'Bonaparte's Retreat'

'Bonaparte's Retreat'  - Written By Redd Stewart & Pee Wee King (1949)

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 & 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 public domain, so Redd & 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 their 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 o 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 1970s, 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 a single. He did, and the pride of Delight, Arkansas took the song to #3 in 1974.

Various Renditions of 'Bonaparte's Retreat' (Videos)