Natalie Nevins, 85, a Welk singer

Natalie Nevins sang on "The Lawrence Welk Show."
Natalie Nevins sang on "The Lawrence Welk Show."
Posted: August 26, 2010

Natalie Nevins, 85, of Yardley, a former singer on The Lawrence Welk Show, died of complications of hip surgery Monday, Aug. 23, at St. Mary's Medical Center in Langhorne.

In the early 1960s, Miss Nevins left Philadelphia for Hollywood to pursue a singing career. She was hired in 1965 by bandleader Welk for his weekly television variety show.

For the next four years, she displayed her talents as a soloist or in duets with Jimmy Roberts and Joe Feeney. She also played the flute.

After leaving the show, she returned home to Frankford in 1970 to care for her widowed mother.

She occasionally sang at fund-raising events at local Catholic churches, where her brother, the Rev. John J. Nevins, was assigned, but she did not perform professionally, he said.

Though she was no longer in show business, he said, she kept up a correspondence with fans who discovered her when the Welk show was in syndication and more recently on repeat episodes on PBS stations.

Miss Nevins graduated from Little Flower High School in Hunting Park, earned a bachelor's degree in music from Chestnut Hill College in 1947, and took graduate courses in music and drama at the University of Pennsylvania.

She studied opera in New York and later in Hollywood.

As a child, she learned to play the flute and the piano. She sang for customers at a Frankford candy store when she was 5, and in her teens was singing on local radio stations.

In 1950, she was the star of a weekly program on WCAU-TV, Notes From Natalie, singing popular tunes to opera arias.

In 1952, she met Ed Sullivan at a benefit in Philadelphia, and he asked her to appear on his show.

That year, she and Sullivan watched the St. Patrick's Day Parade from the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral with Cardinal Francis Spellman.

A marcher handed the men a shillelagh, and they gave it to her. It became a beloved keepsake, her brother said.

After moving to the West Coast, Miss Nevins appeared on The Joey Bishop Show and other variety shows, and sang in nightclubs in Reno, Nev., and Las Vegas.

In 1968 she recorded an album, Natalie Nevins Sings 'I Believe' and Other Great Inspirational Songs.

She told an Inquirer reporter that Welk hired her after she sang to him over the phone at the suggestion of her doctor, whom she saw for a cold. Welk was also a patient of the doctor's.

Miss Nevins, who never married, told another reporter that "romance and a career cannot mix. It only leads to confusion. Everybody has a certain amount of energy and drive, and where it is directed will determine his or her success."

Though her brother said she was very healthy and diet-conscious, Miss Nevins told the Evening Bulletin in 1950 that she had a sweet tooth, and shared a recipe for lime chiffon pie that she planned to bake for her brother over the Christmas holidays.

In addition to her brother, Miss Nevins is survived by a niece and two nephews. She was predeceased by a sister, Joan Rhinehart.

A Funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 27, at the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart Chapel, 1750 Quarry Rd., Yardley. Friends may call from 9:30.


Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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