Wednesday, March 16, 2022


My grandparents loved this show. Sometimes, on PBS, I even glimpse back at this wholesome show of the past. But a Lawrence Welk sex scandal???? Really??? 

The once-popular show ran between 1955 to 1982, including 27 seasons on the ABC network, and still remains popular in reruns. The show’s titular bandleader and accordionist oversaw the weekly musical offerings with a big smile — but behind the scenes, his show’s cast endured scandals ranging from secret gay lives to charges of child molestation!

That included Welk’s two biggest stars — Bob Ralston and Jo Ann Castle, each caught up in charges of child molestation. Ralston was arrested in 1984 on charges of molesting a 13-year-old boy who was also one of his piano students.

In 1986, Ralston pleaded guilty to a felony count of committing a lewd act with a child under age 14 — with charges made by two other boys dismissed in a plea bargain. LAPD Detective Steven Hales called it “the most inappropriate sentence on a pedophile I’ve ever seen,” and said he believed Ralston had at least 20 underage victims!

Jo Ann Castle was caught up in another horrifying scandal after her fiancé William Austin Holloway was charged with molesting one of her children in 1978. She was later found guilty of committing perjury to cover up the crime, and forced the victim to write a humiliating letter denying the molestation.

A longtime boozer, Castle then turned to drugs in her later years — overdosing on prescription pills several times, and suffering a stroke from a combination of alcohol, Percocet and other drugs in 2009. In 2013, according to court records, Castle finally confessed to perjury for her 1978 lies, saying she’d been “brainwashed” by her husband.

Amazingly, Castle covered up her scandals and kept trading off the Lawrence Welk name with a series of shows in Branson, Missouri. Alice Lon wasn’t as lucky — with Welk famously firing her as one of his “Champagne Ladies,” complaining: “Her knee showed too much. Cheesecake doesn’t fit on our show!'”

But that was after Lon  had made headlines with a bizarre story of being forced to pose for nude photos! She claimed that her home in North Hollywood was invaded by masked men who stripped her for the camera. She claimed that she, her husband and her mother-in-law were given sleeping pills — and warned the nude pics would be “turned over to the papers” if she called the cops.

The biggest stars to emerge from Welk’s show were the Lennon Sisters — but Kathy, Janet, Peggy and Dianne paid a high price for their fame. A stalker named Chet Young thought he could win Peggy’s heart by eliminating the sisters’ dad. He shot and killed William Lennon at noon in the parking lot of a California golf course in 1969, and later committed suicide.

Welk himself managed to dodge any scandals — except for being known as one of TV’s stingiest stars. One insider told The ENQUIRER about a Christmas party where the bandleader handed out his annual gift of cheap neckties — and discovered that one employee had been with him for 20 years. “You,” declared Welk, “get two ties!”


  1. Wow -- talk about juicy stuff! I'd never heard about any of these stories. So amazing that one of TV's most wholesome shows could have such an unsavory underbelly!

  2. Stan Freberg
    Wunnerful Wunnerful

  3. The comments about Welk's cheapness are no surprise to me. I had a very good friend named Terry Imel whose father was a singer on Welk's show for years. After not receiving any decent raises for along time Mr. Imel finally confronted Welk. Welk "explained" that the problem wasn't Mr. Imel's lousy salary, it was that he didn't know how to manage his money. So Welk "generously" offered to introduce Mr. I'mel to his personal business manager. Of course, Welk wasn't going to pay for the manager so Mr. Imel just ended up with another expense, but that was Welk.

  4. I actually had an unpleasant run-in with Norma Zimmer, the champagne lady. When I was working for a short time at a hotel in Houston, she came in and treated me very rudely, demanding her key, snatched it out of my hand, storming off. She was not very ladylike that day!