High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Day J. Lennon Shocked Millions and Danced the Wah Wah Watusi!















My mother made me do it!

She put me in restraints and forced me to watch
The Lawrence Welk Show every week. Mom's 
intentions were noble. She wanted me to  
know the difference between good music
(Welk's Champagne Orchestra) and  
bad music (the rock 'n' roll junk I liked).

Lawrence Welk spoke with a thick German accent but
was actually a native American, born to immigrants
in a German speaking community in North Dakota.
I didn't know that and I didn't care. As a kid, all
I knew was that Welk sounded funny, he was old
(in his 50s to 70s during the show's run) and I
couldn't relate to him or his music. I mean, there
isn't much demand for the accordion in rock 'n' roll.

Eventually I found four things to like about
The Lawrence Welk Show - The Lennon Sisters -
Dianne, the oldest, Peggy, Kathy and Janet, the
youngest, who was only three years older than me.
The Los Angeles siblings were invited to appear on
the show after Welk's son, who went to school
with Dee Dee (Dianne) Lennon, brought the
quartet to his father's attention.

The Lennon Sisters were an overnight sensation.
They became regulars and grew up on the series.
I'd like you to experience some of their fine
performances on Lawrence Welk beginning
with their debut on Christmas Eve 1955.

Return with me to a time in our nation's history
when decency and respectability still mattered
to most of the people in charge of producing
entertainment. Can you remember that far back?

"He" - The Lennon Sisters 
(debut appearance on 
The Lawrence Welk Show 
Christmas Eve 1955)

In 1956, Patience & Prudence brushed the top 5
with their rendition of the oft recorded 1920s
popular song "Tonight You Belong to Me."

Soon after, Lawrence Welk and his phenomenal
girl group discovery, The Lennon Sisters, released
their own version of the song and it too became
a hit, reaching #15 on the pop chart.

"Tonight You Belong to Me" - The Lennon Sisters 
(single credited as Lawrence Welk 
featuring The Lennon Sisters, 
October 1956, highest chart position #15) 

In order to keep "the younger set" entertained, Lawrence Welk arranged for Janet Lennon, the youngest and most popular of the sisters, to sing solo on occasion. Welk also hired other child singers to perform with Janet including Cubby O'Brien who had just finished his stint
on The Mickey Mouse Club.

"Especially For You" - Janet Lennon & Cubby O'Brien (The Lawrence Welk Show circa 1958)

Blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe sizzled when she
sang "I Wanna Be Loved By You" in Some Like It Hot.
Young Janet Lennon and series regular Big Tiny Little
performed the 1920s song on an episode of the Welk
show that probably aired shortly after the 1959
Billy Wilder movie became a smash hit.

Friends, it breaks my heart to watch this video
because it reminds me of the age of innocence,
a time when a 12 year old girl and a grown man
could sing a love duet and nobody gave it a
second thought. How much we've lost since!

"I Wanna to Be Loved By You" 
 Janet Lennon & Big Tiny Little 
 (The Lawrence Welk Show circa April 1959)

All four Lennon Sisters head for the malt shop
in this next delightful clip.

Upon arriving the girls perform with another
Lawrence Welk Show regular, Dixieland Jazz
great Pete Fountain. Let's fall through the
looking glass and spend a couple of blissful
minutes in the Norman Rockwell America
I knew, loved and miss!

"Mr. Clarinet Man" 
The Lennon Sisters with Pete Fountain 
(The Lawrence Welk Show circa 1959)

Janet Lennon was still only 14 or 15 years of age
when she teamed up with Welk family mainstay
Larry Hooper to sing "Do You Love Me." 
Here again we witness a man and an underage 
girl singing a love song to each other.  Time 
and time again I read comments on YouTube 
submitted by young people who consider videos
like this one creepy and in bad taste. implying 
that they should be flagged as inappropriate. 
 In today's politically correct, zero tolerance 
world it's hard for young people to understand 
that performances like these were common-
place, benign and universally accepted.

"Do You Love Me" 
Janet Lennon and Larry Hooper 
 (from The Lawrence Welk Show 1961)


If you only have time to watch one video
in its entirety, please make it this next one.

Remember when Michael Jackson performed his first
moonwalk on Motown 25? I'd like you to experience
one of those otherworldly, transcendent moments
in entertainment history.

I admit that I underestimated the Lennon Sisters.
I pigeonholed them. I placed them in a tidy little
box and filed them away in my memory, never
realizing the full extent of their capabilities.

Courtesy of American Public Television

The only types of music I remembered Janet Lennon
and her sisters performing on the Welk show were
easy listening pop standards, novelty ditties and
traditional folk songs. Recently I stumbled upon
a Lennon Sisters performance that blew my mind.
It showed me a side of Janet Lennon I had never
seen before. In the video you are about to watch
Janet reminds us that even straight laced acts
like the Lennon Sisters might know a thing
or two about rock 'n' roll.

Embedding is disabled for this rare video.

Therefore I need to ask that you follow the
link, watch it on YouTube and click back here
when you are are finished. Turn it up loud and
be sure to watch the entire clip because it
gets better and better, a real eye opener.
Please click on the pink song title below and
behold 16 year old Janet Lennon as she sings
the Orlons hit "The Wah Watusi" and does a
fantastic job of authentically performing
the dance steps! I would have been no less
surprised to see Lawrence Welk break-dancing.
Janet, you go girl!


"The Wah Watusi" 

Janet Lennon, Peggy Lennon, Kathy Lennon,
Norma Zimmer, Larry Hooper & Russ Klein
(from The Lawrence Welk Show circa July 1962)

Wasn't that the coolest thing... ever?

That 1962 performance of "The Wah Watusi"
by Janet and her sisters was a pivotal moment,
the day the Lawrence Welk Show turned cool.
However, it also marked the beginning of the
end of the series in its original form. Ever since
he started the show in 1951, Lawrence Welk
had intended and programmed it for middle aged
adults and seniors, a concept that would never
fly in today's youth obsessed America.

As years went by, Lawrence Welk was compelled
to cut back on big band sounds and polkas and
make room on the show for pop and rock 'n' roll.
 In the decade that followed the "Wah Watusi"
broadcast, Welk made further concessions to
the Youth Movement, embracing Bacharach,
the Beatles and other principal players on the
ever changing music scene. All Welk succeeded
in doing was alienating older viewers who
expected traditional songs and dances.
 In 1971 The Lawrence Welk Show was
canceled by ABC but continued on in
first run syndication until 1982.

There are two lessons to be learned from this post.

Ah-One) If you are doing something you love,
something you believe in and something you are
passionate about, don't change it in a misguided
attempt to please everyone. You never will.
Please yourself first. In time you will attract
others who share your interests, and the ones
who really matter will remain fiercely loyal
to you, friends for life.

Ah-Two) Never make the mistake of underestimating
or typecasting people. Inevitably they will surprise
you with their range of interest and expertise.
Janet Lennon made me scream and shout when
she jumped out of character and did a great job
of singing and dancing rock 'n' roll. I never get
tired of watching Janet do the "Wah Watusi."
Wunnerful wunnerful!

Oh, and one last thing...




Have a Shady day!


  1. This brought back such memories. My grandparents loved Lawrence Welk and I can remember as a little girl spending the night at their house from time to time and always, always that would be the prelude to the evening. Of course as I grew older I couldn't stand it, but ironically, when my older daughter, who is very talented in musical theater was little, she discovered that show and was mesmerized by it. She still has the most eclectic musical tastes of anyone I know.

    It's hard to think that Janet Lennon is now 67- wow! Thank you, my friend, for an always intriguing post and for allowing me to revisit some great memories.

    1. Hi, Shelly! I think it's wonderful that your daughter discovered and appreciated the Welk show. Children need to be exposed to positive, uplifting material to counterbalance all the negative influences with which they are bombarded. Yessum, it's hard to believe that "little Janet Lennon" will be 67 later this week. I hope she somehow finds this post and realizes how important she and her sisters were to my early development. Thank you very much for coming, dear friend Shelly, and have a great week!

  2. Hi Shady, I believe one of your other friends said "You can't please everyone so you got to please yourself." Anyway, I enjoyed this version of the Watusi. I also saw the Orlons two years ago do their version in person and it was also still very good. Their bass man is still great so whatever you do Don't hang up. Jerre

    1. Hi, Jerre! I never heard the Lennon Sisters on the Dell jukebox but I felt the need to pay tribute to them nevertheless. I think Janet's version of "The Wah Watusi" was cool enough to be released as a single. It certainly didn't sound too vanilla to me and I think it would have been a hit. After all, she was very popular, featured on the cover of Teen Magazine and other publications and, as you recall, there were many other young TV stars and starlets making records around that time including Rick Nelson, to whom you made reference, Shelley Fabares, Paul Petersen, Johnny Crawford, Annette, Connie Stevens, Noreen Corcoran (niece Kelly on Bachelor Father)... and the list goes on. Were the Orlons at Hershey Park? Did they open for Tiny Tim? :) Thanks so much for coming over, good buddy, and please come back again soon.

  3. I also grew up with Lawrence Welk...and hated it..well, sometimes I enjoyed it, but I would never have admitted that years ago! I love the Lennon Sisters and I'd never seen the "Watusi" version although I remember dancing the Watusi in my very young pre-teen days! Super fun video and I laughed at the outfits...pretty mild back then compared to dress today! Thanks for this fun post. I do miss that innocence we had back then...when all was right with the world for just a quick, speck of time.

    1. Hi, dear YaYa! I'm so glad you made it over this soon and that you could relate to the Lennon Sisters. You might have noticed that Dianne, the oldest Lennon sister, was missing from the formation in that "Wah Watusi" video, replaced by Norma Zimmer. My understanding is that by 1962 Dee-Dee (Dianne) had left the show to concentrate on marriage and raising a family. I'm glad you agree that it actually was a more innocent time back then and that it isn't merely the wistful musings of a typical baby boomer. Thank you very much for your visit and comments, dear friend YaYa, and have a wonderful week!

  4. Yes, Orlons were at Hershey Park. The oldies line up this year for the park is not good. Rare Earth the only attraction to look forward to seeing. Jerre

    1. Thanks, Jerre! The point I was trying to make in my reply (bit didn't) was that Janet Lennon was a better singer than many of the child stars who were achieving hit records around that time and I think they should have let her make solo recordings for the teen market. I think she could have racked up a string of hits. (She's not in the same league as Monti Rock III, mind you, but just saying... :) Thanks again, Jerre, and I hope to see you here for the annual Father's Day post!

  5. Hi Shady. It's at times like this that I feel really left out, because I had never heard of The Lennon Sisters, or Lawrence Welk for that matter! Strangely enough, I had heard of the dance, The Watusi, although my favourite was always The Twist, with Chubby Checker! I agree with yaya that everything was so innocent back then, wasn't it. Things have turned too far in the other direction now, and I don't like it. I really enjoyed the video. Gosh, doesn't it look tame compared to what they are doing these days! She certainly had all the moves going on there though! What I want to know, is was that my friend Shadykins appearing on the video with them?! Take care my friend.

    1. Hallo, dear Thisisme! Yessum, that was me - the beatnik with the beard and low voice. I don't know how to play the sax! :) Well, I keep striking out where you are concerned, dear friend. Although you never heard of this J. Lennon and her sisters (or Welk) I hope you enjoyed this trip down my memory lane. I especially enjoyed those two videos set in a malt shop because they reminded me of the snack bar at the Shady Dell. I'd like to think that we could somehow work our way back to innocence again but we've come so far and in the wrong direction as you pointed out. Thank you very much for spending some time with me today, dear Thisisme, and enjoy your day and week in sun drenched Devon!

  6. Surprise , surprise, I use to watch the Lawrence Welk show (as "square" as it was to watch) , not always by choice , but because my parents had it on the television. I really did enjoy watching the Lennon sisters and still do to this day. When changing the channels, sometimes you'll see them and they still suck you in ( I must admit!). They were so talented and so young! The times , they were "ah" simpler back then. It's hard to imagine that the younger generation would have a gripe with the true innocence of these songs when so many of today's music videos are so sexually explicit and ARE banned from you tube and other sites. "Do you love me" was sweet as was, "I wanna be loved by you". I thoroughly enjoyed them! I totally agree with you and your feelings on that matter! When we watched that innocence , we didn't give it a second thought! I also enjoyed the clip of the Lennon sisters doing the Wah Watusi. It seriously made me wanna get up and give it a try! Everything changes, nothing stays the same-- isn't that a shame? (for the most part!) Shady, I did get a kick outta you using his mannerisms ( ah one, ah two) Wunnerful, wunnerful!!!!!

    1. Hi, Toni! This is an excellent comment and I thank you for it, dear friend! In an interview, one of the Lennon Sisters talked about that first appearance on Welk by the young girls, ages 9 to 16. Just before the live broadcast, one of the show's sponsors came up to them and reminded them that 30 million people would be watching. (LOL) Imagine that! Nevertheless, the girls performed flawlessly w/o any hint of nerves. I admit that I cringed a little the first time I watched "I Wanna Be Loved By You" and "Do You Love Me." I reacted as do many YouTubers, especially younger ones, when they witness performances of that type. It's because modern society is keenly aware of predators and pedophiles. We've developed radar for them, so much so that we sometimes see them where they don't even exist. I totally agree with you that decades ago people never gave performances like those a second thought. It's ironic that Welk reportedly once fired a female cast member for crossing her legs provocatively, yet he saw nothing wrong with underage Janet singing love duets with much older men. I'm happy to know you enjoyed the Watusi dance. It knocked me out and I never get tired of watching it. As I told Jerre, I think Janet could have had a successful solo recording career! Thank you very much, dear Toni, and enjoy the rest of your week!

  7. This was such a wonderful post for me. I grew up watching the Lennon Sisters; I didn't like the polka music, but loved them. My older sister loved them too and even bought paper dolls of the sisters. We thought they were wonderful.
    I got some tears in my eyes from hearing them sing "He".

    The Welk show was my grandmother's favorite and she would always come over and watch it with the family. Those were good times. It did seem innocent back then. I am horrified by rock videos they now produce. It is too bad our young people are exposed to them. The songs with Janet and an older man were not thought of as bad. It was about showcasing a cute song and that's all. But kids now have learned they have to be wary and I think that is a good thing.

    Thanks, Tom. Oh, and I have to say how beautifully the Lennon Sisters sang. It is a joy to listen to them once again.

    1. Wow, Belle, this is a wonderful series of comments and I thank you! I'm glad you brought up the paper dolls because the Lennon girls were indeed featured in lines of paper dolls. Janet was the cover girl on several magazines and was also the "star" of her own paperback novel for girls. You also touched on a common practice that you rarely if ever see any more. The Lawrence Welk Show brought the whole family together in front of the TV set and in those days it was often an extended family that included children, their parents and their grandparents. I like how you described what we are seeing and hearing in those videos of young Janet with the older men. They were merely showcasing a popular song, and that was the extent of it. It's a shame performances like those seem creepy to many young people, but at the same time they do need to keep their guard up. I refuse to believe those who say there was just as much abuse happening back then and that the only reason it seems like there's more today is because it is being reported more often and receiving much more media coverage. I believe our sexed-up culture is promoting abuse. (End of sermon.) Thank you so very much for coming by, dear friend Belle, and I'll be talking to you again soon!

  8. Poor John Lennon...he can't top all of this!!! I loved the Lennon sisters too! When we were chained to the Lawrence Welk show, we always hoped that at least the Lennons would be performing, and Janet was my favorite. I don't remember her doing the Watusi, but, hopefully I did see that episode-loved the guy with the goatee too! That was a great video! And, Lawrence Welk would always say, "Now something for the younger folks". He tried to get us all involved there. I always liked soda shop numbers-I remember Cubby...he was so cute. You're right about the numbers with the older guys-I never heard anyone say anything about the age differences-it was all about the music! If my parents thought anything was strange, they never said so in front of us, nor were there any strange looks about it. How dare people take these great moments out of context!

    I was able to watch some of all the videos-they were so great! Haven't thought about those girls in a long time. This is the best of the best, Shady! I think our moms had it right-actually, they probably secretly co-ordinated with each other, lol!

    Certainly one of your greats, Shady! Thank you for this very pleasant surprise-made my evening! Stay cool and groovy!♫

    1. Hello, dear Suzanne, and thank you very much for the stellar review of my post. Coming from you, a lover of Motown and rockabilly, it is all the more satisfying. I suppose what I was trying to say in this post is that I assumed the Lennon Sisters were only interested in the type of songs and dances they usually performed on the show. I don't know why it never occurred to me that they might be "normal" teenagers who actually liked rock 'n' roll and could authentically sing and dance it.

      As for the issue of the young girl - older man duets, it's a pity that everyone has to be on high alert for cases of child abuse in today's world, so much so that benign interaction between children and adults is sometimes misinterpreted. It's a different world now, one that is filled with suspicion and mistrust, and that loss of assumed innocence is a tragedy.

      Again, dear friend, I always welcome your comments here, but it is especially sweet to know that you really enjoyed what I presented this time. Your comments made my day! Thank you, dear Suzanne, and have a fabulous week!

  9. Tom! This made my heart sing and brought back so many memories! My Dad always hoped he was raising the next generation of Lennon Sisters. I was one of five girls and he hoped we were gonna take the music world by storm. LOL sadly we were not of the same caliber and only entertained ourselves and relatives. We watched Lawrence Welk faithfully for a while and then painfully when we were older but pleased our grandparents when they wanted to tune in to An A One and Ah Two!
    I of course got a kick out of seeing my Home Town Boy Pete Fountain, but oh how young he was and he was still sporting some hair. Each Mardi Gras he and his Half Fast Marching Club band strolled (marched/paraded) the streets of the French Quarter!
    The Wah Watusi was so tame, I think kids today would wonder what all the fuss was about! I really did enjoy seeing the Lennon Sisters again and viewing girls with short I sported those for so many years and thank goodness they have never returned as a fashion 'Do'
    You have made my morning with this are so right it was a gilded age and sadly and greatly missed!
    Thanks so much for this delightful post...and I even got to listen to the Lennon Sister sing Tammy...YAY!

    1. Hello, dear Sush! ...and you have made my morning with your wonderful comments! I'm sorry you and your sisters missed your chance at stardom as the next great girl group. Yessum, we grew up in an era of singing siblings, the Andrews Sisters, the McGuire Sisters and the King Sisters are others that come to mind. I was hoping you'd notice Pete Fountain. I loved that clip of the girls visiting Pete's Fountain but at the same time it makes me sad because it reminds us of the way we were and will probably never again be. Did you know that Pete Fountain quit the Welk Show because Lawrence wouldn't allow him to jazz up a Christmas carol? Pete was quoted as saying, "Champagne and bourbon don't mix." (This is all according to Wiki.) Dear, dear friend, thank you so very much for reading my post and listening to these glorious Lennon Sisters harmonies. It's an honor to have you here and I hope you'll be back again soon!

  10. I Wanna Learn the Wah Wah Wahtusi!!

    Hi Tom,

    Over here, TV still runs The Lawrence Welk show..i had no idea what that was until i watched a bit of it. I looooooove Patience & Prudence since i heard Enid play their record in Ghost World..Ribbon In My Hair is one of my favs.

    1. Hi, Strawberry-Doll! It's been a while since I saw Ghost World and I forgot that piece of trivia about Enid playing the Patience and Prudence song "A Smile and a Ribbon," the B side of "Tonight." Like the Lennon girls, Patience and Prudence McIntyre were a Los Angeles area sister act of the 50s. Thank you very much for stopping by, Jules, and enjoy the rest of your day in Canada!

  11. Wow! that's some facial hair on the guy on the left! What a cute little dance the girls had. It also makes me sad that we've gotten to a stage where nothing is "innocent" any more, there's been such a change even since I was a kid. It makes me sad for the next generation. And Tom I completely agree, you have to do what feels true to you. It's so sad that shows like Lawrence Welk had to change to keep up with the times, it might seem like a good idea at the time, but it's loyal viewers that kept shows like that going and changing them only annoys the viewers.

    This whole post I couldn't help but laugh having just watched a recent episode of SNL where they did another Lawrence Welk show sketch. If you haven't seen it, look it up, it's strange to say the least!

    Hope you've had a lovely week Tom. You'll be happy to know we had an absolute scorcher of a week and I've been out enjoying every second of it! But it's raining now so back to blogging I go!

    Emma x

    1. Hi, Emma! I've been wondering why you haven't posted anything new lately. As a matter of fact I just checked your blog earlier today to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I'm pleased that you brought up my life lesson thingy there at the end of the post. I believe that if you find something that interests you, something you are passionate about, then you should keep doing it regardless. If the Lawrence Welk Show had remained true to its traditional roots it probably would have been canceled even sooner, but at least Welk would have been able to say "I did it my way." I mean, who wants to hear a champagne orchestra play Beatles music anyway? Why bother? I didn't realize SNL was doing Welk sketches. I'll have to take a look. I'm delighted to know you've enjoyed summery weather there in Ireland recently. I'm sure you remembered to protect your alabaster skin with sunscreen! :) Thank you very much for coming to see me, dear friend Emma, and I hope to see you again soon!

  12. Wow, what fun to go back into my old memories with these old videos. I used to love the Lennon Sisters (in a time when there wasn't much else on TV musically speaking) and I remember thinking they were beautiful. I'd never seen the last video and it was great fun!

    1. Hi, dear karen! Isn't it wonderful how there are so many vintage clips available on YouTube and elsewhere? They really do take us back. I remember my mother being very fond of the Lennon Sisters and Peggy was her favorite for some reason. Based on my reading on the subject, Peggy was the most popular of the older siblings and Janet the most popular of them all. I'm glad you watched the vid of the birthday girl performing "The "Wah Watusi" 51 years ago. Thank you very much for visiting me, dear friend karen. I hope your week's been going well and that you will have a wonderful Father's Day celebration with your dad!

  13. Kathleen Mae SchneiderJune 14, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    I'm late commenting but wanted to thank you for this post, Tom. Bob and I enjoyed listening to all the songs and amazingly even remembered most of them!

    We grew up with the show, when the girls were wholesome role models for whom our parents were grateful. We got a second exposure shortly after we were married, when Bob's sprightly 87-year-old grandfather came to live with us for several years.

    He always tuned in to the re-runs because he said it was "music you could tap your feet to." By that time we saw it as a family-oriented program from the past, but we still enjoyed the tunes. Bob used to imitate the sound of the champagne cork popping to make us laugh.

    We weren't familiar with Pete Fountain being on Welk's show, but certainly liked his sound on other programs. You and the other readers who commented are right about the innocence of the time. Today everyone has to be careful and suspicious and I think we surely have lost something valuable in mixing generations in entertainment venues. We've crossed a line of sorts as a society and probably will never see the likes of shows such as this ever again.

    We recall also the great sadness in the Lennon sisters' life in 1969 when their father, Bill, died tragically at the hands of a mentally ill fan. It seems a lot like the shocking news we unfortunately hear all too frequently in our own time.

    Thanks for honoring these great gals, their harmonious voices and their wonderful (and "wunnerful") music! It was fun to revisit those long ago years and remember how influential they were!

    1. Hello, dear Kathleen, and thank you very much for your comments. I know I sound ancient writing this but I worry a lot about today's role models for kids. On the Disney Channel and other outlets that attract young viewers, it would be nice to think that the people in charge of programming would act responsibly like they did back in the days of the original Mickey Mouse Club when host Jimmie Dodd practically delivered a sermon on every show. In the last 30 years, however, the lead characters of popular series for children and tweens are typically handsome boys who get a free pass because of their looks, and shallow, scheming material girls who live to shop. I fear that boys who watch these shows are being taught to use and manipulate other people to their own advantage and girls who watch these shows (and Disney movies) are being taught that the highest aspirations for women are to be a model, a hip-hop diva or the bride of a handsome young prince from a foreign country.

      I didn't bring up the 1969 murder of William Lennon but I was aware of it. A delusional fan was obsessed with Peggy, believed he was married to her, and thought the only thing standing in the way of them being together was her father. The tragic incident took place at a time when stalking was still a relatively unknown crime, or at least not very well publicized. Keep in mind that for generations boys were taught by society and the media to pursue, pursue, pursue a woman until she gives in and says "yes." It's one aspect of the bygone era that we would like to forget.

      Thank you very much for taking the time to express yourself here, dear Kathleen. I hope you and Bob and mother Margaret have a safe and happy Father's Day weekend!


You talkin' to me?