Discover the origin of a classic waltz...

Filmed, Directed, and Produced by Joe Weed

The documentary DVD tells the fascinating story of a Polish folk song’s metamorphosis into an American country fiddle classic. The film captures a wide array of people, places and artifacts significant in the regional and national development of the "Westphalia Waltz." Since the evolution of the tune took place in the twentieth century, some of the primary sources are still living, and shared their stories with Joe Weed. Beginning in 2006, he traveled around the United States to speak with them, their children, or their grandchildren.

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.

A cross-continental odyssey

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.

The Texas soup pot: waltzes, sausage, noodles and music

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.

"The Westphalia Waltz Story" is produced by Joe Weed
Highland Publishing
PO Box 554
Los Gatos, CA 95031-0554

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The Waltz To Westphalia
Purchase DVD

Journey with Joe as he unearths the origins of a classic waltz.

The Walter Fronc Orchestra recorded "Pytala Sie Pani" for Victor in 1930

Ignacy Podgorski recorded "Pytala Sie Pani" for Columbia in 1937, and published the sheet music.

“Westphalia Waltz” was the "B" side of "Jole Blon," sung by Cotton Collins.

Cotton Collins, fiddler for the Lone Star Playboys

Hank Thompson