"Tennessee Waltz" is a popular/country music song with lyrics by Redd Stewart and music by Pee Wee King written in 1946 and first released in January 1948. The song became a multimillion seller via a 1950 recording – as "The Tennessee Waltz" – by Patti Page. As of 1974, it was the biggest selling song ever in Japan.
All versions of the lyrics narrate a situation in which the persona has introduced his or her sweetheart to a friend who then waltzes away with her or him. The lyrics are altered for pronoun gender on the basis of the sex of the singer.
Pee Wee King, Redd Stewart, and the rest of the Golden West Cowboys were on their way to Nashville "close to Christmas in 1946" when King and Stewart, who were riding in a truck carrying the group's equipment, heard Bill Monroe's new "Kentucky Waltz" on the radio. Stewart had an idea to write a song a Tennessee waltz using the melody of King's theme song, "No Name Waltz," and wrote the lyrics on a matchbox as he and King thought up the words. King and Stewart presented "Tennessee Waltz" to music publisher Fred Rose the next day, and Rose adjusted one line of Stewart's lyric: "O the Tennessee waltz, O the Tennessee Waltz," to "I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz."
A considerable amount of time passed before Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys were able to record "Tennessee Waltz." Their recording was made in a December 2, 1947 during a session at the RCA Victor Studio in Chicago. Its release as Victor (20-2680) was noted the following month.
Acuff_Rose publishing company had not immediately filed for a copyright of the song when it was presented to them by King and Stewart, and did not obtain the "consummate proof of ownership, and the key to protecting a songwriter's property" until February of 1948.
Both singles became Top Ten C&W hits – the chart was then known as "Best Selling Folk Retail Records" – in the spring and summer of 1948 with respective peaks of #3 (Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys) and #6 (Cowboy Copas).
Patti Page recorded the song – as "The Tennessee Waltz" – to serve as B-side to the seasonal single "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus", issued by Mercury Records as Catalog# 5534 at the end of 1950. It's been asserted that Page herself chose to record "Tennessee Waltz", the C&W version being a favorite song of her father's, and also that Jerry Wexler, then a record reviewer for Billboard brought "Tennessee Waltz" to the attention of Page's manager, Jack Rael, by playing him a new R&B rendition by Erskine Hawkins. Page cut "The Tennessee Waltz" in a November 1950 session in New York City with Rael conducting his orchestra: her vocal was cut multitracked with three voices, with two, and as a single voice with Page herself selecting the two-voice multitracked vocal featured on the single as released. "The Tennessee Waltz" entered the Pop Music chart of Billboard dated 10 November 1950 for a 30 week chart run with a #1 peak on the 30 December 1950 chart; the track would remain at #1 for a total of nine weeks. (After the initial pressings "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus" was replaced as the B-side by "Long Long Ago".) A #2 C&W hit, "The Tennessee Waltz" became Page's career record.  
The success of the Patti Page version led to covers by Les Paul with Mary Ford (Capitol 1316) and Jo Stafford (Columbia 39065) both of which reached the Top Ten – Stafford's at #7 and Paul/Ford at #6 (the latter was a double sided hit with "Little Rock Getaway" reaching #18). The Fontane Sisters made their first solo recording cutting "Tennessee Waltz" in a November 1950 session at RCA Victor Studios in New York City; the track would reach the Top 20. In addition, the original version – credited to Pee Wee King – was re-released to reach #6 C&W.
On the Cash Box charts, "Tennessee Waltz" reached #1 on December 30, 1950 with the Patti Page, Jo Stafford, Guy Lombardo and LesPaul/Mary Ford versions being given a tandem ranking; as such "Tennessee Waltz" remained #1 in Cash Box through the February 3, 1951 chart.
|US Billboard Best Sellers in Stores
(Patti Page version)
30 December 1950 – 24 February 1951
|US Cash Box Best Selling Singles
(Patti Page version)
30 December 1950 – 3 February 1951
"My Heart Cries for You"
"Tennessee Waltz" returned to the charts in the fall of 1959 with a rockabilly version recorded by both Bobby Comstock & the Counts and Jerry Fuller: on the Billboard Hot 100 the versions respectively reached #52 and #63 while Cash Box assigned both versions a joint ranking on its Top 100 Singles chart with a peak position of #42.
In 1962 Damita Jo had a non-charting single release of "Tennessee Waltz".
In 1964 "Tennessee Waltz" was recorded in a rock and roll ballad style by Alma Cogan; this version was #1 in Sweden for five weeks and also reached the Top 20 in Denmark while a German language rendering (with lyrics by Theo Hansen) reached #10 in Germany. The success of Cogan's version has inspired remakes by Swedish singers Kikki Danielsson (Wizex (on the 1978 album Miss Decibel)) and Lotta Engberg (on the 2000 album Vilken härlig dag) and – with the German lyrics – by Heidi Brühl, Gitte, Renate Kern and Ireen Sheer.
Sam Cooke recorded a double-time version of "Tennessee Waltz" for his Ain't That Good News album recorded 28 January 1964 at the RCA Studio in Hollywood. Released March 1, 1964, Ain't That Good News would be the final album release of new material by Cooke, and "Tennessee Waltz," coupled with another album track: "Good Times," would be the final Sam Cooke single released during the singer's lifetime, with "Tennessee Waltz," the original B-side, becoming sufficiently popular to chart at #35. Cooke performed "Tennessee Waltz" – and also "Blowin' in the Wind" – as a guest on the premiere of Shindig! broadcast 16 September 1964.
In 1966, Otis Redding recorded a version of "Tennessee Waltz" featuring Booker T & the MGs on his R&B album, Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul.
Johnny Jones – a native of Atlanta who had briefly replaced Sam Cooke in the Soul Stirrers before Johnnie Taylor joined the group – reached #49 R&B in 1968 with his deep soul rendition of "Tennessee Waltz" cut for producer Bobby Robinson's Fury Records.
Norah Jones performed "Tennessee Waltz" as an encore during a live show at the House of Blues in New Orleans on August 24, 2002. It is featured as extra material on the following DVD-release of the show.
Leonard Cohen released a live version of "Tennessee Waltz" recorded in 1985– one of the few covers he's ever cut – on his 2004 album Dear Heather; this version featured an additional verse written by Cohen himself.
Belle and Sebastian used the melody from "Tennessee Waltz" in their song "Slow Graffiti".
Other artists who have recorded "Tennessee Waltz" (with the parent album): LaVern Baker (Woke Up This Mornin' 1993), Pat Boone (I'll See You in My Dreams/ 1962), Eva Cassidy (Imagine/ 2002), Holly Cole (Don't Smoke in Bed 1993), Connie Francis (Country & Western Golden Hits/ 1959), Emmylou Harris (Cimarron 1981), Tom Jones backed by The Chieftains (Long Black Veil 1995), (1995), Pete Molinari (Today, Tomorrow and Forever 2009), Anne Murray (Let's Keep It That Way 1978), Elvis Presley, Billie Jo Spears (Country Girl 1981), Lenny Welch, Kitty Wells (Kitty's Choice/ 1960), Dottie West (Feminine Fancy/ 1968), Margaret Whiting (Margaret/ 1958).
"My Boy Lollipop"
|Swedish hit parade
(Alma Cogan version)
23 June – 14 July, 28 July 1964
"Long Tall Sally (EP)"
#1@21 July & 4 August 1964
After every home game the Appalachian State University Marching Mountaineers perform the song during their post game show. The University of Tennessee Pride of the Southland Band also performs Tennessee Waltz at the end of each home game at Neyland Stadium and Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville as the fans are filing out of those venues. Baylor's Golden Wave Band plays the song at the end of each home game, a tradition possibly begun with a request from former Head Coach Grant Teaff. The Tennessee Waltz is also the corps song of Music City Drum and Bugle Corps, a Drum Corps International Open Class corps from Nashville, Tennessee.
The song was also used in an instrumental form in the final scenes of the film Primary Colors where Jack Stanton dances with his wife at his Inauguration Ball. It was also used briefly during the 1983 drama film, The Right Stuff. John Huston's 1979 Wise Blood, an adaptation of a Flannery O'Connor novel, uses an instrumental version during the opening montage and as a recurrent musical theme throughout the picture.
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