Bonapartes Retreat - Written by Redd Stewart & Pee Wee King (1947)
by Sharon Stewart
(Elizabeth City, NC US)
Just over a month after the second musician's union recording ban ended, the Golden West Cowboys were again in the studio in Chicago to record for the first time in over a year. There was an obvious attempt to capitalize on the success of 'Tennessee Waltz' by recording a couple more waltzes, 'Waltz of the Alamo' and 'Whisper Waltz.'
Redd and Pee Wee were rehearsing some square dance numbers with a boy from Texas, and he showed them a recording of a Texas square dance tune called, 'Bonaparte's Retreat,' which had a sort of Cajun beat. It was a folk tune in the public domain, so Redd and Pee Wee took part of the melody, put a bridge or middle to it, wrote some words, and reshaped the whole song, building on its folk base.
Their recording with the Golden West Cowboys had good sales, but it didn't become a smash hit until Kay Starr did her recording. She heard the song by accident as she and her husband were driving across country and stopped at a restaurant and heard Pee Wee and Redd's version on the jukebox.
She asked the restaurant owner to sell the record to her, but he refused until she told him who she was. Then he gave it to her when she promised to send him an autographed copy of her version. She had already made up her mind to record it.
Through the years it has been covered by many artists. Later in the 1970's, Pee Wee got a phone call from Glen Campbell, who told him of the tremendous response he was getting with his version, on which he played bagpipes, and said he was thinking of releasing it as a single. He did, and the pride of Delight, Arkansas took the song to #3 in 1974.
Co-writers: Pee Wee King, Redd Stewart
Met the girl I love
In a town 'way down in Dixie
'Neath the stars above
She was the sweetest girl that I ever did see
So I took her in my arms, and
told her of her many charms, I
kissed her while the fiddles played, the
All the world was bright As I held her on that night
And I heard her say
"Please don't go away"
So I held her in my arms, and
Told her of her many charms, I
Kissed her while the fiddles played, the
(Repeat both verses)