Westphalia Waltz

by

Cotton Collins

Pete Sutherland, of Monkton, VT,  fiddles “Westphalia Waltz” in 1978 with The Arm and Hammer String Band:

 

for B.B.

from www.joeweed.com:

[see the website above for info on a documentary about “Westphalia Waltz”]

The melody of the Westphalia Waltz derives from a Polish song known by several titles — “Pytala Sie Pani,” “Wszystkie Rybki,” and others.  Citing references from Poland’s National Library in Warsaw and the Polish Museum of America in Chicago, the film shows the presence of the song in Poland and the United States in the early twentieth century. It includes interviews with descendents of the Polish immigrants who worked the mills in Massachusetts and the coal mines in the Alleghenies.  The grandson of the lead trumpet player from Victor’s 1930 recording recalls his grandfather’s musical and professional life.  The son of a Pennsylvania coal miner relates his father’s insistence that he learn music as a way out of their coal town.

From the mills of New England and the coal mines of Pennsylvania, to the farms of Wisconsin and the boisterous taverns of Chicago, “Pytala Sie Pani” was a unifying and bawdy favorite that the overworked, underpaid, ostracized and homesick Polish-Americans sang to forget the Great Depression. Victor (1930) and Columbia (1937) both recorded it.  Publishers in Chicago (Sajewski) and Philadelphia (Podgorski) sold the sheet music.  Steve Okonski, a fiddler from Bremond, Texas’s largest Polish settlement, brought the tune from Chicago to Bremond in the late 1930’s. But in Westphalia, just 35 miles west of Bremond, the locals gave it a different name.

Cotton Collins, a gifted Texas fiddler, recorded the piece in 1946 with the Waco-area band the Lone Star Playboys. Collins had re-interpreted the piece as a Texas fiddle waltz and named it after the small Texas village of Westphalia, just 34 miles south of Waco. After Collins registered the copyright in 1947, the tune gained great popularity in the country music arena. The Lone Star Playboys performed it frequently at gigs and on their daily radio show, broadcast at lunchtime on WACO in Waco. “Westphalia Waltz” was recorded by a long string of artists, notably Floyd Tillman (in 1947, on Columbia) and then Hank Thompson in 1955, on Capitol Records.  Thompson’s well-produced recording, with Capitol’s national promotion and distribution, elevated the “Westphalia Waltz” to national exposure, where it enchanted fiddlers and listeners alike.

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