Thursday, May 8, 2008
– Eddy Arnold, whose long career in country included 27 number 1 hits in a recording career spanning 6 decades and membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame, died this morning at 89 in Tennessee.
Arnold, known as The Tennessee Plowboy, was part of the breed of country singers who saw the genre swing a bit from more rural and folk sounds to pop-influenced music.
Arnold was born in Henderson, Tenn. May 15, 1918 to a farming family. He was interested in music at an early age with a cousin lending him a Sears Roebuck Silvertone guitar. Growing up, he listened to Gene Autry, Bing Crosby and Jimmy Rodgers.
Arnold's father died when his son was 11, leading to the auctioning off of the family farm by creditors. During the Depression, the Arnolds were sharecroppers. Arnold sang at socials and barbecues for a dollar a night to help his family.
By the time Arnold was 17, h was working on radio and in beer halls in Jackson, Tenn. He also worked as an undertaker's driver. Arno0ld later moved to Memphis and St. Louis for radio work.
In 1950, he joined Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys as a featured singer. He played the Grand Ole Opry and also toured military bases in the U.S. and Central America.
He left King for a solo career in 1943. He was on key Nashville radio station during the day and later the Opry. Thanks to WSM station manager Harry Stone and Chicago publisher Fred Forster, RCA Records became aware of Arnold. He had his first recording session for RCA in December 1944, which included one of his signature songs, "Cattle Call."
Arnold was very successful from the get go - his first 57 songs reached the Billboard Top 10 between 1945 and 1954. His first charting song, "Each Minute Seems a Million Years," went to number 5 in 1945. His first number 1 was "What is Life Without Love" in 1947. He ruled the number 1 spot for 21 weeks in 1947 with "I'll Hold You in My Heart (Till I Can Hold You in My Arms)."
Many of Arnold's hits crossed over to the pop charts as well. He expanded his audience by hosting a segment of the Opry and the Checkerboard Jamboree with Ernest Tubb. Arnold left the Opry in 1948 over a salary dispute and then worked live for CBS Network series Hometown Reunion. He also appeared in two films, "Feudin' Rhythm" and "Hoedown" in 1949 and 1950.
Arnold had several television shows as well, hosting summer replacement series in 1952 and 1953 along with "Eddy Arnold Time" and "The Eddy Arnold Show."
A slump in country in the late 1950s led to slower sales for Arnold, and he considered retiring, but he struck with it and went for more of a pop sound. Arnold's career picked up again with such hits as "What's He Doing in My World" and "Make the World Go Away," both hitting number 1 in 1965.
In 1966, Arnold was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. The following year, he won the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year. While spending most of his career with RCA, he also spent a few years with MGM and Curb. He continued performing concerts and television appearances in the 1980s and 1990s. Arnold's last top 10 song was 1980's "Let Get It While the Getting's Good." His last album was "After All This Time," released in 2005 on RCA.