Cheers to the Champagne Lady
Alice Lon was born November 23, 1926, in Cooper, Delta County, between Paris and Sulphur Springs. Through the guidance of her musical parents, she began singing when she was six and by the time she was 10 she was a regular on the radio. After high school she attended Kilgore Junior College and became one of the original Kilgore Rangerettes.
She also toured throughout Texas performing with the Interstate Theater in Dallas and in 1945 she was a runner up in the Miss Texas beauty pageant.
But it is a gig she got in 1953 where her singing talents began to woo the world. She won an audition to become bandleader Lawrence Welk’s “Champagne Lady,” the name he gave to his female vocalists. He had a local TV program at that time but just two years later, ABC debuted the Lawrence Welk Show July 2, 1955, taking Lon’s Texas smile, beauty, talent, and petticoats to a national audience that loved her.
Amidst the floating bubbles on stage, Lon performed soft, rhythmic tunes that had many smitten with her style. She was known for wearing particularly full skirts with colorful petticoats designed by her mother, Lois Wyche, as she told TV Guide. She gave instructions in the article on how viewers might make their own petticoats.
Her popularity was why Welk received quite a backlash when he abruptly fired her in 1959. Rumors flowed about the reasons, the main one being from his side that she showed too much leg in one of her gowns and possibly propped her feet up on his desk, which offended him. She was quoted as saying she wanted more money and to do tunes she preferred over the ones he selected for her.
Maybe she got tired of him referring to her as his “little lady.”
Faced with much fan protest, reports are that Welk tried to hire her back but to no avail. Although they eventually reconciled personally, they never worked together professionally again.
Alice resettled back in Dallas. She had three sons with her first husband Bob Waterman and remarried in 1962 to George Bowlings. She ran a dress shop for a while.
Alice Lon died at just 54 years old after a long battle with scleroderma, a skin cancer. She is buried in Rosewood Park Cemetery in Longview.
Hear and see the talented Alice Lon on numerous YouTube videos.