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Pee Wee King's birth on February 18, 1914, into a Milwaukee working-class Polish family named Kuczynski was hardly an indicator that he would grow up to become a pioneer and superstar of country and western music. Certainly no one in the Polish-German community of his youth could have foreseen his influence on the direction of American popular music or his enduring fame on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Even Pee Wee King himself is incredulous at the unlikely twists and turns of his life and career.

Pee Wee King is best remembered today as the co-writer of the most popular country music song of all time, The Tennessee Waltz. He is just as important, however, for his vital role in expanding the horizons, and the market potential, of country and western music. He took the polka and waltz rhythms of his youth, mixed them with the sounds of the big bands of the thirties and forties, and flavored it all with the balladry and moods of the Western cowboy. He combined this new sound with folk and country traditions rooted in places like Louisville, Knoxville, and Nashville. The result was a smooth, listenable, danceable, up-to-date sound that has become the most popular form of music in the United States.

Recipient of numerous awards, including induction into both the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame, Pee Wee King has been one of the most important figures in country music for over sixty years. Told in King's own voice and words, this biography, based on many hours of taped conversations, is the first account of King's incredible life and career. Featuring a star-studded cast of characters from the history of music—Eddy Arnold, Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, Gene Autry, Patti Page, and many others—this memorable book is a must-read for any fan of country music.

Wade Hall is professor of English at Bellarmine College and the author of numerous books, including The Rest of the Dream: The Black Odyssey of Lyman Johnson and Greetings from Kentucky: A Post Card Tour, 1900-1950.

"His story is the story of the development of a whole genre of music."—Green Man Review

"Hall is to be commended for ensuring that the story of this deserving, beloved musician is finally told. We are all the richer for it."—Louisville Music News

"A charming biography."—New York Times

"A fine history not only of Music City and its more famous residents but also of the peculiar life of Frank Kuczynski."—Southern Historian

"Pee Wee King helped make it respectable to like country music."—Western Clippings

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Pee Wee King, Country musicians



Hell-Bent For Music: The Life of Pee Wee King
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