‘Mockin’bird Hill’

I still haven’t finished reading the book I’ll review next. It is a mark of my desperation for material that I’m going to post a music video that represents an utter betrayal of my younger self.

What you see here is a clip from the old Lawrence Welk TV series. It features the popular singers, The Lennon Sisters, doing “Mockin’bird Hill,” a song popular in the 1950s. Patti Page had a big hit with it. I remember that my mother and her sisters were fond of it.

What nobody told me at the time was that it’s a Scandinavian song – arguably Norwegian. It was first recorded by a Swedish accordionist named Carl “Calle” Jularbo in 1915, but it sounds suspiciously similar to a Norwegian folk tune, “Norska Bondvals” (Norwegian Farmer’s Waltz). In the clip, the accordionist introducing the song is Myron Floren, a Norwegian-American who was a regular on the Welk show. He was the single major star at Norsk Høstfest in Minot for many years until his death, which was years before I ever attended.

I like the song, but still hate myself for posting it in this incarnation, because of my childhood. My parents loved Lawrence Welk, and my brothers and I despised him (and all his works and all his ways, as we Lutherans say). We had a conspiracy to blind our parents to the program’s existence. It was broadcast on Saturday evenings in our area, but there was another channel that showed Tarzan movies at the same time. My brothers and I loved Tarzan. So when the folks fired up the Remote Control (which consisted of having one of us change the channel for them), we would zip past the channel showing Welk, hoping they wouldn’t notice.

Sometimes it worked.

Now that I’m old, I rightly ought to be learning to appreciate Lawrence Welk’s oeuvre. Sometimes they run his programs on the public television station. I’ve long been a confirmed fuddy-duddy. I ought to appreciate them now.

But honestly, I can’t. I’ll admit that some of the girls are pretty. But that “Champagne Sound” (Welk’s personal trademark) just leaves me cold. Too processed. Too polka-based. And those obligatory, rictus-like smiles on all the performers, who were known to be paid minimum union scale regardless of their popularity with the audience.

Too much ancient bitterness there. Too much blood shed, to wax hyperbolic.

I don’t even like Tarzan that much these days.

8 thoughts on “‘Mockin’bird Hill’”

  1. I don’t have much exposure to Lawrence Welk. I think the equivalent for me is the Ray Coniff Singers. I used to listen to them a bit as kid and don’t care to hear them again. That sound doesn’t do it for me.

    1. Always thought he had great musicians. They probably cringed at the stuff they had to play. As for the vocalists it was a consistently mediocre lot.

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