Saturday, 28 February 2015

Barbara Acklin born 28 February 1943

Barbara Jean Acklin (February 28, 1943* – November 27, 1998) was an American soul singer and songwriter, who was most successful in the 1960s and 1970s. Her biggest hit as a singer was "Love Makes a Woman" (1968). As a songwriter, she is best known for co-writing the multi-million-selling "Have You Seen Her" (1971) with Eugene Record, lead singer of the Chi-Lites.

Acklin was born in Oakland, California and moved with her family to Chicago, Illinois in 1948. She was encouraged to sing as a child; by the age of 11, she sang regularly as a soloist at the New Zion Baptist Church and as a teenager started singing at nightclubs in Chicago. After graduating from Dunbar Vocational High School she worked as a secretary at St. Lawrence Records. Her first record was released on the subsidiary Special Agent label, under the pseudonym Barbara Allen, and was produced by her cousin, producer, and saxophonist Monk Higgins. She also worked as a backing singer at Chess Records on recordings by Fontella Bass, Etta James, Koko Taylor, and others produced by Higgins.

In 1966, she started working as a receptionist at Brunswick Records' Chicago office, where she submitted demo
recordings of some of her own songs to producer Carl Davis. One of her songs, "Whispers (Gettin' Louder)", which she had co-written with David Scott, formerly of The Five Du-Tones, was recorded by Jackie Wilson and became his biggest hit for three years, reaching no. 5 on the Billboard R&B chart and no. 11 on the Hot 100. Wilson then helped secure her a recording contract with Brunswick. Her first two singles for the label were unsuccessful but her third, "Show Me the Way To Go", a duet with Gene Chandler, made the R&B chart.

She began writing songs with another Brunswick recording artist, Eugene Record, lead singer of the Chi-Lites; some but not all sources state that they were later married. They co-wrote the Peaches and Herb hit "Two Little Kids", before Record and Davis co-wrote and produced Acklin's first and biggest solo hit, "Love Makes a Woman"; the other co-writers were arranger Sonny Sanders and guitarist Gerald Sims. The single reached no. 3 on the R&B chart and no. 15 on the US pop chart in July 1968, and won a BMI award.

Acklin continued to have a series of hits on Brunswick over the next four years, including "From the Teacher to the Preacher", another duet with Chandler, and solo hits "Just Ain't No Love" and "Am I the Same Girl", Acklin also released several albums on the Brunswick label: Love Makes a Woman (1968), Seven Days of Night (1969), Someone Else's Arms (1970), I Did It (1971), and I Call It Trouble (1973).

At the same time, she continued her successful writing partnership with Eugene Record. Impressed by the
monologues on Isaac Hayes' album Hot Buttered Soul (1969), Record and Acklin wrote "Have You Seen Her", which was originally an album track on the Chi-Lites' album (For God's Sake) Give More Power to the People (1971) before being released as a single. It reached no. 1 on the R&B chart and no. 3 on the US pop chart, and twice made the UK top ten (no. 3 in 1972 and no. 5 in 1975). In 1990, the song became a top ten hit again, when recorded by MC Hammer.

In 1974, Acklin moved to Capitol Records. Her first single for the label, "Raindrops", was co-written by Acklin and produced by former Brunswick producer, Willie Henderson. It becameher biggest hit on the R&B chart for six years (#14), and she released an album, A Place in the Sun. However, later recordings met with less success and she was dropped by the label in 1975. She continued to tour as a solo artist and as a backing singer for the Chi-Lites, Tyrone Davis, and other acts. In 1980, she made some recordings for Carl Davis' Chi-Sound label and contributed backing vocals to Otis Clay's album The Gospel Truth (1993).

Acklin later lived in Omaha, Nebraska. In late 1998, Acklin was doing a phone interview with Chicago cable TV host Royce Glamour from her Omaha, NE, home.

 Acklin was excited about working on material for her new album, and she also noted that she had a bad cold. The following weekend, she was rushed to a hospital where she passed away from pneumonia on November 27, 1998  at the age of 55.

 (Info mainly edited from Wikipedia. *Some sources give a birth year of 1942 & 1944.)

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Jackie Gleason born 26 February 1916

John Herbert “Jackie” Gleason (February 26, 1916–June 24, 1987) was an American comedian, actor, and musician. He was known for his brash visual and verbal comedy style, exemplified by his character Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners. Among his notable film roles were Minnesota Fats in the 1961 drama The Hustler (starring Paul Newman) and Buford T. Justice in the Smokey and the Bandit series.

He started out in show business at the age of 15, after winning an amateur night contest at the Halsey Theater in Brooklyn. He was then hired by the manager as emcee. From that start, he began his career as a nightclub comic. He was discovered at New York's Club 18 by Jack Warner, who signed him to a contract. He then went to Hollywood and made five films, starting with "Navy Blues," which co-starred Jack Haley.

After leaving Hollywood, he returned to New York, where he appeared on Broadway and made his television debut on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town." After that, he appeared on the television series "The Life of Riley." From there he returned to nightclubs and the stage until he appeared on "Cavalcade of Stars," which made him an overnight sensation. He stayed on the show for two years, creating many of his famous characters, including 'Ralph Kramden', and 'Reginald Van Gleason the III,' among others.

He left "Cavalcade of Stars" after signing a contract with CBS, where "The Honeymooners" debuted in 1955. The show co-starred now legendary telvision names like Audrey Meadows, Art Carney, and Joyce Randolph. The series only ran for one season, and thirty nine episodes were produced. Jackie Gleason also appeared in movies again, starring in movies such as "Gigot," "The Hustler," and "Papa's Delicate Condition," garnering an Academy Award nomination for "The Hustler." He had returned to Broadway as well, winning a Tony Award for "Take Me Along" in 1959.

Gleason's least remembered but perhaps most remarkable achievement was in the record business. Although he did not read a note of music, he composed many songs (including his trademark television theme, "Melancholy Serenade"), humming the melodies for transcribers. In 1955, at his own expense, he assembled a large
orchestra and, personally wielding the baton, recorded his syrupy arrangements of such standards as "I'm in the Mood for Love" and "My Funny Valentine." Unable to sell the album to a major company, the comedian paid Capitol to manufacture it for him. For Lovers Only sold more than half a million copies and became the first of some 35 popular Gleason "romantic music" LPs.

     Here's "I'm in the Mood For Love" from above 1952 album

After starring in "The Jackie Gleason Show" in the 1960s, he would never star in a regular television series again. He revitalized his movie career in the 1970s with the "Smokey and the Bandit" movies, alongside Burt Reynolds. In 1985 he revealed the existence of 'lost episodes' of "The Honeymooners." These previously unseen episodes would introduce the show to a newer audience and further establish his standing as one of the greatest television performers of all time. His last role was Nothing in Common with Tom Hanks in 1986.

He died from colon cancer at his home in Fort Lauderdale with his family at his bedside.

After a private funeral mass at the Cathedral of Saint Mary in Miami, Gleason was entombed in a sarcophagus in a private outdoor mausoleum at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Cemetery in Miami. At the base is the inscription “And Away We Go.” (Info edited from various sources mainly Findagrave bio)

Jackie Gleason brought an ingenious assortment of mannerisms, quirks, and temperment to a variety of invented characters, among them the one he is most identified with,..."Ralph Kramdem" from the 1950's TV Classic, "The Honeymooners." His unique style, facial expressions, body language, and memorable one-liners, earned him the deserved title, "THE GREAT ONE!"

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Victor Silvester born 25 February 1900

Victor Marlborough Silvester OBE (25 February 1900 – 14 August 1978) was an English dancer, author, musician and bandleader from the British dance band era. He was a significant figure in the development of ballroom dance during the first half of the 20th century, and his records sold 75 million copies from the 1930s through to the 1980s

The second son of a vicar in Wembley, London, Silvester learned to dance and play the piano as a child. He studied music at the Trinity College of Music and the London College of Music, but ran away from school and joined the British Army just before he reached the age of 15. After some bitter experiences during World War I, including being a member of a firing squad that shot 12 deserters at Boulogne, he was sent home when his real age was discovered. He returned to the Front, and was awarded the Italian Bronze Medal for Valour.

After the War, legend has it that he attended that very British institution, a ‘tea dance’ at Harrod’s, the ‘top people’s store’, which revived his interest in the terpsichorean side of life. After further involvement with the army, including a spell at Sandhurst, he decided to devote himself to a career in dancing. For over two years he partnered Phyllis Clarke, and they won the World’s Dancing Championship in 1922.

In the same year, he married beauty queen Dorothy Newton, and opened a dance school (the first of a chain) in London’s Bond Street. Frustrated by the lack of suitable dance records, he formed his first orchestra in 1935, and persuaded EMI Records to allow him to record Al Bryan and George M. Meyer’s ‘You’re Dancing On My Heart’, which sold 17, 000 copies, and became his signature tune. Two years later he made the first of over 6, 500 broadcasts, the most popular of which, the BBC Dancing Club series, started in 1941.

       Here's "You're Dancing on My Heart" from above album.

From 1943-44, influenced by the influx of GIs into the UK, he directed a series of recordings made especially for ‘jive dancing’. The seven-piece group included top musicians such as trombonist George Chisholm, trumpeter Tommy McQuater, pianist Billy Munn (who did most of the arrangements) and multi-instrumentalist E.O. ‘Poggy’ Pogson, who played lead saxophone doubling clarinet, and stayed with Silvester for 26 years. On some recordings, the Ballroom Orchestra was augmented with 15 strings and woodwind, when it became "The Silver Strings".

Twenty of those early tracks were released by EMI Records on Victor Silvester’s Jive Band, in 1985. They were a long way from the general public’s conception of the suave, distinctive Silvester sound, prefaced by his introduction: ‘Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow’, which accompanied the dancing in the nation’s ballrooms and on television when the Dancing Club transferred to the small screen in the 50s, and ran for 17 years. By the end of the run Silvester’s failing health meant that his son, Victor Jnr. (b. 1924, d. 1999), was sometimes leading the orchestra; in the 70s he took over full-time direction.

A phenomenon in popular music, Silvester withstood the radical changes in dance music through the years, especially the rock ‘n’ roll 50s and the beat boom of the 60s, and survived with his high standards intact. For worldwide audiences his name was synonymous with the best in ballroom dancing, and his Record Request programme on the BBC World Service reflected this fact. He was awarded an OBE in 1961 for Services To Ballroom Dancing.

One of his books, Modern Ballroom Dancing, sold over a million copies and went through 50 editions. He made so many albums that even he found it difficult to remember the precise number. His affection for 30s music was demonstrated on the 16 track The Tuneful Thirties, while, Let’s Dance To Some More Favourite Melodies and Up Up And Away contained material from the 60s and 70s.

In 1978 his total record sales were estimated at over 75 million. Early in that year he released a rarity: a collection of old favourites entitled The Song And Dance Men, on which his orchestra accompanied a singer, Max Bygraves. Later in 1978 Victor Silvester died while on holiday in the South of France. His son, Victor Jnr., continued to direct the Orchestra until 1998. Victor, his wife, and son are memorialised at Golders Green Crematorium, London.(Info mainly All Music Guide)

Monday, 23 February 2015

Esteban "Steve" Jordan born 23 February 1939

Esteban "Steve" Jordan (February 23, 1939 – August 13, 2010) was a jazz, rock, blues, conjunto and Tejano musician from the United States. He was also known as "El Parche", "The Jimi Hendrix of the accordion", and "the accordion wizard". An accomplished musician, he played 35 different instruments.

Born in Elsa, Texas to migrant farm workers and partially blinded as an infant, Jordan was unable to work in the fields. Left at home, he found friendship and guidance among the elderly. At a very young age he was introduced to music, especially the accordion. At the time, the musician Valerio Longoria followed the community of migrant farm workers and played for them in the labor camps. These circumstances brought the two together and the young Esteban mastered the instrument quickly. While he has remained close to his traditional conjunto roots, he has never limited himself musically. More than any other accordionist, Jordan pushes the diatonic accordion to its limits, both musically and physically, playing traditional conjunto, rock, jazz, salsa, zydeco and more.

               Here's "Las Coranelas" taken from above album.

Unlike many conjunto musicians, he kept abreast of technological developments, using devices such as phase shifters, fuzzboxes, echoplex delay (for which he named a song, "La Polka Plex"), and synthesizers, and was one of the few conjunto musicians to weave styles such as fusion jazz and rock into his music. He had also recorded country, western and mambo numbers. 

Members of his family frequently backed him up, including his sons Esteban Jr., Esteban III, and Ricardo. Esteban III (guitar) and Ricardo (bass) accompanied Esteban on-stage and in studio recording.

In 1988 while performing The Berlin Jazz Festival '88, Hohner invited Steve to the Hohner factory in Trossingen. The Hohner company and Steve collaborated in making an new accordion with Steve's specifications that included his own tuning, octaves, and tuning arrangement changes to the accidentals. It would enable Steve to do the music patterns he is famous for. In 2009, Hohner USA in recognition of Steve's contribution and accomplishments to the music world, launched the Steve Jordan "Rockordeon". The signature series accordion reissued in his honour.

New wave polka bands such as Brave Combo have cited Jordan's influence. In 1987 he was
nominated for a Grammy, but lost out to his old friend Flaco Jiménez. His bid for mainstream presence continued in 1986 when he was asked to do the soundtrack for the Cheech Marin film Born in East L.A.

Esteban was inducted to the South Texas Conjunto Music Hall Of Fame on May 27, 2001. Also the National Hispanic Music Hall Of Fame in 2003.

In 2002 he appeared in the film Texas Conjunto: Música de la gente, a documentary about Texas conjunto music, and in True Stories, an American musical film directed by and starring musician David Byrne. He did the music and appeared as an accordion street player in the film Born in East L.A. starring Cheech Marin.

Esteban established his own record label "Jordan Records, Inc." on his birthday Feb. 23, 2010. He released one of his nine albums named Carta Espiritual (a spiritual letter), on which he had spent over 15 years recording new music, still yet to be released on his recording label.

Esteban battled cancer for four years and died of complications liver cancer on August 13, 2010. He was 71.

His sons Esteban Jr., Esteban III, and Ricardo continue his musical legacy. His sons go by "El Rio Jordan de Esteban Jordan" Rio Jordan, the band name given by their father.  (Info Wikipedia)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Ernie K-Doe born 22 February 1936

Ernie K-Doe (February 22, 1936 - July 5, 2001), was an African American rhythm and blues singer.

 Ernie K-Doe scored one of the biggest hits (possibly the biggest) in the history of New Orleans R&B with "Mother-in-Law," a humorous lament that struck a chord with listeners of all stripes on its way to the topof both the pop and R&B charts in 1961. The song proved to be K-Doe's only major success, despite several more minor hits that were equally infectious, yet he remained one of New Orleans' most inimitable personalities.

Born Ernest Kador, Jr. in New Orleans in 1936, he began singing at age seven in the Baptist church where his father served as minister. During his teen years, Kador performed with local gospel groups like the Golden Chain Jubilee Singers and the Zion Travelers, when he was influenced chiefly by the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. He entered and won talent competitions and became more interested in secular R&B and blues, and at 17, he moved to Chicago with his mother and began performing at local clubs. Thanks to connections he made there, he got the chance to sing with the Flamingos and Moonglows, as well as the Four Blazes, a gig that earned him his first recording session in late 1953 for United.

Kador returned to New Orleans in 1954 and honed his flamboyant stage act at numerous local hangouts (including the famed Dew Drop Inn), both solo and as part of the vocal group the Blue Diamonds. The Blue Diamonds cut a couple of sides for Savoy in 1954, and the following year, Kador (still billed under his real name) recorded his first solo single, "Do Baby Do," for Specialty. In 1957, he recorded a few more sides for Ember, as both Ernie Kado and Ernie K-Doe. Finally, in 1959, he caught on with the newly formed Minit label and hooked up with producer/songwriter/pianist/arranger/future legend Allen Toussaint.

His first Minit single, "Make You Love Me," flopped, but the follow-up, "Hello My Lover," was a substantial regional hit, selling nearly 100,000 copies. K-Doe struck gold with 1961's "Mother-in-Law," a Toussaint-penned tune on which K-Doe traded choruses with bass vocalist Benny Spellman. That, coupled with the playful cynicism of the lyrics, made for a rollicking good time in the best New Orleans R&B tradition, and K-Doe was rewarded with a number one record on both the pop and R&B charts. He toured the country and landed a few more follow-up hits — "Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta," "I Cried My Last Tear," "A Certain Girl" (later covered by the Yardbirds), "Popeye Joe" — but none approached the phenomenon of "Mother-in-Law," and were more popular on the R&B side.

Minit soon went under, and K-Doe followed Toussaint to the Instant label, but two 1964 singles failed to revive K-Doe's chart fortunes, partly because the early prime of New Orleans R&B was fading as Motown gained prominence. Over the remainder of the '60s, K-Doe recorded for Peacock and Duke, landing two very minor R&B chart entries in 1967 with "Later for Tomorrow" and "Until the Real Thing Comes Along" on the latter label. However, he had a difficult time adapting his loose, playful style to the R&B trends of the day.

He reunited with Toussaint for a brief period in the early '70s, to no avail, and drifted into a long period of alcoholism. Fortunately, K-Doe was able to reclaim some of his popularity around New Orleans when he began hosting a radio program in 1982, earning an audience with his wild antics and blatant self-promotion.

In the 1990s K-Doe began billing himself as "The Emperor of the Universe" and wearing a cape and crown he became a famous local eccentric on the New Orleans scene. In 1994, K-Doe opened his own club, Mother-in-Law Lounge, in New Orleans, and frequently performed there in the years to come, occasionally returning to the studio as well. He was inducted into the city's Music Hall of Fame in 1995 and generally acknowledged for his contributions up until his death from kidney and liver failure on July 5, 2001. (info mainly from All Music Guide)

Below is the official Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame Induction video for Ernie K-Doe first presented at his Mother-in-Law Lounge in NOLA. 8-2-2009. Also inducted that evening was Benny Spellman (baritone part on "Mother-In-Law) and Allen Toussaint (writer of "Mother-In-Law"). The opening footage from the 1980's is never before seen lost performance footage of Ernie from an early NO Jazz Fest, and the closing footage is from Ernie and Antoinette's appearance in the movie "Happy, Now & Then".

Friday, 20 February 2015

Larry Hovis born 20 February 1936

Larry Hovis (February 20, 1936 – September 9, 2003) was an American singer and actor best known for playing Sergeant Carter on the 1960s television sitcom Hogan's Heroes.

Hovis was born in Wapato, Washington, and moved to Houston, Texas as a small child. As a youth, he was a singer, appearing on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. Hovis attended the University of Houston. During the mid-1950s, Hovis sang in nightclubs with groups including the Mascots, and the Bill Gannon Trio. (Mascots photo L-R: Joe Toland, Jerry Lloyd, Harry Bell, Larry Hovis)  He wrote songs and signed with Capitol Records, which released one album. His biggest song was "We could have lots of fun".

Hovis began appearing in local theatre productions. After some success, he moved to New York City in 1959 and appeared in Broadway revues such as From A to Z which showcased his singing and comedy talents.

Hovis moved to California in
1963 where he performed stand-up comedy and tried to break into television. In 1964, he was discovered by Andy Griffith's manager and was hired to appear on the TV series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., where he played "Pvt. Larry Gotschalk". He also appeared on The Andy Griffith Show.

In 1965, Hovis was cast in the television show Hogan's Heroes as "Sgt. Andrew Carter", a POW in a German prison camp who was an expert on explosives. In the series Carter was of Sioux ancestry; Hovis himself was partly of Yakama Indian ancestry. Later, in an episode of the comedy Alice, Hovis played an American Indian police detective who arrests a fake American Indian conman.

While Hovis was a regular on Hogan's Heroes, he also did
work in the entertainment industry, including writing the screenplay for the 1966 spy-spoof Out of Sight. He also appeared in and wrote comedy bits for Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.

After Hogan's Heroes was cancelled in 1971, Hovis appeared in several TV shows. He also produced and appeared in the mid-1970s game show Liar's Club.

In the early 1980s, Hovis toured in the musical Best Little Whorehouse in Texas as Melvin P. Thorpe. In 1982, Hovis was a writer/producer on the So You Think You Got Troubles, which was hosted by actor/ventriloquist Jay Johnson. Later in the decade, Hovis teamed up with Gary Bernstein to form Bernstein-Hovis Productions, which produced the game shows Anything For Money, the original version of Lingo and the short-lived Yahtzee, a TV version of the classic dice game, for which Hovis also announced and served as a regular panellist.

In 1990 he taught drama at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas (now Texas State University-San Marcos) until his death.  Hovis died of oesophageal cancer in Austin, Texas on September 9, 2003. He was 67. (Info Wikipedia)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Eddie Peabody born 19 February 1902

Edwin Ellsworth Peabody (February 19, 1902 - November 7, 1970) was an American musical entertainer. His career spanned five decades and he was perhaps the most famous plectrum (4 string) banjo player ever. He was also known professionally as "Little Eddie", "King of the Banjo", and "Happiness Boy".

Born in Reading, Massachusetts, Eddie taught
himself to play the violin, mandolin, guitar and banjo, at a very young age. He entered the U.S. Navy in March 1916 aged fourteen after lying about his age. He served in World War I on an S-14 submarine. It was during this period that he earned the nickname "Happiness Boy." After his discharge from the Navy in 1921 he began a long career in show business, beginning with vaudeville. In 1926, he was hired to appear in a very early "talkie" and may have been the first banjoist to play on film. At some point in the 1920s, a music critic nicknamed Peabody "The King of the Banjo" because of his frenetic playing style which involved fast triplets and cross-picking, made some listeners think he was playing two banjos at once. The nickname "King of the banjo" stuck for the rest of his life.

He visited England in the 1930s and made several recordings for the Columbia Company. Whilst there he helped to promote the banjo by visiting BMG clubs (Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar clubs) which were very active in the years up to the Second World War. When the U.S.A entered the war Eddie became a morale officer for the U.S. Navy. He already held the rank of commander and he was subsequently engaged to play shows to bring the servicemen "a touch of home".

During the 1930s he married Maude Kelly, who was also his business manager at the time, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1939. In 1940 he married Ragna Kaupanger, a Norwegian-American nurse and flight attendant for United Airlines. Eddie and Ragna had two children, Eddie Jr., and George.

When the war finished, Eddie went about restarting his concert career. Most of the Vaudeville halls had closed down and musical tastes had changed. However, in 1948, I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover, a hit from the 1920s, was resurrected by the Art Mooney Orchestra and created interest in both nostalgic music and the banjo. Eddie capitalised on this by signing to Dot Records and made over half a dozen albums for them. He took his act around supper clubs that were popular at the time, and TV made him a household name, once again. He also produced records and appeared in films. He was, and still is, regarded as the most popular banjo player of his generation.

He developed, with the Vega Banjo Company of Boston, a new type of "deep resonator" for the four-stringed banjo called the Vegavox, based on the zither banjo. The Vegavox has been produced mainly in four-stringed plectrum (22 frets) and tenor (19 frets) models; however, some five-stringed models were created and sold as special orders.

Eddie also developed a special type of electric guitar, first with the Fender Company and then with Rickenbacker, called the Banjoline. This instrument is tuned as a plectrum banjo but with the 3 and 4 string doubled in octaves, similar to the way a 12 string guitar is strung. The Banjoline is now a very rare and highly-priced collector's item, although very seldom used today in live performances.

              Here's "Me & My Shadow" from above 1959 LP

During his career Eddie played not only shows for paying concert customers, servicemen etc. but also for kings, queens, potentates, dukes, duchesses, one dictator and presidents. In 1968, President Eisenhower awarded him a distinguished "People to People" Award for Meritorious Service in both the military and show business.

His very last concert was in 1970 at a supper club called "The Lookout House", in Covington, Kentucky where he suffered a stroke during his act. He passed away the next morning in hospital, leaving a musical legacy that plectrum banjo players still cherish today. His wife, Ragna Peabody, died in 2002. (Info mainly edited from Wikipedia)

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Pee Wee King born 18 February 1914

Julius Frank Anthony Kuczynski (February 18, 1914 – March 7, 2000), known professionally as Pee Wee King, was an American country music songwriter and recording artist best known for co-writing "The Tennessee Waltz".

Pee Wee King was an unlikely candidate for country music stardom. Yet as a songwriter, bandleader,
recording artist, and television entertainer, he broke new ground in country music, and he helped to bring waltzes, polkas, and cowboy songs into mainstream country music during ten productive years at the Grand Ole Opry.

Born Frank Julius Anthony Kuczynski into a working-class Polish-German family, he grew up in the polka-and-waltz culture of Wisconsin. His musical debut occurred at age fifteen, when he played the accordion in his father’s polka band. He changed his name to King (after the then popular polka performer Wayne King) and formed his own high school band, Frankie King & the King’s Jesters. In 1933 young Frankie King joined the Badger State Barn Dance and soon had his own radio show on WJRN in Racine.

King’s lucky break came in the spring of 1934, when he met promoter J. L. Frank. He moved with Frank to Louisville in 1934 to back up Gene Autry for a time, joined Frankie More’s Log Cabin Boys as accordionist on WHAS radio, and in 1936 married Joe Frank’s stepdaughter Lydia.

In 1936 King was in Knoxville performing on WNOX. In 1937 he formed the Golden West Cowboys and moved to Nashville to begin a ten-year run on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry, with the exception of 1940, when he worked primarily out of Louisville. In 1941–1942 he and his band were featured with the Camel Caravan, a WSM touring company that presented some 175 shows at military installations in the United States and Central America. At various times his band included Eddy Arnold, Redd Stewart, Ernest Tubb, Cowboy Copas, and Minnie Pearl.

After joining the Grand Ole Opry in June 1937, King helped introduce an array of new instruments and sounds to that program’s stage, including the trumpet, drums, and the electric guitar. In addition, he dressed his band members in spiffy western outfits designed by the Hollywood tailor Nudie. His nattily attired Golden West Cowboys generally produced a smooth and danceable sound during their heyday in the 1940s; in the 1950s they even branched out briefly into mild rockabilly.

He wrote or co-wrote more than 400 songs, including some of the most popular songs in American musical history, notably “Slow Poke” (a #1 pop hit for fourteen weeks in 1951) with Chilton Price and the hugely successful “Tennessee Waltz” with Redd Stewart. Patti Page’s 1950 version of the latter song was #1 on the pop charts and within six months sold almost 5 million copies. It became an official Tennessee state song in 1965. 

His own recording career included more than twenty albums and 157 singles, most of them issued during his seventeen-year association with RCA Victor. With the release of his recording of “Slow Poke” in 1951, he became one of the first country musicians to cross over successfully into the pop field.

King became also a pioneer television performer when in 1947 he returned to Louisville to work on WAVE radio and television. In the fifties and sixties he had regional and national TV shows originating from Louisville, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Chicago, including a six-year run of The Pee Wee King Show on ABC television.

He appeared in four movies: Gold Mine in the Sky with Gene Autry in 1938; Flame of the West with Johnny Mack Brown in 1945; and Ridin’ the Outlaw Trail (1951) and The Rough, Tough West (1952) with Charles Starrett. In 1967 he released his own production, Country-Western Hoedown, an artistic and financial disaster.

He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1974.

He joined producers Randall Franks and Alan Autry for the In the Heat of the Night cast CD Christmas Time’s A Comin’ performing "Jingle Bells" with the cast released on Sonlite and MGM/UA for one of the most popular Christmas releases of 1991 and 1992 with Southern retailers.

He died of a heart attack in Louisville, Kentucky, at age 86. (Info edited from the Country Music Hall of Fame & Wikipedia)