A fierce blizzard roared across the northern plains in the late fall of 1927. Lawrence Welk, a young man who, along with his small band, had been playing at dances in North Dakota, decided he'd had enough of cold weather. He and three other musicians headed for New Orleans early the next morning as the blizzard blew out its last frigid gusts.
They drove until 4 a.m. the next day and made it as far as Yankton, South Dakota. By then, after almost 24 hours on the road, they were too tired and cold to continue. They checked into the Collins Hotel in the small riverside town and were soon all fast asleep.
After about three hours of sleep, 24-year-old Lawrence was u and checking out the town. He knew there was a new radio station in Yankton, and he decided to see if they might provide temporary work for his band.
Lawrence found the well-equipped radio station on the top floor of the Gurney Seed and Nursery Company. He introduced himself to Chandler (Chan) Gurney, who had just finished announcing the morning news from inside a soundproof, glass front broadcasting studio. Lawrence knew Yankton was in the heart of Polka Country, so he told Chad, "My orchestra specializes in polkas."
Chan asked Lawrence to have his band come to the station to audition by 9 a.m. It was already 8:15 a.m.
Read the entire story in the latest edition of Living Here magazine.
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