George Cates, Conductor (1957-1982)
Popular Conductor With Lawrence Welk Orchestra Wrote Many Songs Including "Champagne Time"
George Cates was the arranger and Music Director for the Lawrence Welk Show from 1957 to 1982. In these roles, he conducted the orchestra in the rehearsals. Welk later asked him to conduct the orchestra on the televised programs, where he stayed until the end of the Welk Show in 1982. A prolific writer, Cates's songs were sung by many of Lawrence Welk's Champagne Music Makers.
Cates began his music career shortly after his graduating from New York University, where he found work with the vaudeville team of Olsen and Johnson and their revue, "Hellzapoppin". His early career included arranging and playing saxophone with such bands as Henry Busse, Dick Stabile, and Russ Morgan between 1945 and 1951. In the mid-1950s, he was a director for Coral Records, writing and conducting for the label's stars that included the Andrews Sisters, Teresa Brewer, Bing Crosby, and Danny Kaye. During this time, he hit the Top 40 charts with his release of the "Moonglow/Theme from 'Picnic'". This record had some wordless vocal effects by Norma Zimmer , Lawrence Welk's "The Champagne Lady". After leaving the ABC television network in 1971, Welk syndicated his show and continued on TV using the theme song "Champagne Time," which Cates had composed. Cates left the show when it ended in 1982.
After Lawrence Welk
In addition to his work with Welk, Cates wrote and arranged a number of albums with other leading band leaders of the era. One of his albums "Polynesian Percussion" featured some fine instrumental work by his brothers-in-law guitarist Alvino Rey, and Buddy Cole playing a console guitar, and "Novachord" (an electronic organ tradename), as well as another 15-plus odd percussion instruments producing some unique sounds. Cates passed away in 2002 at the age of 92.