Pee Wee King

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Pee Wee King
Pee Wee King c. 1944
Pee Wee King c. 1944
Background information
Birth nameJulius Frank Anthony Kuczynski
Born(1914-02-18)February 18, 1914
Abrams, Wisconsin, United States
DiedMarch 7, 2000(2000-03-07) (aged 86)
Louisville, Kentucky, United States
GenresCountry
Occupation(s)Singer-songwriter
InstrumentsAccordion, fiddle
Years active1930s–1969
Associated actsRedd Stewart

Julius Frank Anthony Kuczynski[1] (February 18, 1914 – March 7, 2000),[2] known professionally as Pee Wee King, was an American country music songwriter and recording artist best known for co-writing "Tennessee Waltz".

Pee Wee King is credited with bringing the musicians union to the Grand Ole Opry — he was one of the first musicians in Nashville to carry a union card, and to have the members of his band work union. He also served on the board of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Life and career[edit]

King was born in Abrams, Wisconsin to a Polish American family, and lived in Abrams during his youth. He learned to play the accordion from his father, who was a professional polka musician. In the 1930s, he toured and made cowboy movies with Gene Autry.[3] King joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1937, with the help of his father-in-law J.L. Frank.[1]

In 1946, while he was the bandleader of the Golden West Cowboys,[1] King, together with the band's vocalist, Redd Stewart, composed "The Tennessee Waltz", inspired by "The Kentucky Waltz" by bluegrass musician Bill Monroe.[1] King and Stewart first recorded "The Tennessee Waltz" in 1948.[1] It it went on to become a country music standard, due, mainly, to the immense success of Patti Page's version of the song.

King wrote or co-wrote more than four hundred songs and recorded more than twenty albums and 157 singles. His other songs included "Slow Poke" and "You Belong to Me", both co-authored with Chilton Price and Redd Stewart.[1] His songs introduced waltzes, polkas, and cowboy songs to country music.[1] King became one of the charter members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.[1]

King was not permitted to use the drummer and trumpeter he featured in his stage shows when the band played at the Grand Ole Opry, where both instruments were banned. He ignored that ban only once, appearing at the Ryman in April 1945 following the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Opry had been canceled, but since a number of fans showed up, management decided to have King perform his stage show for them, performing as he did outside the Opry. He used his full band, with drums and trumpet. When confronted about it afterward, King told Opry emcee George D. Hay that he had done his stage show, as asked. Bob Wills had defied the Opry ban on drums a year earlier during a 1944 guest appearance.[4][5]

His band also introduced on-stage dancing and Nudie Cohn's customized 'rhinestone cowboy' outfits,[6] which later became popular with Nashville and country musicians, including Elvis Presley, to the Opry.[7] He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1974.

Pee Wee King's Country Music Hall of Fame Plaque located in the Hall of Fame Rotunda in Nashville, TN.
Pee Wee King's Country Music Hall of Fame Plaque located in the Hall of Fame Rotunda in Nashville, TN.

He joined producers Randall Franks and Alan Autry for the In the Heat of the Night cast CD Christmas Time's A Comin’ performing "Jingle Bells" with the cast released on Sonlite and MGM/UA for one of the most popular Christmas releases of 1991 and 1992 with Southern retailers.

He died of a heart attack in Louisville, Kentucky, at age 86.[2]

Discography[edit]

Pee Wee King in 1970

Albums[edit]

  • Pee Wee King, RCA Victor, 1954
  • Waltzes, RCA Victor, 1955
  • Swing West, RCA Victor, 1956
  • Country Barn Dance, RCA Camden, 1965
  • Ballroom King, Detour, 1982
  • Hog Wild Too!, Zu Zazz, 1990
  • Pee Wee King and His Golden West Cowboys (6-CD box set), Bear Family, 1995
  • Pee Wee King's Country Hoedown (live radio performances), Bloodshot, 1999

Singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Country US
1948 "Tennessee Waltz" 3
1949 "Tennessee Tears" 12
"Tennessee Polka" 3
1950 "Bonaparte's Retreat" 10
1951 "Tennessee Waltz" (re-release) 6
"Slow Poke" 1 1
1952 "Silver and Gold" 5 18
"Busybody" 8 27
1954 "Changing Partners" 4
"Bimbo" 9
"Backward, Turn Backward" 15

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Country Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 220. ISBN 0-85112-726-6.
  2. ^ a b "Pee Wee King". The Guardian. March 15, 2000. Retrieved August 7, 2021.
  3. ^ Miller, James. Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947–1977. Simon & Schuster (1999), pp. 44–45. ISBN 0-684-80873-0.
  4. ^ Kienzle, Richard. (2003). Southwest shuffle: pioneers of honky-tonk, Western swing, and country jazz. New York: Routledge. pp. 254–257.
  5. ^ In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 80–81.
  6. ^ "Nudies Rodeo Tailors official website of Nudies suits". Nudiesrodeotailor.com. Archived from the original on March 29, 2012. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  7. ^ "Countrymusichalloffame.com". Archived from the original on August 13, 2007. Retrieved August 7, 2021.

References[edit]

  • Hall, Wade. (1998). "Pee Wee King". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 283–4.

External links[edit]