Tennessee Waltz - written by Redd Stewart & Pee Wee King (1947)
The story behind the song, 'Tennessee Waltz' has been told many times in many ways. How Redd and Pee Wee King came to write the song is probably the single most asked question for both Pee Wee and Redd. The following story of how the 'Tennessee Waltz' came to be is based on an interview Redd had with John Rice Irwin, founder and board chairman of the Musuem of Appalachia in October 1996.
On March 6, 1947, Redd and Pee Wee were traveling by truck from a performance in Henderson, Texas. The radio was turned to WSM's Grand Ole Opry. As they listened to Bill Monroe sing 'The Kentucky Waltz,' Pee Wee jokingly said to Redd, 'Why haven't you written a song about your home state of Tennessee?' At that moment, with pencil in hand and nothing but the cover from one of those large boxes of wooden matches on which to write, Redd began scribbling the words to the 'Tennessee Waltz.' Upon returning to his home in Nashville, he transcribed what he had written onto paper and penciled in the notes.
During this time in his life, Redd wrote and sold songs to various performers on the Grand Ole Opry. He offered to sell the 'Tennessee Waltz' to a rising young singer, Cowboy Copas, for $25.00. Copas refused the offer, saying there were too many waltzes already. So, Redd put the song back in his fiddle case where it remained for the next six months. He later sang it on a Louisville radio station in 1948, and it was recorded for others. It gained a good bit of popularity as a country song, and then it sort of faded away.
Several years later the very popular, Patti Page needed an additional song to complete a recording session she had planned. She agreed to add the 'Tennessee Waltz' as the 'B' side of the record. When it was released in May 1950, Patti Page's recording of the song soon sold some 5,000,000 copies, and it became the most popular song in the nation within six months.