Remembering Rheo Blair Part III: Bob Ralston, Pianist/Organist/Arranger from the Lawrence Welk TV Show

"RHEO BLAIR was truly unforgettable – in every way.  He was a major part of my life from the time I met him, in 1963, until his death 20 years later.

Bob Ralston and family, 1969 Thanksgiving card. Photo by Rheo Blair
Rheo taught me the true meaning of kindness.  He was very concerned about the feelings of others.  On more than one occasion, I would make an insensitive comment to someone and Rheo would caution me, “Bob, it’s important never to hurt someone emotionally.”

A surprisingly good keyboardist and singer, Rheo would perform at many of his health-foods conventions, and I had the honor of accompanying him on the piano.  I told him, “Rheo, you’re my hero; I’d accompany you anywhere!”

Our first meeting was at the Hollywood Palladium, where I was working with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra.  Rheo came to deliver some of his supplements to Lawrence in his dressing room.  We struck up a conversation, and a week later my wife and I invited Rheo to our home in Los Angeles, where he fixed us his tasty Protein Shake and his Instant Protein Ice Cream.

Our friendship grew, and we did a lot of traveling together -- including a business trip to Chicago and a wonderful vacation at Lake Tahoe.

We were entrepreneurial partners, manufacturing Photo Buttons.  It was fun, but the venture was unprofitable and therefore short-lived.

Through Rheo, I met several celebrities, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, who would go on to become the Governor of California.

Another star Rheo took me to meet was the flamboyant pianist Liberace.  I’ll close with this anecdote, but I really must tell it!

One fine day, back in the 1960s, Rheo Blair took me to Liberace’s home in West Hollywood.  We drove up the driveway and parked next to the big swimming pool in the shape of a grand piano—with large painted black and white piano keys.

Before we got out of the car, Rheo said, “Bob, you might also meet Lee’s mom.  She tends to be a bit snippy, so don’t take it personally.”

We went to the back door, and Lee let us in.  The three of us sat at Lee’s kitchen table and chatted.  After about 10 minutes, Lee’s mom, Frances Liberace, walked down the staircase that led directly into the kitchen.  The following conversation ensued:

 Lee:  Mom, I’d like you to meet B….

Frances (mean-spiritedly):  I don’t care who he is; he’s probably just trying to sell you some vitamins.

Lee:  No, Mom, this is Bob, and he…

Frances:  If he’s a friend of Rheo Blair, that’s all I need to know.

Lee:  Mom, listen to me!  This is Bob Ralston that you watch every week on the Lawrence Welk show.

Frances:  (Pause—and complete change of attitude)  …Oh, Bob!  I’m so very happy to meet you.  You know, next to my own son, you’re my favorite piano player in the whole world."

Thank you Bob Ralston!
More about Mr. Ralston can be found on his website, here, and his Wikipedia page, here

Contact me

Home Page

Copyright © 2008 - 2013 Charles Welling
All rights reserved.

Information found on Rheo H. Blair: The Book is meant for educational and informational purposes only, and to motivate you to make your own health care and dietary decisions based upon your own research and in partnership with your health care provider. It should not be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis or courses of treatment.