Bandleader Lawrence Welk gained a huge following in the 1930s and 1940s with his style of big band "champagne" music. This eventually led to a local television program in Los Angeles, and by 1955, a nationally televised program.

    It was the national show — first known as the "Dodge Dancing Party," then "Lawrence Welk's Plymouth Show" and later simply "The Lawrence Welk Show" — that brought the bubbles and champagne into millions of living rooms each week. Each show — after the bubble-laden opening and Welk's band playing the theme — featured Welk introducing the show's theme, always in his thick, German accent.

    Segments featured performances suitable to the theme, including songs by the show's cast, featured vocalists and Welk's band. The band frequently featured solo performances by its members. Occassionally, during the dance-flavored performances, the audience was allowed on stage to dance, either as couples or (in the case of women) with Welk.

    The show was often the launchpad for future stardom by many of its performers. In addition to the Lennon Sisters, one of the most famous examples of a star getting her start on "The Lawrence Welk Show" was country music singer Lynn Anderson (who left shortly before releasing her biggest hit, 1970's "Rose Garden").

    ABC canceled "The Lawrence Welk Show" in 1971, due in large part to its older demographics; prime-time advertisers were desiring a younger, 18-to-49 audence, and a perception — although inaccurate — existed that Welk only played songs prior to the rock era (indeed, Welk himself had a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961 with "Calcutta," six years after the start of the rock era); in reality, Welk and his band were hip to current music, and played big-band versions of those songs; other musical genres were showcased as well.

    After its network cancellation, "The Lawrence Welk Show" went on to greater popularity in syndication. Debuting in September 1971, Welk's program ran for 11 more seasons. And the show wouldn't die after its last first-run show aired in the spring of 1982, as Welk taped new introductions for repackaged "classic" shows spanning from 1966-1980; these aired in syndication during the 1982-1983 season.

    And the show's popularity continues, as since 1983, it has been a staple on many weekend lineups on PBS. Today's broadcasts feature survivng members of Welk's cast (Welk died in 1992), reminiscing about their years on the show and introducing the featured week's show. Originally, shows from the later ABC years and the syndicated era were the only ones re-broadcast, but on occassion, a pre-1966 black-and-white show has aired.