Henry "Redd" Stewart co-wrote four hugely successful songs in country and pop music in the late 1940s and early '50s: "Slow Poke," "You Belong to Me," "Bonaparte's Retreat" and "The Tennessee Waltz." Raised by musical parents in Louisville, Stewart learned to play banjo, piano, fiddle and guitar as a child. All six of his brothers and sisters also became musicians. He dropped out of school after the seventh grade to perform in local bands.
At age 14, he wrote his first commercial song, an ad jingle for a Louisville Ford automobile dealership. He also formed his own band at that time, the Kentucky Wildcats. He legally changed his name to Redd because of his russet-colored hair.
In 1939, Redd Stewart became a member of Pee Wee King's band, the Golden West Cowboys, and joined the cast of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Stewart left King's band in 1941 to join the Army during World War II. While serving in the South Pacific, Stewart wrote the big World War II song "Soldier's Last Letter." It became a #1 country hit for Ernest Tubb in 1944 and has been recorded by many other artists.
After the war, Stewart rejoined the Golden West Cowboys, this time as the group's lead vocalist. Most of the band's biggest hits were sung by Stewart. When he and King became a songwriting team in the 1950s, they provided material to Eddy Arnold, Cowboy Copas and other country stars of the day.
Their "Tennessee Waltz" became a pop smash for Patti Page in 1951 (reportedly selling more than 6 million copies) and was named a state song of Tennessee in 1965. "Slow Poke" was # 1 on both the country and pop charts for King & the Golden West Cowboys. King and Stewart's romantic ballad "You Belong to Me," co-written with Chilton Price, topped the pop charts when recorded by Jo Stafford in 1952 and became a major doo-wop hit when revived by the Duprees a decade later.
Stewart and King left the Opry and moved to Louisville in 1947. From there, they became pioneers in country music TV, starring in both regional and national programs.
Without King, Stewart occasionally wrote songs recorded by Jim Reeves, Moon Mullican and other artists. During his lifetime, Redd Stewart estimated that he had written more than 400 songs.
Redd Stewart Website