Duncan- (b. September 25, 1933 in Pasadena,
Arthur Duncan is an
American tap dancer who gained fame as the first African-American
performer on the popular Lawrence Welk Show. Duncan danced
and sang on the show from 1964 to the show's finale in
Born in Pasadena,
California, Duncan entered Pasadena City College to study
pharmacy, but left school to pursue a career in show business. He
never returned to school due to his success as a tap dancer and
singer. He toured with the Jimmy Rodgers Show, and had his own
television variety show in Australia. After several years of
appearances in Europe, Duncan was "discovered" by Lawrence Welk's
personal manager, Sam Lutz. After appearing as a guest on the
show, Lawrence Welk offered Duncan a permanent spot as a member of
his "musical family."
On the weekly Welk show,
Arthur Duncan usually had one solo tap dancing performance,
accompanied by the Lawrence Welk Orchestra. On most episodes,
Duncan also teamed up with fellow dancers Bobby Burgess and Jack
Imel to perform popular dance numbers.
Duncan's unique position
as the only African-American performer on the show created (to the
modern 21st Century eye), somewhat awkward moments. In an era when
blacks and whites did not hold hands or even kiss each other on
television shows (the first interracial kiss took place in Star
Trek in the late 1960s, creating a firestorm of controversy),
the large, all cast production numbers which often showed various
white male and female performers holding hands and dancing, Arthur
Duncan is often seen standing in the background, trying very hard
to not look like he is "with" any of the women. In the later 1970s
and early 1980s, when racial taboos had eased, Duncan did perform
choral dance numbers with Mary Lou Metzger and Anacani.
Arthur Duncan Dancing to
"I'm Walking," with the pretty Welk girls.
and Life Highlights of Arthur Duncan
-- Toured with the
Jimmy Rodgers show
--starred in his own variety
television show in Australia.
--Five years of appearances in
clubs in London, Paris, Cairo, Beirut
--three years in the winter and
summer resorts of Switzerland.
--appeared at the Basin Street West
in Los Angeles with Lionel Hampton
--appeared as a guest on the
Lawrence Welk show.
--1964, Duncan was hired full-time
by Lawrence Welk to tap dance on his show
City College, studied pharmacy. Left school to
perform, did not graduate.
Award for Lifetime Achievement of Tap Artistry
2005: Living Treasure in American
Dance Award from Oklahoma City University
2005: JUBA! Award
Colleagues, & Connections
leader, director of the Lawrence Welk
dancer, musician on the Lawrence Welk
Show. Often performed with Arthur Duncan and
and dancer on the Lawrence Welk Show.
Often performed with Arthur Duncan and Jack
and Stage Appearances by Arthur Duncan
1951: "The Jerry Colonna
1964-1982: Lawrence Welk
1992: Diagnosis Murder with
Dick Van Dyke
1998: Columbo: Ashes to
2006: Alpha Male
--National Tour of My One
And Only with Tommy Tune.