Rock & Roll Comes To Lawrence Welk

Most of us are familiar with what was a pretty common occurrence during the early days of rock and roll — guest appearances by rising musical stars on TV shows. Producers of the shows recognized the burgeoning popularity of the new music and quickly realized the boost in ratings that could come their way, so it soon became a regular thing.

Even if you’re not old enough to actually remember some of those appearances, chances are good that you’ve seen video excerpts of Elvis Presley singing to a hound dog on Steve Allen’s variety show, or later appearing on Ed Sullivan. And even though Sullivan is remembered for insisting that Presley tone down his act a little, he became well known for showcasing a lot of stars, including the Beatles. But how many of us remember when a popular rock and roll group made its appearance on the Lawrence Welk Show?

It was in 1963 when the Chantays — a California surf music group that had crafted a megahit with “Pipeline” — showed up one night with Mr. Welk, in what was surely one of the strangest pairings of all time. (Video below.) The group had been formed a couple of years earlier by five high school buddies in Santa Ana, and had risen to popularity on the Southern California beach music scene. Bob Spickard, Brian Carman, Bob Marshall, Bob Welch, and Warren Waters ranged in age from 13 to 17 when the group was first formed, and even though they’d been around a while by the time they appeared on Welk’s show, chances are that they were plenty nervous.

What they did have going for them, though, was one of the all-time great songs in pop music. Carman and Spickard’s “Pipeline” was an unforgettable piece that — according to legend — had originally been recorded in the back room of a surf shop. In any case, it would end up as a classic that would be covered by many other bands through the years.

As for the Chantays, the group never again had a song that approached the popularity of that one, but they did keep performing and recording for a few years before going their separate ways. And when oldies music made its comeback in recent years, some of the original members joined with some new guys and restarted the Chantays. The retro group generated a couple of albums of pretty good stuff, including new songs like “Killer Dana,” and is still actively performing.

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