When I was growing up in the 1950s (am I really THAT old?) the BBC radio and TV were full of accordion music and non more prevalent was Jimmy Shand and his Band playing "The Bluebell Polka".

Now from my friend Brett Lowe in New Zealand, I have received a banjo arrangement of the accordion music...  What is not to like?  ;-)

Thank you Brett this is a really good arrangement of a great tune, and so nicely produced too!

I have added Brett's arrangement to the MUSIC LIBRARY.

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Very cool little tune...and indeed, a great arrangement.

Of course, I had to go looking for the 1880s version...it was printed/collected in "Kerr's Merry Melodies" in 1875 (and is evidently still in print somewhere) but is surrounded in controversy due to various people recording it over time and accidently or intentionally mis-naming it, etc. A version was recorded in 1911 but they titled it "The Little Pet Polka" on the record..."Little Pet" is an altogether different tune...but now some people call "Bluebell" "Little Pet". It has yet another name "The Curlew Hills" which is considered a precursor to "Flop Eared Mule" as played here in the states by the Old Time crowd.

And then, nobody really knows if it was actually written by Frank C. Stanley or another Frank Stanley. The banjoist and singer Frank C. Stanley would have been only 7 yrs old when "Kerr's Merry Melodies" was published...

I do enjoy looking this stuff up...;-)

Thanks for the tune Brett!

I listened to the Jimmy Shand recording.  How can anyone dance the polka to music played at this speed? This tune sounds to me like a schottische, not a polka. 

Try dancing to "Cupid's Arrow" played by Ossman or FVE...  Concert polkas can be showoff pieces.

Jody Stecher said:

I listened to the Jimmy Shand recording.  How can anyone dance the polka to music played at this speed? This tune sounds to me like a schottische, not a polka. 

This is great fun Ian!

I grew up in the 1980s and by that time Laurence Welk had turned the piano accordion into a joke.  Clearly that was not his goal but that was the outcome. It is hard to get past the Welk damage.

I read a great book on the accordion titled "Squeeze This" which did a good job putting it into perspective.  Accordionists can't shake that silly bubble machine stereotype much in the same way we can't shake the uneducated toothless hillbilly who somehow flawlessly plays "Dueling Banjos."

It is sad really. 

Those recordings are at perfect polka tempo. All those twiddly bits are filling the spaces but not increasing the speed.

Joel Hooks said:

Try dancing to "Cupid's Arrow" played by Ossman or FVE...  Concert polkas can be showoff pieces.

Jody Stecher said:

I listened to the Jimmy Shand recording.  How can anyone dance the polka to music played at this speed? This tune sounds to me like a schottische, not a polka. 

But Jimmy Shand was a button box player. 3 rows of buttons, no keyboard.

Joel Hooks said:

This is great fun Ian!

I grew up in the 1980s and by that time Laurence Welk had turned the piano accordion into a joke. 

Okay-- raise that to any accordion.

You are saying that this is played at a slower tempo than the above?

https://archive.org/details/CupidsArrow



Jody Stecher said:

Those recordings are at perfect polka tempo. All those twiddly bits are filling the spaces but not increasing the speed.

Joel Hooks said:

Try dancing to "Cupid's Arrow" played by Ossman or FVE...  Concert polkas can be showoff pieces.

Jody Stecher said:

I listened to the Jimmy Shand recording.  How can anyone dance the polka to music played at this speed? This tune sounds to me like a schottische, not a polka. 

I am saying that the Shand recording is too slow to be a polka.

OK, got it.  It reminds me of this old joke : Each year an organization or club or a family or something had an annual party always on a particular holiday and always hired the same musicians. One year it happened that that band wasn't available and the only thing the musicians union could offer was an accordion and banjo duo. They decided to take a chance. They were fabulous. They played every kind of music gladly took requests. They could play for listening, or dancing or sing-along. And they played for hours. The hosts were delighted and offered them the same gig the next year. They accepted but did ask one small favor: would it be ok if we leave our instruments here until next year?

Joel Hooks said:

Okay-- raise that to any accordion.

I also initially thought that the Shand recording was "too slow". However, I think that the speed at which he recorded it is part of its popularity. Not a showpiece, a "gateway" piece to the world of polkas. I would hazard to guess that record sales was very strong to elementary schools.

When I was a kid (early 60s), we were taught to dance to recordings just like this. I had to dance with a girl who was missing a front tooth...and was teased unmercifully about her (I teased my cohorts in return). I should have made friends with her rather than dancing with her like she had the plague. She turned into a Swan about 6 yrs later.

In my research yesterday, I saw several mentions that this is technically a schottische. I can see that but...meh.

I transmogrified Brett's arrangement into Tab and was playing it on the front porch yesterday. Neat tune, quite easy to play, lays well on the banjo. I need an accompanist! 

In my rather unscientific survey of music dictionaries on the Internet Archive supported by random polka enthusiast websites it seem that the polka has steadily increased in speed over the decades. Mid to late 19th century would have you playing at a little over 100 BMP on the metronome. It has gone up from there and now the "official" speed is about 120 BPM.

Cupid's Arrow was played too fast on the FVE and Ossman recordings (even by modern standards)  The way Eno composed it, first strain triplets were to describe the fluttering of Cupid's wings.  This is achieved by playing with snaps and slurs in p. FVE sprints through it playing the triplets in position rapid fire and they lose something. 

Yes, the posted video recording is a bit slow-- but it goes both ways.

Of course this is up for debate as I know nothing about polka despite being exposed to Mexican (and some German) Polka growing up in Texas.  It was hard to get clear answers online about speed. So I am "all ears."  I am more interested in "historically informed" information and not modern acts like Brave Combo.

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