A popular 30s bandleader, Wayne King has been compared to Lawrence Welk and Fred Waring. Known as the "Waltz King," his repertoire was made up of waltzes, novelty songs and sentimental recordings. The sound was copied by other musicians and made Wayne King famous. It was radio broadcasts, such as the Lady Esther Serenade, his Victor recording contracts and performances on Chicago's Aragon Ballroom that sold millions of recordings for Wayne King. Besides being a successful bandleader, Wayne King was also a saxophonist, often playing his instrument in the Wayne King Orchestra.
Born in Savannah, Illinois, Wayne King began taking saxophone lessons in his teens. A member of the big band generation, he was interested in such bandleaders as Benny Goodman, Count Basie and Glenn Miller. Some of his fellow musicians of the big band era had a big effect on the style and sound Wayne King used in his orchestra. Musicians such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong influenced his work.
Wayne King began recording for RCA/Victor records in 1929. Most of his hits did not become popular until the mid-30s, early 40s. The songs had a slow, dreamy style, sounds that people could easily dance to. Some of the more popular favorites included "Josephine" in 1937, "Dream A Little Dream Of Me," "Intermezzo" and "I Don't Know Why (I Just Do)." Although his hits became popular because of the orchestra's nightclub venues, many of the songs were featured on different radio shows. Wayne King chose "The Waltz You Saved For Me" to be the band's theme song, played frequently at the beginning or the end of a gig.
He recorded several albums and songs for the RCA label. In 1965 the album, The Best of Wayne King, was released and featured such waltz hits as "Melody of Love," "Embassy Waltz," "I Could Have Danced All Night," "Goofus" and "Lazy River," a song with Hoagy Carmichael. He recorded also for the Brunswick label in the 30s with A Broken Melody with Buddy Clark. Some of Wayne King's hits appear on the album Best of Guy Lombardo.
The Big Band era was coming to an end in the late 40s and early 50s to make way for a new style of music. Many big bands and orchestras disbanded yet Wayne King's Orchestra continued playing and entertaining audiences well into the 1980s. Several of the band's songs are featured on "collection" and "greatest hits" albums.
Wayne King's dreamy, slow style of the big band era live on in the collections. Some of their more popular songs have been featured on The Lawrence Welk Show. His determination to play even when the Big Band Era ended shows his dedication to the music industry and the genre. The "Waltz King" died at the age of 84 in Paradise Valley, Arizona.