Background of Tennessee Waltz
The song was a product of the partnership that Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart had throughout their career. It was during the mid-’40s when the collaboration of King and Stewart began with the song, “Bonaparte’s Retreat.” The song gained a mid-level success but it gave birth to a partnership that King and Stewart would have for some time as songwriters.
The idea of the Tennessee Waltz was born when King and Stewart were having a trip in 1946. On the road, the song Bill Monroe popularized, “Kentucky Waltz,” was playing on the radio. This gave Pee Wee a thought of why no one had written a waltz about Tennessee. Having foreseen such things, Redd grabbed his pen and waited for King as he formulates his thoughts. King then came up with an idea of adding words to the “No Name Waltz.”
No Name Waltz
“No Name Waltz” has been a theme song for the band that King and Stewart were in. Whenever they’re asked for the song’s title, Pee Wee and Redd would always name it as “No Name Waltz.” It was until that night in 1946 when both, Pee Wee and Redd, decided to put some lyrics to the song. The two pondered on the thought of why they waited for so long for them to finally write some lyrics to the song.
As they were on the trip, King and Redd wrote a song that had a theme about dance and lost love. As soon as they arrived in Nashville the following morning, they turned over the lyrics to Fred Rose of Acuff-Rose publishing company. Rose also adjusted some of the wordings before finalizing the song’s official lyrics.
From “No Name Waltz” to “Tennessee Waltz”
During Pee Wee King’s live performances, the song “Tennessee Waltz” became a concert favorite. King and his band had to wait for a considerable amount of time before they finally have a chance to cut the song.
On December 2, 1947, King was able to record “Tennessee Waltz” during a session at the RCA Victor Studio in Chicago. By the time the song was released, it made a marked peaking at number 3 on the Billboard’s Country listing and was at the number 30 on the Pop chart.
Patti Page and the Tennessee Waltz
As the song’s popularity grew, other artists took note of the natural appeal and immediately went to the studio to record their own versions of the song. Other versions included Lloyd “Cowboy” Copus (ironically a former member of Pee Wee’s Golden West Cowboys) whose version of “Tennessee Waltz” charted at number Roy Acuff also released his own version of the song in November, which peaked at number 12.
Yet there was no cover recording of the song that would match the success that Patti Page’s cover has attained. Patti Page started recording for the Mercury Label since 1947. She also had produced several pretty good-sized hits and was able to produce a million-selling single, “With My Eyes Wide Open, I’m Dreaming.” Page selected to record her cut of the song as a “B” side of a Christmas album that she has been recording. She chose this song to cause her father, Jerry Wexler, who had this song as his most loved song.
As soon as Page’s cover of the song was released, the A-side “Boogie Woogie Santa Clause” was completely ignored and the cut of “Tennessee Waltz” immediately peaked at the number 1 spot of the charts. This was contrary to the thought of Patti’s producers who felt that the song was just “pleasant.” Mercury’s promotions department was caught off guard by the tidal wave that the single has produced. Page’s cover was also said to bridge Pop back to Country when the record also reached the number 2 spot on the Country charts.
“Tennessee Waltz” has indeed become one of the most famous songs in history. For about 70 years since the first release of the song, it has been covered by hundreds of artists, with sales that would be quantified over six million copies. Yet, Patti Page’s cover still stands as the all-time best selling single ever by a female artist.
In 1965 “Tennessee Waltz” was named an official state song of Tennessee.