Beyond Lawrence Welk: Guitarist Neil LeVang

Wednesday, 04 February 2015 03:00 PM Written by 

Guitarist Neil LeVang, who died in his sleep a week ago at 83, accompanied with everyone. He backed Sinatra on records  along with quite a few 60's rock bands and singers and even Zappa on the first Mothers of Invention album.  He was also involved with countless TV show and movie soundtracks during his decades in the LA recording studios.  He spent one day a week as guitarist on The Lawrence Welk Show, which gave him national exposure if not musical satisfaction.  Filling that role with Welk for nearly 20 years gave his kids health insurance and allowed him to spend the rest of his time making records and getting top dollar.

One of the most enjoyable interviews I've done was an extended one with Neil for a profile in "Vintage Guitar" Magazine's December 2009 issue. Neil made no bones of his disdain for Welk, who was, for all his success and generous salaries, a petty and often oppressive boss. Neil was one of the few to stand up to him consistently and keep his job. He also confirmed all those tales of Welk's verbal misfires on TV. He was there.  You can read more about LeVang's career and his days jousting with the notoriously overbearing Welk in the Vintage Guitar article, available here.

With Welk: Neil offering his spin on the Chet Atkins tune "Galloping On the Guitar." Note Welk's characteristically stupid remark at the end.

After Welk: When Welk retired and LeVang's studio career began to slow down in the 1980's, he joined the touring orchestra of easy-listening bandleader Billy Vaughn, who he found far easier to work with.  This is LeVang performing "Wheels," a solo piece he sometimes played with Welk.




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