Wednesday, January 9, 2008



What does the Tennessee Waltz (Tennessee’s Official State Song) have to do with my Kentucky Celebrity Cookbook? It was written by Redd Stewart who was raised in Louisville Kentucky

Redd's family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, while he was still young. He learned to play the banjo, piano, fiddle and guitar as a child, then dropped out of junior high to perform in local bands. He legally changed his first name to Redd because of his red hair, freckles and fair complexion. 1935 - Redd was contracted to write a song for a car dealer's commercial in Louisville, Kentucky at the age of 14 (he completed only the seventh grade.) He then formed and played in various bands around Louisville, including the Prairie Riders. 1937 - Pee Wee King came to Louisville to play on WHAS and signed Redd as a musician with the Golden West Cowboys. At the time, Eddy Arnold was the band's vocalist. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Redd was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to the South Pacific. While stationed there with the rank of sergeant, Redd wrote "A Soldier's Last Letter," which Ernest Tubb worked on and recorded in 1944, making it a No. 1 hit staying at the top for four weeks out of a seven month stay on the Country charts and crossing over to the Pop chart Top 20. When Redd returned to Pee Wee's Golden West Cowboys at the end of WW II, he became the band's vocalist, Arnold having gone solo. Now Redd started to take songwriting seriously. 1946 - married Frances Jean Grimes at the age of 23. 1947 - appeared on the Grand Ole Opry until 1947 and a year earlier, he and Pee Wee wrote their first major success, "Bonaparte's Retreat," which was Kay Starr's launch-pad to stardom. 1947 - Signed a lifetime exclusive songwriting contract with Acuff-Rose Publications. 1947 - It's a Girl! Redd & Jean's first child was born - Lydia Nixon Stewart (named after Pee Wee King's wife- Lydia.) 1948 - "Tennessee Waltz", his most popular song, was written with Pee Wee King. (King & Stewart decided to write the song after hearing Bill Monroe's Kentucky Waltz on the radio. Stewart emptied a matchbox and tore it open to write down the song.) 1953 - It's a Boy! Redd & Jean's second child was born - Colonel Henry Redd Stewart, Jr. 1954 - It's another Boy! Redd & Jean's third child was born - William (Billy) Rae Stewart 1947-1957 - In 1947, Pee Wee, Redd and the band moved to WAVE Louisville, Kentucky, where they had a weekly radio show and then later in the year, they transferred to WAVE-TV, where they had a television show until 1957. Redd sang on Pee Wee King's 1948 version, which reached the Top 3 on the Country chart and crossed over to the Top 30 on the Pop charts, on RCA Victor. It was re-issued in 1951 and climbed to the Top 10. Other hit versions, in 1948, were by Cowboy Copas (Top 3) and Roy Acuff (Top 15). The following year, Tennessee featured in the title of two other King hits on which Redd appeared, namely, "Tennessee Tears" and "Tennessee Polka." Pee Wee King's version of "Bonaparte's Retreat" edged into the Top 10, during 1950. However, it was in 1951 that Pee Wee had a No.1 hit with the King-Stewart song "Slow Poke," which also became a No.1 Pop success. That year, Patti Page took "The Tennessee Waltz" to No.1 on the Pop chart, which also became a Top 3 Country hit. It went on to sell over 6 million copies. The following year, the song became a Top 10 hit for Hawkshaw Hawkins and "You Belong to Me" became a Pop hit for Jo Stafford. By now, Pee Wee had dropped his band's name and as Pee Wee King & his Band, he racked up "Silver and Gold" (Country Top 5/Pop Top 20) and "Busybody" (Country Top 10/Pop Top 30). Redd was still the featured vocalist on the 1954 Pee Wee King double-sided hit "Changing Partners/Bimbo." Their final hit together was "Backward, Turn Backward." Redd toured with Pee Wee throughout the 50's and 60's, and during that time, their songs continued to be recorded. In 1959, Billy Grammar had a Pop success with "Bonaparte's Retreat" as did Bobby Comstock and Jerry Fuller with "Tennessee Waltz." Other charted versions of Redd's songs were "Bonaparte's Retreat" by Carl Smith (1970) and Glen Campbell (1974) and "Tennessee Waltz" by Sam Cooke (1964) and Lacy J. Dalton (1980). On February 17, 1965, "Tennessee Waltz" was officially proclaimed by Governor Frank Clement as the Tennessee state song. As well as recording with Pee Wee, Redd also recorded on his own, including the 1959 Audio Lab album "Redd Stewart Sings Favorite Old Time Tunes." He also appeared in several movies with Pee Wee King, including "Gold Mine in the Sky (1938), "Ridin' the Outlaw Trail" (1951) and "The Rough, Tough West" (1952), the last two starred Charles Starrett as the Durango Kid. In 1961, Redd and Pee Wee appeared in the movie, "Hoedown." 1971 - Redd re-marries. Marries Darlene Collins (of the Collin Sisters) 1972 - Redd was inducted as a charter member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame- Hall of Fame Highest Achievement 1974 - Redd & Jean's third son marries. Billy marries Sharon Kay Lebo. 1974 - Redd & Jean's second granddaughter was born - Allison Marie Stewart (Billy & Sharon's first daughter.) 1977 - Redd & Jean are grandparents again - Jennifer Lynn Stewart (Billy & Sharon's second daughter.) 1992 - Redd's granddaughter marries - Allison marries Ed Lowery Waterfield. 1992- Redd's first great grandson was born - Joseph Rae Waterfield (Allison & Ed's first son.) 1997 - Redd's second great grandson was born - Christopher Lowery Waterfield (Allison & Ed's second son.) August 2, 2003 - Died at Baptist Hospital East in Louisville. He was 80 years old. He died from complications from injuries suffered in the early 1990s after a fall at his home in Louisville.

Redd Stewart was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, 1970

For more on other Country Music Singers who have Kentucky Ties check back here for future bl0gs about those I have recipes from.


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