Sept 20, 2023–My recent column about my One-Hit-Wonder song Rocky Mountain Oysters caused an unexpected and un-merited surge in interest about my songwriting career. While attending a recent dance hall night, several fans requested that I sing The Fredericksburg Phone Book Polka. Okay… one person did.
This was my other big hit, although I made a rookie marketing mistake by limiting my audience to German-surnamed residents of one small Texas town.
In the tradition of every amateur singer-songwriter, I can’t share the actual song until I spend 400 words telling a long and pointless story of how it came about.
You see, I was at the time playing keyboards for a group called The Country Dutchmen, despite having a non-male drummer. We toured the hot spots from the DAV to the KOA to the Big Lake Community Center, playing country standards and traditional polkas. Some nights we actually got paid enough to cover gas.
It was during that time that the Texas legislature designated Fredericksburg the Polka Capital of Texas. Why, thought I, did the town not have a polka song of its own? Having not yet become a weekly columnist and having no outlet for my writing talents, I decided to compose that song.
I made two decisions: 1) It had to have a simple chord structure so any band could learn it in one practice, and 2) it had to sound like I was speaking German even though I wasn’t.
The first one was easy. I chose two chords, G and D.
(Sidebar for a songwriter anecdote: One night a fan requested I sit in and sing it with the great Floyd Domino, Cindy Cashdollar, and Bart Trotter. I was mortified, but Domino was a good sport. I was explaining the chords to him when Trotter leaned over and whispered, “Take Me Back To Tulsa.” Don’t sue me, Bob Wills’ heirs.)
For the German part, I was afraid my one semester of college German would not sound wunderbar. Then I had a brainstorm. Just read the names in the Fredericksburg Phone Book. They were mostly German. And in alphabetical order. That also gave me the name of the song.
And with that long and pointless explanation, I give you
The Fredericksburg Phone Book Polka
Words & Music 1987 by Phil Houseal
I stopped at a town in Texas
To have a look around
Opened up that phone book
Surprised at what I found
I thought I was back in Munich
As I read through those names
They sounded like a polka
I could hear those trumpets play
Bierschwale, Crenwelge, Dietz, Duecker, Deike
Ellebracht, Feuge, and Fritz
Gueistweidt, Gellerman, Hartmann, Hohmann,
Hoffman, Immel, and Itz
Keller, Klaerner, Kleinseik, Krauskopf, Kneese
Neffendorf, Klein, and Knopp
Langerhans, Langehennig, Leifeste, Lochte,
Luckenbach, Luedke, and Lott!
Soon it was time to leave,
and as I drove away
I knew that town of Fredericksburg
Would call me back someday
Ottmers, Petermann, Fenner and Beans, man
Frantzen, Kaderli, and Klier
Sagabiel, Sultemeier, Schneider, Schroeder,
Schuch and Schmidt and Schweer
Weinheimer, Wehmeier, Wunderlich, Weidenfeller,
Welgehausen, Woerner, and Wallace
Wahl, Walker, Wallendorf
Zimmerman, Zenner, und Das Ist Alles!
Now go back and try yelling it out loud really fast. Which is pretty much how I sing it.
The radio people wanted to know if I had other original polkas. Sadly, I do.
It’s called Depression Polka, because I thought it would be funny to set depressing lyrics to an uplifting melody. Here’s just the chorus:
Depression Polka Depression Polka
It’s making me so sad, I want to choke you
This incessant oompah is driving me insane
Why does every polka sound the same?
You don’t even want to know about Groundhog Stomping.