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Eddy Arnold moved hillbilly music to the city, creating a sleek sound that relied on his smooth voice and occasionally lush orchestrations. In the process, he became the most popular country performer of the 20th century, spending more weeks at the top of the charts than any other artist. Arnold not only had 28 number one singles, he had more charting singles than any other artist. More than any other country performer of the postwar era, he was responsible for bringing the music to the masses, to people who wouldn't normally listen to country music. Arnold was initially influenced by cowboy singers like Gene Autry, but as his career progressed, he shaped his phrasing in the style of Pete Cassell. Nevertheless, he was more of a crooner than a hillbilly singer, which is a large reason why he was embraced by the entertainment industry at large, and frequently crossed over to the pop charts. Arnold's career ran strong into the '90s. Although his records didn't dominate the charts like they did during the '40s and '50s, he continued to fill concert halls and reissues of his older recordings sold well.
Raised on a farm in Tennessee, Arnold was given a guitar at the age of ten by his mother. His father, who had played fiddle and bass, died the following year. Arnold left school so he could help out on the farm. However, he began playing dances whenever he had a chance. Several years later, he made his first radio appearance on a station in Jackson. Arnold then moved to St. Louis, where he played in nightclubs with fiddler Speedy McNatt. In St. Louis, Arnold landed a regular spot on WMPS Memphis, spending six years at the radio station. Through the show, the singer earned a dedicated following of fans.
During World War II, Eddy Arnold became part of R.J. Reynolds' Camel Caravan, which featured Redd Stewart, Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys, Minnie Pearl, and San Antonio Rose. The troupe performed for U.S. troops throughout America, as well some selected dates in Panama. After the Camel Caravan, Arnold became the featured singer in the Golden West Cowboys while they performed on the Grand Ole Opry. At first, he appeared under the name the Tennessee Plowboy, a nickname that followed him throughout his career.
Arnold recorded his first single, "Mommy Please Stay Home With Me," in 1944 for RCA Victor. At RCA, the singer received the guidance of the label's A&R head, Steve Sholes, which proved to be invaluable help for his career.
Eddy Arnold pursued a solo career in 1945, the same year he got married to Sally Gayhart. "Each Minute Seems a Million Years," released on RCA's Bluebird division that same year, became his first charting record, peaking in the Top Five. Arnold's career really took off the following year, when "That's How Much I Love You" peaked in the Top Three, staying there for 16 weeks and selling over 650,000 copies; its flip side, "Chained to a Memory," also climbed into the Top Three. Arnold followed the single's success with two number one hits in 1947, "What Is Life Without Love" and "It's a Sin." However, that didn't compare to the success of his next record, "I'll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms)." The single spent 46 weeks on the charts, with 21 of those weeks spent at the top; it also crossed over to the pop charts, reaching the Top 30. In the process, it became the number one single of the decade.
"I'll Hold You in My Heart" confirmed that Arnold had become a country superstar, as did the performance of his 1948 singles. All of his nine singles went into the Top Five, and five of them went to number one, including "Anytime," "What a Fool I Was," "Texarkana Baby," "Just a Little Lovin' (Will Go a Long, Long Way)," "My Daddy Is Only a Picture," and "Bouquet of Roses," which stayed at the top for 19 weeks. In total, Arnold racked up over 40 weeks on top of the charts during 1948, becoming the number one country star in America. He headlined all the radio shows and concerts he appeared on, and he was in demand throughout the nation. By the end of the year, Colonel Tom Parker had become his manager; Parker would later become Elvis Presley's manager. Throughout 1949, he continued to dominate the charts, releasing a succession of Top Ten singles, including the number one "Don't Rob Another Man's Castle," "One Kiss Too Many," "I'm Throwing Rice (At the Girl I Love)," and "Take Me in Your Arms and Hold Me."
Eddy Arnold became a familiar face not only to country fans but also to the general public in the early '50s. He toured all of the U.S., as well as several foreign countries. All of the major television shows of the era, including The Perry Como Show and Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, featured the singer. Indeed, he became so popular that he was the first country star to have his own television show, Eddy Arnold Time. The show originally aired on NBC, but it later moved to ABC. Through all of this, his string of Top Ten hits remained unbroken, even though he didn't have another crossover pop hit until 1954. Nevertheless, the sheer amount of country hits was overwhelming: In 1950 he had seven, and 13 in 1951 (including the number ones "There's Been a Change in Me," "Kentucky Waltz," "I Wanna Play House With You," "Easy on the Eyes," and "A Full Time Job"). The hits, including "Eddy's Song" (composed of the titles of previous hits), "How's the World Treating You?," "I Really Don't Want to Know," "My Everything," "The Cattle Call," "That Do Make It Nice," "Just Call Me Lonesome," and "The Richest Man (In the World)," continued to come in force until 1956.
Between 1956 and 1964, Arnold continued to chart, but he wasn't reaching the Top Ten at the same frequency of the previous decade. During this time, his style was beginning to change, as he was shedding his rootsy style for a slicker, polished sound that was more appropriate for urban settings than rural territories. Arnold became a crooner, complete with subdued instrumental backings, highlighted by gentle steel guitars and the occasional orchestra. The change in musical direction was a major commercial success, sparking a new era of chart dominance that began in 1965 with "What's He Doing in My World." Not only did he return to the top of the country charts, he once again crossed over to the pop charts. Arnold's second streak of major hits ran until 1969. During this time, he earned several number one and Top Ten singles, all of which were pop hits as well, including "Make the World Go Away," "I Want to Go With You," "The Last Word in Lonesome," "Somebody Like Me," "Lonely Again," "Turn the World Around," "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye," "They Don't Make Love Like They Used To," and "Please Don't Go."
In the early '70s, Arnold continued to appear on the country charts, although his pop hits dried up. The singer signed with MGM in 1972, ending 27 straight years at RCA. Arnold spent only four years at MGM, landing only one major hit, 1974's "I Wish That I Had Loved You Better." Returning to RCA in 1976, he closed out the decade with two hits -- "Cowboy" (1976) and "If Everyone Had Someone Like You" (1978). Arnold managed to put two songs into the Top Ten in 1980 ("Let's Get It While the Gettin's Good," "That's What I Get for Loving You"), making him one of the few artists who charted in five different decades. He continued to record in the '90s, although without charting a hit single. Nevertheless, his concert and television appearances remained popular.
Beginning in the '60s, Eddy Arnold was bestowed with a numerous amount of awards. In 1966, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. The following year, he was the first Entertainer of the Year named by the CMA. The ACM gave him the Pioneer Award in 1984; three years later, the Songwriters Guild gave him its President's Award. Perhaps the truest gauge of his success is his record sales. Over the course of his career, he has sold over 85 million records, making him one of the most successful artists of the 20th century. His 100th album, After All These Years, was released in 2005 by RCA Records.
Arnold was born on May 15, 1918 on a farm near Henderson, Tennessee. His father, a sharecropper, played the fiddle, while his mother played guitar. As a boy Arnold helped on the farm, which later gained him his nickname—the Tennessee Plowboy. Arnold attended Pinson High School in Pinson, Tennessee, where he played guitar for school functions and events. He quit before graduation to help with the farm work, but continued performing, often arriving on a mule with his guitar hung on his back. Arnold also worked part-time as an assistant at a mortuary.
In 1934, at age 16, Arnold debuted musically on WTJS-AM in Jackson, Tennessee and obtained a job there during 1937. He performed at local nightclubs and was a permanent performer for the station. During 1938, he was hired by WMPS-AM in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was one of its most popular performers. He soon quit for KWK-AM in St. Louis, Missouri, followed by a brief stint at WHAS-AM in Louisville, Kentucky.
He performed for WSM-AM on the Grand Ole Opry during 1943 as a solo artist. In 1944, Arnold signed a contract with RCA Victor, with manager Colonel Tom Parker, who later managed Elvis Presley. Arnold's first single was little noticed, but the next, "Each Minute Seems a Million Years", scored No. 5 on the country charts during 1945. Its success began a decade of unprecedented chart performance; Arnold's next 57 singles all scored the Top Ten, including 19 number one scoring successes.
In 1946, Arnold scored his first major success with "That's How Much I Love You". In 1948, he had five successful songs on the charts simultaneously. That year he had nine songs score the top 10; five of these scored No. 1 and scored No. 1 for 40 of the year's 52 weeks. With Parker's management, Arnold continued to dominate, with 13 of the 20 best-scoring country music songs of 1947–1948. He became the host of Mutual Radio's Purina-sponsored segment of the Opry and of Mutual’s Checkerboard Jamboree, a midday program shared with Ernest Tubb that was broadcast from a Nashville theater. Recorded radio programs increased Arnold’s popularity, as did the CBS Radio series Hometown Reunion with the Duke of Paducah. Arnold quit the Opry during 1948, and his Hometown Reunion briefly broadcast in competition with the Opry on Saturday nights. In 1949 and 1950, he performed in the Columbia movies Feudin’ Rhythm and Hoedown.
Arnold began working for television in the early 1950s, hosting The Eddy Arnold Show. The summer program was broadcast successively by all three television networks, replacing the Perry Como and Dinah Shore programs. He also performed as a guest and a guest host on the ABC-TV show Ozark Jubilee from 1955–60. Arnold featured in the syndicated Eddy Arnold Time from 1955 to 1957. From 1960 to 1961, he hosted NBC-TV's Today on the Farm.
In 1955 he asked songwriter Cindy Walker to write a song for him based on the idea of unrequited love, with the title "You Don't Know Me". They share co-credit for writing the song.Stambler, Irwin; Grelun Landon; Lyndon Stambler (2000). Country Music: An Encyclopedia. Macmillan Publishers. pp. 17–19. ISBN 978-0-312-26487-1. Retrieved July 15, 2009. Streissguth, Michael (1997). Eddy Arnold: Pioneer of the Nashville Sound. New York: Schirmer Books. ISBN 0-02-864719-X. "What's Your Question?". Ask.com. Retrieved 2012-05-01. "Heartaches By the Number", Cantwell, David & Friskics-Warren, Bill, 2003, Vanderbilt University Press, pg. 146 Pugh, Ronnie (1998). Ernest Tubb: The Texas Troubadour. Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-2190-3. |accessdate= requires |url= (help) Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (1992). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-37792-3. Weekly program listings (1955–1960), Triangle Publications TV Guide, Vols. 3-8 McNeil, Alex (1996). Total Television. Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-024916-8.
Later years and death
During the 1980s, Arnold declared himself semi-retired; however, he continued recording. In 1984, the Academy of Country Music awarded Arnold its Pioneer Award. His next album, You Don't Miss A Thing wasn't released until 1991. Arnold performed road tours for several more years. By 1992, he had sold nearly 85 million records, and had a total of 145 weeks of No. 1 songs, more than any other singer.
In 1996, RCA issued an album of Arnold's main successes since 1944 as part of its 'Essential' series. Arnold, then 76 years old, retired from active singing, though he still performed occasionally. On May 16, 1999, the day after his 81st birthday, he announced his final retirement during a concert at the Hotel Orleans in Las Vegas. That same year, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences inducted the recording of "Make The World Go Away" into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2000, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts. In 2005, Arnold received a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy, and later that year, released a final album for RCA entitled After All These Years.
Arnold died from natural causes at 5:00 a.m. Central Time on May 8, 2008 in a nursing home in Nashville, exactly one week before his 90th birthday. His wife of 66 years, Sally Gayhart Arnold, had preceded him in death by two months. They were survived by two children (Richard E. Arnold, Jr., and JoAnn Arnold Pollard), two grandchildren (K. Michelle Pollard and R. Shannon Pollard, Jr.), and four great-grandchildren (Katie E. Pollard, Sophie Pollard, Rowan Pollard and Ben Johns).
On May 31, 2008, RCA released "To Life", as a single from the album After All These Years. It debuted at No. 49 on the Hot Country Songs charts, Arnold's first entry in 25 years and the recording by the oldest person to chart in Billboard magazine. It set the record for the longest span between a first chart single and a last: 62 years and 11 months ("Each Minute Seems Like a Million Years" debuted on June 30, 1945), and extended Arnold's career chart history to seven decades.Cite error: The named reference cmenc was invoked but never defined (see the help page). "Eddy Arnold resumes his singing career". Saint Petersburg Times. February 7, 1991. Retrieved July 15, 2009. Cite error: The named reference encm was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Paskevich, Michael (May 14, 1999). "Calling It Quits". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Lifetime Honors - National Medal of Arts Press, Associated (January 5, 2005). "Jerry Lee Lewis wins Achievement Award". USA Today. Retrieved July 15, 2009. Gormly, Kellie B. (October 2, 2005). "Arnold offers gem for traditionalists with 100th album". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Retrieved July 15, 2009. Pugh, Ronnie (May 8, 2008). "Country Music Hall of Fame Member Eddy Arnold Dies at Age 89". Country Music Television. Retrieved July 15, 2009. "Eddy Arnold's "To Life" Stretches Chart Success Into Seventh Decade". Country Music Television. May 19, 2008. Retrieved July 15, 2009.