A flamboyant and influential figure during his heyday, Pee Wee King remains somewhat underappreciated as a performer, though his fame as a songwriter is assured thanks to the smash hit "Tennessee Waltz." King helped modernize the sound and style of country music; he introduced electric instruments, drums, and horns to the notoriously conservative Grand Ole Opry, and dressed his band in sharply tailored, Western-style Nudie suits that looked anything but backwoods. Despite his affinity for Western swing and cowboy songs, King actually came from Polish extraction, which helped account for his eclectic approach to country music. He was born Julius Frank Anthony Kuczynski on February 18, 1914, in Milwaukee, and grew up in the northern Wisconsin town of Abrams (or possibly vice versa, according to some sources). His father headed a polka band, and young Frank (as he was called) eventually joined up, learning both fiddle and accordion but concentrating on the latter instrument. He made his professional radio debut at age 14, and eventually started leading his own band, adopting the name Frank King (in tribute to polka bandleader Wayne King) and playing a mixture of polkas and cowboy songs. Starting in 1933, his band played regularly on the Milwaukee radio show The Badger State Barn Dance, where they were discovered by an up-and-coming Gene Autry. Autry hired them as his backup band, and nicknamed King "Pee Wee" for his five-foot six-inch height. In 1934, Autry and King became regulars on Louisville radio, but Autry soon departed for Hollywood.