“Calcutta” is a German pop song. An instrumental version by American bandleader and TV host Lawrence Welk on the 1961 Dot Records album Calcutta! was a chart hit, the most successful of Welk’s career, and the only tango-based recording to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
The tune was written in 1958 by the composer Heino Gaze. The original title was “Tivoli Melody”, but it was re-titled several times, until it became known as “Calcutta”. Hans Bradtke wrote the German lyrics, which made reference to the Indian city of Calcutta (Kolkata). The American songwriting team of Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss later wrote English lyrics, celebrating the charms of the “ladies of Calcutta.”
Welk’s recording of the tune was something of a departure for him. It incorporated his recognizable “trademarks,” i.e., the harpsichord lead and an accordion but combined them with handclaps and a brisk rock rhythm.
“Calcutta” stayed atop the US pop chart for two weeks while the album, with its combination of easy listening tunes and covers of then-popular rock singles, charted at #1 for two weeks, spending three months on the chart. At the time “Calcutta” reached #1, Welk, who was 57, became the oldest artist to have a number one pop single in the U.S. (His record would be broken three years later by Louis Armstrong who at age 63 topped the singles charts with “Hello, Dolly!” in early 1964.)
Dancers Bobby Burgess and Barbara Boylan, cast members on Welk’s weekly TV show, worked up a dance routine to go along with “Calcutta”, which they performed numerous times on the Welk show over the years.