Back to Westphalia Waltz
WESTPHALIA WALTZ. American, Canadian; Waltz. USA; widely known in New England, Southern and Mid-West repertoire. Canada, Prince Edward Island. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Beisswenger & McCann): AA'B (Johnson): AA'BB' (Brody, Matthiesen, Perlman, Phillips). This popular and oft-recorded waltz is widely held to have been composed by one Cotton Collins, a Texas fiddler and member of the Lone Star Playboys, although it was popularized by Hank Thompson in 1955 on a Capitol Records recording. Paul Wells (1978) finds evidence the waltz was composed by Vince Icadona, a member in the 1930’s of the Crystal Springs Rambers, out of Dallas Texas. Johnson and others report, however, that the melody was the vehicle for a ribald drinking song called "Pytala Sie Pani" (What the Woman Said), an old and well-known (and somewhat bawdy) Polish song, sometimes played at weddings by Polish-American bands. Documentary film producer Joe Weed has traced the vicissitudes of “Westphalia” from its Polish folk origins in the 1920’s (where it was known also by the names “Wszystkie Rybki,” and later “Dreamy Fish Waltz”) to its circulation in the 1930’s in the northern United States (see his well-researched DVD “Westphalia Waltz Story” ). “Pytala Sie Pani” was was recorded several times in the 1930's in America for ethnic audiences, and Steve Okonski, a fiddler from Bremond, Texas’s largest Polish settlement, brought the tune from Chicago to Bremond in the late 1930's. However, it was in Westphalia, just 35 miles west of Bremond, that Collins transformed the tune (which Weed says he learned in Germany during World War II) into an American country waltz, naming it after a small village about 35 miles south of Waco, where his group was from. “Westphalia Waltz” is one of the ‘100 essential Missouri fiddle tunes’ according to Missouri fiddler Charlie Walden, and, according to Beisswenger & McCann, “likely gained much of its popularity in the Ozarks through fiddle contests.” Indeed, note the authors, some Ozarks fiddlers believe it to be an indigenous regional tune. Around the Philadelphia, Pa., area it is known as the “West Philly Waltz” perhaps through folk-processing, but more likely from humor. Melodic material from this tune appears in "Shadow of the Mountain."
Source for notated version: Arm and Hammer String Band (Vermont) [Brody]; Forrest Daugherty (Texas) [Phillips]; Attwood O’Connor (b. 1923, Milltown Cross, South Kings County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman]; Cotton Combs (1921-1984, Fayetteveille, Arkansas), who called it “West Sedalia Waltz” after the central Missouri town of Sealia, according to Gordon McCann [Beisswenger & McCann].
Printed sources: Beisswenger & McCann (Ozarks Fiddle Music), 2008; p. 25. Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; p. 289. Johnson (The Kitchen Musician's Occasional: Waltz, Air and Misc., No. 1), 1991; p. 8. Matthiesen (Waltz Book I), 1992; p. 66. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 169. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 2), 1995; p. 324. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 167.
Recorded sources: American Heritage 1, Herman Johnson "Champion Fiddling" (1946). C 102, Cece Webster "Dulcimer Wizardry." Blue Bonnet Records 102-8 (78 RPM), Lone Star Playboys (w. Cotton Collins, fiddle) – “Westphalia Waltz.” County 782, Kenny Baker and Bobby Hicks "Darkness on the Delta." Gillian Recording Studio, Cotton Combs – “Parkin’ Lot Jammin’” (c. 1978). Kicking Mule 216, Arm and Hammer String Band "New England Contra Dance Music" (1977). John Edwards Memorial Foundation JEMF 105, Doug Goodwin "New England Traditional Fiddling" (1978). Philo 2000, "Louis Beaudoin" (1973. Learned in the U.S. from fellow players in the Northeast Fiddler’s Association). Stoneway 143, Ernie Hunter "All About Fiddling.” Lonnie Robertson – “Fiddle Tunes Ozark Style.”