76 years ago today one of the most well-known polkas, and songs about beer, The Beer Barrel Polka, reached #1 on the Billboard Pop Music Chart in 1939. It was actually written in 1927, by Czech composer Jaromír Vejvoda. It was originally an instrumental known as the Modřanská polka (“Polka of Modřany”), but in 1939, German accordionist Will Glahé renamed it “The Beer Barrel Polka” and it was his 1939 version that made it the memorable song that is still played today. After World War II, Glahé was known in America as the “Polka King.” The English lyrics were later written by Lew Brown and Wladimir Timm, both Tin Pan Alley lyricists. The song was subsequently recorded by many other bands and singers. Musicians such as the Andrews Sisters, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Liberace, the Marx Brothers, Bobby Vinton and Frankie Yankovic did their own versions, too, making it a mainstay at dances and weddings to this day.
I was unaware of this local connection, but according to Wikipedia:
At San Jose Giants home games, a batter from the opposing team is designated the “beer batter.” If the San Jose pitcher strikes out that batter, beer is half price in the beer only lines for the 15 minutes immediately following the strike out. The beer batter promotion is in effect only for the first six innings of the game. The PA system plays Beer Barrel Polka whenever the beer batter comes to the plate and after every strike during the beer batter’s at-bat (through the first six innings). After the sixth inning, the beer batter becomes the apple juice batter and if he strikes out, fans get half-priced Martinelli’s apple juice.
So here is the original version that made it a hit, as performed by Will Glahé:
Will Glahe and his orchestra in 1935, before the Beer Barrel Polka made him famous.