1 April 2017, No. 247, Lawrence Welk, ‘Pennsylvania Polka’

Coming in at No. 247 we have a cover of the Frankie Yankovic tune “Pennsylvania Polka” from the eminently funky Lawrence Welk. You may already know it was Philadelphia where I discovered the joy of being a disco DJ, and I’m always on the lookout for tunes that bring that origin story to mind. Plus the horn riffs here are huge and provide a lovely contrast to the chorale sections, which are as good as or better than any Ray Conniff or Esquivel record by virtue of being steeped in Welk’s Bohemian oompah groove. The bassline is bouncy too, the bells of the tubas surely bobbing in the studio when this was recorded.

Welk’s accent (and penchant for polka) always made think he was European (Swedish, specifically, for whatever reason), but I guess the maestro of champagne music is U.S. American through and through, as Welk is from a German-speaking community in North Dakota. I don’t think he ever lived in Pennsylvania, but the term champagne music is derived from something someone said to him at a concert he gave once in Pittsburgh. Stick with the tune until Welk starts soloing, and you’ll see he rocks that squeezebox as hard as any West Philly block party, and then there are those tubas again with that bump-bump-bumping bassline. It started in Scranton; it’s now No. 1. Go and get you some.