 Monica Bay or on those days when dazzling sunsets were too spectacular to go unnoticed.  But, business got done and wonderful memories remain.  I'm reminded 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.