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Origin Of The Chappell Hill Special

Chappell Hill SpecialNa pił się Jasiu ciepłego wina
pojachu do domu ukoło swoję żona
ukoło swoję żona okolej komina
pojachu do domu kolej ko wina

Na pił się Dziadek ciepłego winka
zgonju Babusia koło kominka
a Babulinka rączkami pleszci
O moj dziadulko zgonz się mnie jeszcze

I have been asked many times over the years about the origin of the song commonly known as “The Chappell Hill Special”. I have avoided the subject because research, just like family genealogy, sometimes paints a picture that some people don’t like….but this past weekend it was brought up again so here is what I know……First one must realize that Polish music was and is an oral tradition. This facilitates a breeding ground for individuals to make the song their own, by creating variations on melody lines, words, and tempos while still maintaining a semblance to the soul of the tune. I believe the tune and words of the “Chappell Hill Special” has its roots in southern Poland. The tune has been known in Bremond since their arrival from Poland and has always been known there as “Na pił się Jasiu ciepłego wina” or “Na pił się Dziadek ciepłego wina”. “Jasiu” meaning “John” and “Dziadek” meaning “Grandfather”. It was so popular there that it was even sung in Ukrainian by the Ukrainian settlers in Bremond, of which there were many. This tune was also well known in Chicago which consists of mostly Polish Americans from the southern Galicia area of Poland. Many recordings exist by northern bands of the melody with new words written by the artist to make it their own. Further, one can find this tune sung in modern day Poland by folk groups in the south. Don’t be fooled, regional folk music styles in Poland are very different from each other prior to modern technology and communication. Now one may ask how it became known as the Chappell Hill Special when those Polish settlers in Washington County were from the Western central part of Poland, around Poznan.

Simple. In the late 40’s, many Polish Texans left the rural farms and moved to Houston looking for work. They came together at places like the “Polish Home” for social functions. In the late 40’s, Johnny Meleski had a band playing in Houston as well as in his hometown of “Choppa Hill” and he hired two Bremond boys to play with him. Joe Bartula and Freddie Kempinski were both from Bremond but had moved to Houston for work. Johnny learned many Bremond tunes from these new hires and even recorded some which are featured on a “Polish Eagles” recording from the early 90’s. The tune became so popular amongst the “Chappell Hill” crowd it became known as the Chappell Hill Special. The tune was later recorded by Randy and Serenaders in the early 60’s which even further popularized the tune and many Polish Texan homes still have the 45 RPM record in their music collection.

It is the most requested tune wherever Polish Texans gather. It is to us, what “Jolie Blon” is to the French music players of Louisiana. It is our rally song….the song that brings everyone to the dance floor and inspires “whoops” and “hollers” while they try to bust the floor boards and make rhythm with their dance moves……”Let’s all stand up for the Texas Polish National Anthem!!!!!!!”

Note1: This information was gathered from personal interviews I had with Joe Bartula, Freddie Kempinski, and Florian Meleski.

Note 2: I have also heard recordings of New Waverly Poles playing the “Chappell Hill Special” melody and singing the “Moj Ojciec Wielki” lyrics as well as Southern Polish Folk Bands singing “Na pil sie Jasiu” lyrics to local folk melodies not known here.