Now let's hear about a truly "wunnerful" music business. And ah-one, and ah-two: The Welk Group is it. The company, founded in 1955 by the late famous bandleader, Lawrence Welk, comprises Welk Music Group and Welk Resorts. The music business includes labels Sugar Hill Records (Nickel Creek and Dolly Parton), Vanguard Records (Doc Watson and Joan Baez), and Ranwood Records (Lawrence Welk and Jim Nabors). The Welk Group's resort holdings include vacation ownership properties in California (San Diego and Palm Springs) and Missouri (Branson). Lawrence Welk, most famous as the star of TV stable The Lawrence Welk Show, which ran from 1955 to 1982, died in 1992. The company is still owned by the Welk family.
The Welk Music Group has developed an active roster of new artists such as Bob Schneider and Camper Van Beethoven, as well as a unique way of doing business in which it sells directly to retailers, from giants like Borders and Best Buy to noted Austin independent music store Waterloo Records. In 2008 Welk Music formed a distribution deal with EMI Group in which EMI handles sales and distribution services for Welk's digital and physical releases, as well as licensing and synchronization services.
The company has been making improvements to its Welk Resorts properties in 2008 and 2009. Enhancements include the opening of a new 25,000 sq. ft. Mountain Springs Clubhouse and StoneRidge Preview Center at its San Diego resort, as well as the renovation of several villas in Palm Springs.
The company was originally founded as Teleklew (a combination of the words "television" and "Welk" spelled backwards) in order to oversee Welk's investments and the operation of his TV show. In 1957, Teleklew bought the Harry Von Tilzer Music Publishing Company, the foundation for the Welk Music Group. The Welk Music Group mainly consisted of a music publishing arm, a mail-order division, and Lawrence Welk's big band label Ranwood Records before the company made two key acquisitions: the 1986 purchase of folk and blues label Vanguard, and the 1998 purchase of folk, bluegrass, and country specialty label Sugar Hill. The publishing assets were sold to PolyGram in 1988. Welk made his first real estate investment, a motel and a nine-hole golf course, in 1964.