American country guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter
Arnold had a significant impact on country-western music, scoring 147 singles on the country charts, twenty-eight of which reached number one. In addition, his recordings from the mid-1960’s on made him a pop star who transcended genres.
Born: May 15, 1918; Madisonville, Tennessee
Died: May 8, 2008; Nashville, Tennessee
Also known as: Richard Edward Arnold (full name); Tennessee Plowboy
albums: Anytime, 1955; The Chapel on the Hill, 1955; Wanderin’, 1955; A Little on the Lonely Side, 1956; My Darling, My Darling, 1957; When They Were Young, 1957; Praise Him, Praise Him, 1958; Have Guitar, Will Travel, 1959; Thereby Hangs a Tale, 1959; More Eddy Arnold, 1960; You Gotta Have Love, 1960; Christmas with Eddy Arnold, 1961; Let’s Make Memories Tonight, 1961; One More Time, 1961; Our Man Down South, 1962; Cattle Call, 1963; Faithfully Yours, 1963; Folk Song Book, 1964; Sometimes I’m Happy, Sometimes I’m Blue, 1964; The Easy Way, 1965; My World, 1965; I Want to Go with You, 1966; The Last Word in Lonesome, 1966; Somebody Like Me, 1966; Lonely Again, 1967; Turn the World Around, 1967; The Everlovin’ World of Eddy Arnold, 1968; The Romantic World of Eddy Arnold, 1968; Walkin’ in Love Land, 1968; Songs of the Young World, 1969; The Glory of Love, 1969; The Warmth of Eddy, 1969; Love and Guitars, 1970; Standing Alone, 1970; Loving Her Was Easier, 1971; Portrait of My Woman, 1971; Welcome to My World, 1971; Eddy Arnold Sings for Housewives and Other Lovers, 1972; Lonely People, 1972; The World of Eddy Arnold, 1973; I Wish That I Had Loved You Better, 1974; She’s Got Everything I Need, 1974; The Wonderful World of Eddy Arnold, 1975; Eddy, 1976; I Need You All the Time, 1977; Many Tears Ago, 1985; Hand Holdin’ Songs, 1990; You Don’t Miss a Thing, 1991; After All These Years, 2005. singles: “Cattle Call,” 1945; “Each Minute Seems a Million Years,” 1945; “I’ll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Hold You in My Arms),” 1947.
Richard Edward Arnold was born in 1918 on his father’s two-hundred-acre farm in Henderson, Tennessee. The family fell from prosperity, however, when in 1924 Arnold’s father put up the farm as collateral to ease the debt of an older son by a previous marriage. The father’s failing health in the late 1920’s led to default, and in the depths of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Arnold lost both his father and his family homestead.
Later, Arnold made a name for himself by playing his guitar at local dances, and when a salesman from the Jackson Sun newspaper heard Arnold play, he arranged an audition with radio station WTJS, which was owned by the newspaper, in 1937. Arnold played first on WTJS, then onKWKin St. Louis in 1938, and finally he joined Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys in Nashville, becoming a popular radio singer known as the Tennessee Plowboy. He began recording country-western hits in 1945, and a decade later he attempted to get into the New York market with a more fully orchestrated sound. He finally succeeded in crossing over to the popular music charts in the mid-1960’s. With sales of more than eighty-five million records over his lifetime, he became one of the best-selling recording artists in history. Arnold died on May 8, 2008, just a few days before his ninetieth birthday.
Despite his radio origins as the Tennessee Plowboy, Arnold endeavored from the start of his recording career to appeal to a wider audience. His first recording, “Each Minute Seems a Million Years,” reached number five on the country charts, but two years later he made a significant impact on the popular music world. Of the top twenty country songs of 1947-1948, thirteen were Arnold’s; six of those reached number one on the country charts, and of those six, four crossed over to the pop side. Arnold totally dominated the country charts at this time, his three number-one hits of 1947 staying at the top. “I’ll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Hold You in My Arms” was on the country charts a staggering forty-six weeks, remaining number one nearly half that time (twenty-one weeks). In 1948 Arnold’s singles were in the number-one position a total of forty weeks. This phenomenal success led country impresario Colonel Tom Parker (later the promotional genius behind Elvis Presley) to become Arnold’s manager.
New York and Rock and Roll. Arnold’s determination to succeed outside the world of country music brought mixed reactions from his fans. He had been one of the catalysts who made Nashville a major center of the recording industry, so when he went to New York in 1955 to record with the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra, many fans called it selling out.
However, the lush arrangements with full orchestra made songs such as “Cattle Call” and “That Do Make It Nice”-both number-one country hits-sell beyond the country market (though only “Cattle Call” charted on the pop side, reaching number forty-two). In addition, television widened Arnold’s appeal; he appeared on a number of shows, and in 1954 he hosted Eddy Arnold Time, a music variety show. Just as he was catching on in the mass market, however, rock and roll revolutionized popular music, cutting into the sales of all other types of music, Arnold’s included. As a result, Arnold’s manager, Parker, began paying more attention to Presley.
NewManagement. In the early 1960’s Arnold slowly began to regain his stature on the country charts-though never the top spot and never crossing over to the pop list, now known as the Top 40. In 1964 he changed management, signing with Jerry Purcell and working with producer Chet Atkins. Floyd Cramer, who five years earlier had taken a country instrumental, “Last Date,” to number two on the Top 40, supplied his “slip-note” piano style, and the Anita Kerr Singers sang background for what would become Arnold’s biggest hit: “Make the World Go Away.” It brought Arnold back to the top of the country charts, and it reached number six on the popular side. In fact, another song from the same session reached number one the same year: “What’s He Doing in My World?” For the next four years, all of Arnold’s country hits would also make the pop charts, though some barely made it into the Top 100. In 1966 Arnold was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, which persuaded the singer to publish his autobiography-though some of his biggest hits were still to come. Arnold continued to score country hits into the 1970’s and 1980’s, before retiring in 1999, the year his remake of “Cattle Call” with seventeen-year-old LeAnn Rimes hit number eighteen in the country market. In mid-May of 2008, a week after Arnold’s death, RCA released Arnold’s “To Life,” which two weeks later hit number forty-nine on the country charts.
Arnold’s influence on American popular music can be measured by his popularity. Only George Jones had more country hits than Arnold, although Arnold’s hits had more staying power. Another part of Arnold’s legacy is the number and quality of artists in and out of country music who recorded his music. His signature tune, “Make the World GoAway,” was recorded in 1971 by Presley, in 1975 by Donny and Marie Osmond (their version peaked at number forty-four), and in 2005 by Martina McBride. At the 2008 Country Music Awards show, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley sang a duet of the song as a tribute to Arnold. In 2003 Country Music Television chose the Forty Greatest Men of Country Music, ranking Arnold at number twenty-two. Although his crossover success was considered controversial, it was largely responsible for creating the string-sweetened Nashville sound that remans vital in country music.
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American country guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter