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Frank 'Pee Wee' King; Co-Wrote 'Tennessee Waltz'

March 09, 2000

Frank "Pee Wee" King, 86, co-writer of the classic "Tennessee Waltz." Born Julius Frank Anthony Kuczynski in Milwaukee, King joined his father's dance band at the age of 14. Within a year, he had formed the first of his own bands. His most successful group was the Golden West Cowboys. King wrote "Tennessee Waltz" with fellow band member Redd Stewart in 1947. They said they were riding in Stewart's truck when the idea struck them, and they wrote the song on an unfolded matchbox. Although King's own recording of the song did well, it was Patti Page's version that became a No. 1 pop hit and sold 65 million copies. "Tennessee Waltz" was adopted as the state song of Tennessee in 1965. Among King's other hits were "You Belong to Me," "Slow Poke," "Silver and Gold," "Bonaparte's Retreat" and "Changing Partners." King introduced Polish polka rhythms and waltzes to country music and did much to meld country with Western. With his band, the accordion-playing King performed at the Grand Ole Opry for 10 years, setting a Western dress style for the formerly hillbilly-garbed cast and introducing trumpets, drums and electric guitars. King and his band appeared in several of Gene Autry's movies and in other Westerns with Johnny Mack Brown and the Durango Kid. King was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1974. One of King's band members was Eddy Arnold, who said he "learned a lot about showmanship" from King before going on to establish himself as a hit country singer. On Tuesday in Louisville, Ky., after a heart attack.

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