Zimmer in 1961.
|Birth name||Norma Larsen|
July 13, 1923|
Shoshone County, Idaho, U.S.
|Died||May 10, 2011
Brea, California, U.S.
|Associated acts||Lawrence Welk
Norman Luboff Choir
Ken Darby Singers
Born as Norma Larsen on a dairy farm in Shoshone County, Idaho and grew up in Seattle, Washington, after her father moved the family west. She was half Norwegian and half Finnish. Zimmer was singing in a church choir when a guest artist suggested she travel to Los Angeles, California and audition for a musical group. When she turned 18, she did just that, singing with a succession of top vocal groups, including the Norman Luboff Choir and the Ken Darby Singers, among others. She appeared on most of the popular television variety shows during the 1950s. She landed a small singing part in the Bing Crosby movie Mr. Music (1950), and provided the singing voice for the White Rose in the Disney film Alice in Wonderland (1951). She worked as a studio singer and performed on Welk's 1956 Thanksgiving album.
Zimmer sang with a quartet called The Girlfriends along with Betty Allan and others. They sang backup for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como, and others. Their group sang backup for the famous Bing Crosby version of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas". In 1959, the previous Champagne Lady Alice Lon left the show due to monetary and scheduling disagreements. Because of protests, Welk tried (and failed) to get Lon back. After a year of the show's trying out several different singers, Zimmer officially joined the Welk show as his Champagne Lady on New Year's Eve, 1960. Zimmer stayed on the show and traveled with Welk and the band on personal appearances for three years.
As her two sons were growing up, she decided to give it up to raise her children. Welk told her it was all right for her to quit the road tours, but he asked her to stay on the television show until he could find another singer. Each week, a new girl came on as a possible replacement, but Welk kept asking Zimmer to come back the following week. That went on for 20 years. As the show's Champagne Lady, Zimmer sang one solo and often a duet (usually with Jimmy Roberts); she frequently danced with Welk at the end of the show.
Zimmer stopped performing publicly since she was suffering from a neurological disorder. She died peacefully on May 10, 2011, at her Brea, California home, aged 87, and was survived by her two sons, Ron and Mark, as well as three grandchildren, from her 1944 marriage to Randy Zimmer.
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