Richard Edward Arnold, 15 May 1918, on a farm near Madisonville, Chester County, Tennessee, USA, d. 8 May 2008, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Arnolds father and mother played fiddle and guitar, respectively, and he learned guitar as a child. His father died on Eddys 11th birthday and he left school to work on the farm. By the end of the year the bank foreclosed, and the farm was sold but the family stayed as sharecroppers. Deciding that such a thing would not happen to him again he turned his thoughts to music and began playing at local dances. In 1936, working with a fiddle-playing friend, Speedy McNatt, he made his debut on local radio WTJS Jackson and during the next few years played various cities including Memphis, Louisville and St. Louis.
Between 1940 and 1943 Arnold was a member of Pee Wee Kings Golden West Cowboys, appearing with them on the Grand Ole Opry and touring with theOprys travellingCamel Caravan Show. Late in 1943, as The Tennessee Plowboy, he launched his solo career, playing six days a week on WSM. Signed by RCA Records he made his country chart debut in 1945 with Each Minute Seems A Million Years and soon replaced Roy Acuff as country musics most popular and prolific singer. Between 1945 and 1955 he had 21 number 1 singles among his 68 US country chart hits. Sentimental ballads, incorporating the plaintive steel guitar work of Little Roy Wiggins, were the norm and many, such as the million-sellers Ill Hold You In My Heart (Till I Can Hold You In My Arms), Anytime, Bouquet Of Roses and Just A Little Lovin Will Go A Long Way, also became Top 30 US pop chart hits. Perhaps his best-remembered recording from this decade is Cattle Call.
During the late 40s Arnold varied his image: although still retaining the nickname, he became a country crooner, wearing a tuxedo and bow tie. Colonel Tom Parker became his manager and was so successful with his promotion that Arnold was soon a nationally known star. Some of Parkers publicity stunts were unique for their time, such as the occasion when he travelled to a disc jockey convention in Nashville astride an elephant, bearing a cloth saying Never Forget Eddy Arnold. Arnold began his soloGrand Ole Opry career as host of theRalston Purina segment in 1946 but in 1948, due to Parkers unacceptable demands on the WSM management for shares of gate receipts, he left, being replaced on the roster by another country crooner, George Morgan. In 1948, with the exception of Jimmy Wakelys recording of One Has My Heart, Arnolds recordings held the number 1 position in the country charts for the whole year. Arnold eventually tired of Parkers management and apparently sacked him; he has said it was because I am a very conservative man, but few believed that was the sole reason.
During the 50s, Arnold appeared on all major radio and television shows and became the first country singer to host his own network television show, Eddy Arnold Time. He also became one of the first country singers to play at Carnegie Hall and later appeared in concerts with major symphony orchestras. It is impossible to categorize his new style as either country or pure pop. Many of his early fans objected to it but the television and cabaret performances won him countless new fans from the wider audience and he easily maintained his popularity and chart successes. After 1954, his nickname no longer appeared on the records and he moved to MGM Records in 1972, but returned to RCA four years later. Between 1956 and 1983 he took his tally of US country chart hits to 145, and his number 1 singles to 28 (and 92 of the entries had made the Top 10!). Again, many recordings achieved crossover success, including Tennessee Stud, Whats He Doing In My World and his biggest US pop hit, Make The World Go Away, which reached number 6 in 1965 and the next year repeated the feat in the UK pop charts. Several of his albums also achieved Top 10 status in the US album charts.
Arnold appeared in several movies, including starring roles inFeudin Rhythm (1949) and Hoedown (1950), and he even received a mention in Jailhouse Rock. He was elected to the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1966 and by the 80s he had semi-retired to his home near Nashville. RCA have assessed that his record sales are in excess of 85 million. It is quite astonishing that Elvis Presley et al. are automatically regarded as the most successful chart acts. Arnolds chart success eclipses everybody and is unlikely ever to be beaten. He recorded his 100th album After All These Years in 2005 at the age of 87. Following the death of his wife Sally in March 2008, Arnold passed away barely two months later. He will be remembered as one of the quiet phenomenons of popular music.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.