Last Sunday, while millions were marching around the globe, registering their support for continued U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq and condemning the Bush administration's rush to Gulf War II, a couple of thousand older Memphians were making their own political statement at GPAC. They assembled to salute and enjoy "The Stars of the Lawrence Welk Show" in a special reunion performance sponsored by WKNO.
Far be it for Fly to ever pass judgment on these fun-loving septuagenarians who have been around long enough to see trends come, go, and come back again. Attendees waxed nostalgic while listening to former Welk crooners Ralna English and Guy Hovis, and the undisputed queen of honky-tonk piano, Jo Ann Castle, who tickled the ivories as formidably and flamboyantly as Jerry Lee Lewis ever has. Fair play to them.
But our reporter was struck by the combo's choice of an opening number that now rarely heard 1920s classic, "Are You From Dixie?" Most of us are well aware that casual use of the word "Dixie" tends to rub half of the Memphis population the wrong way. The Welk stars were obviously unconcerned about political correctness, and perhaps the complexion of their audience explains why. If there was a black face among the sellout crowd, our reporter didn't see it."First time in decades anybody's had the chutzpah to sing that one in public in this town," he noted.
Okay, so it's not the end of the world. But what kind of person, in this day and age, would make a decision so clearly politically incorrect? A quick glance at the show's program provided one possible explanation. You see, group-leader Guy Hovis, a 12-year regular on the Welk show back in the 1970s, has another job these days when he's not on the tour circuit. Hovis, the program tells us, is "state director of U.S. Senator Trent Lott's offices in Jackson, Mississippi."