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Bob Lind, Published December 09 2013

Neighbors: ‘Linda Lu’ looks back on her singing days

Her name actually is Dorothy (Venard) Fandrich, but folks in these parts know her as Linda Lu, a singer for radio station WDAY some years ago. And, glad to report, she’s doing well.

Neighbors has carried inquiries about her. Seeing them, Dorothy sent some information about her career, which began in 1940 when, while a high school senior, she won a WDAY talent contest at Browns Valley, Minn., by singing, yodeling and guitar playing, all of which were self-taught.

“WDAY program director Ken Kennedy asked me to join his Hayloft Jamboree variety show, which used nearly all of the WDAY staff talent,” she says. “Ken gave me the name ‘Linda Lu’ because he said my given name, Dorothy, was ‘too sophisticated.’ ”

Her home was in Graceville, Minn., at the time. So every Thursday afternoon, she’d travel by bus 100 miles to Fargo to sing for the Jamboree evening show, and then return home for her Friday classes.

“My commute was made easier when I moved to Moorhead in 1942 to attend Moorhead State Teachers College (now Minnesota State University Moorhead),” she says.

Hayloft Jamboree put on shows throughout the region in the 1940s and early 1950s. Then WDAY formed a new group, the Co-op Shoppers, and Dorothy was asked to join as a vocalist.

“The Shoppers were a six-piece ensemble under the direction of accordionist Don ‘Ax’ Wardwell,” Dorothy says. “We made our first radio broadcast in April 1944.

“We typically broadcast live during the lunch hour six days a week from WDAY studio ‘A’ in the Black Building. The studio seated about 50 and was usually filled to overflowing.

“The Shoppers performed at fairs, Farmers Union Co-op station openings and other regional events. We also performed at dances and weddings as the Ax Wardwell band.

“The last Co-op Shoppers broadcast was in June 1966. We were on the air for more than 22 years, and never missed a broadcast. The band dissolved in 1968 when Ax retired.

“I then put my college degree to use,” Dorothy says, “starting my second career as a physical education teacher at North Junior High School in Moorhead in 1969. I also occasionally performed solo as Linda Lu in the 1970s. I retired from teaching in 1989.”

Dorothy, now 89, still lives in Moorhead, in the house she and her husband, Dan, built in 1952.

Dan also worked at WDAY. That’s where Dorothy met him in the late 1940s.

They had four children: Willa-Jean, now of Ogema, Minn.; Craig, deceased; Andrea, Moorhead; and Blain, Billings, Mont.; four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Dan died in 2009.

Now, Dorothy writes, “It is nice to know my radio and singing days are still remembered.”

They sure are, by many folks, Dorothy – that is, Linda Lu.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com