Perhaps one of the most influential artists that have innovated the country sound especially in the 1950s is the great Eddy Arnold. He personified and linked classic country music to the contemporary, modern world. Considered to be one of country music’s most prolific hit-makers, Arnold stormed the charts, positioned himself in the Top Ten from the 1940s through the 1960s until the late 1980s.
Unfortunately, we have lost him too soon. And, today is his 10th year death anniversary. We remember him with his influence in country music, his hits, his voice, overall, his music. Let us relive his life with this article about him.
His Humble Beginnings
Born on May 15, 1918, Richard Edward “Eddy” Arnold was a country music artist known for innovating the Nashville sound. He was a great singer who performed for almost sixty years. In addition, he scored 147 songs on the Billboard country music charts, next to only George Jones. He sold more than 85 million records worldwide. In 1943, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966. Arnold landed in no. 22 on Country Music Television‘s 2003 list of “The 40 Greatest Men of Country Music.”
Arnold came from a large family who lives off by farming in Chester County, Tennessee. He’s a Tennessean boy, hence, his later stage name, “Tennessee Plowboy.” As early as childhood, music played an important role in his life. His interest in music grew when one of his cousins lent him a Sears, Roebuck Silvertone guitar, which he learned to play with help from his mother and an itinerant musician. Moreover, he used to listen to records by Jimmie Rodgers, Gene Autry, and Bing Crosby. Also, he performed at a school near Jackson, Tennessee, and sometimes in church. Arnold later reflected:
“I discovered I could speak to people through songs in a way I never could by just talking.”
Entering the Limelight
Arnold’s career had its first limelight when he joined Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys as a featured singer in 1940. In 1943, his budding career as a singer continued to rise as he went broadcasting on WSM daytime shows and eventually the Opry. Later, Arnold caught the attention of RCA Records with the help of WSM station manager Harry Stone and Chicago publisher Fred Foster.
Interestingly, Arnold sold well on his early releases. He dominated the Billboard country charts of the decade with his hits like “That’s How Much I Love You” (1946), “I’ll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms) (1947), “Anytime” (1948), and “Bouquet of Roses” (1948). His hits were not just one-faced. Many of them crossed over to pop music.
He has been called “the Garth Brooks of his time” for creating the template still followed today by country singers who reach beyond a niche audience to capture a broad following, a move that angered many traditional country fans.
In 1949 and 1950, Arnold appeared in the Columbia films Feudin’ Rhythm and Hoedown, respectively. Soon his earnings from recordings and road shows—together with a lucrative song scouting arrangement with music publisher Hill and Range Songs—enabled him to diversify his investments and build a fine home in Brentwood, Tennessee. He was determined to never be poor again, and he succeeded.
His Later Years
At the age of 48, Eddy Arnold was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966. To note, he remains the youngest inductee ever to receive the honor. In the following year, he earned CMA’s most coveted award, the Entertainer of the Year Award. Later in 1984, he received the ACM’s Pioneer Award.
Earlier in 1970, RCA Records awarded him for reaching the 60 million mark in lifetime record sales, a number that reportedly topped 80 million by 1985. In 1993, RCA released the album Then and Now, marking Arnold’s 50th year with the label.
He then continued to tour through concerts in the 70’s and beyond. On May 16, 1999, he officially announced his retirement from the stage during a show at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas. However, he continued to record and released his 100th album, After All These Years, in 2005. In 1999, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences inducted Arnold’s recording of “Make the World Go Awa” into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, in 2005, the Recording Academy awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Having contributed so much to make that history, Arnold and his wife, Sally Gayhart Arnold, donated their vast collection of materials documenting his career to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 2003.
On May 8, 2008, Arnold died following the death of his wife, who died March 11, 2008.
Watch Eddy Arnold’s original rendition of “I’ll Hold You in My Heart” below:
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Death Anniversary, Eddy Arnold