Arthur Duncan- (b. September 25, 1933 in Pasadena, California)
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 1982.
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.
Since the end of the Lawrence Welk Show in 1982, Duncan has appeared in several television shows, and in the tap dancing movie Tap, with famous tap dancers Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr.