Ruth McDonnell

Ruth McDonnell

“Welcome to My World” --  With these words that wonderful singer, Eddy Arnold – in his soft baritone voice, would welcome his fans to his performances.  At least that was always his opening song by the time I started attending his shows.  And what a world (and show) it always was!  

But I had been listening to that voice, and loving it, for many years before I was ever privileged to actually attend an Eddy Arnold performance.  As a child, growing up in the 40’s and 50’s, my parents had one of those big old console radios (in the days before television sets), and our family would gather around that old radio and listen to so many of the old radio shows:  I remember some of them:  “Jack Armstrong, All American Boy”, “Red Ryder”, “The Lone Ranger”, “Little Orphan Annie”, “The Great Gildersleeve”, “Gangbusters”, Gene Autrey’s “Melody Ranch”, and, of course, the music.  No – I mean the real music.  We listened to songs that were sung, not shouted – and people could actually understand the words, and oh, those melodies.  Our family usually listened to what was called “popular” (or “pop”) music then.  But my mother had a twin brother – Uncle Rudy – who was a fan of country & western music.  Well, Uncle Rudy eventually gave our family a big old wind-up phonograph (which was also a console) and a collection of some of his old 78 rpm records.  (These records were the old wax-coated kind that preceded vinyl records.)  In this collection there were quite a few Eddy Arnold records.  Now our family hadn’t heard Eddy Arnold very much because there just were not a lot of country & western radio stations in Northern California where we lived, and, as I said, we usually listened to “pop” music on the radio.  Well, of course, once we received the phonograph, we played the records that came with it – And from then on our family became HUGE Eddy Arnold fans.  My mother thought his singing was just wonderful, and played those records so much that the wax actually wore off many of them, and on some the needle had played the record so many times, it actually wore through to the other side.  (I think my Dad was even a little jealous.)  But Mother wasn’t the only one who loved Eddy’s singing.  As my brothers and I grew up, we also really enjoyed him, and among Mom’s birthday and/or Christmas gifts there was almost always at least one Eddy Arnold record or album.  We would give them to her as gifts, but as often as not, it would be one or more of us who would end up playing the records – at least as much as she did.  Of course, as we grew older, we acquired more records and more elaborate phonographs/hi-fi’s/stereos, etc.  And we also acquired more and more of Eddy’s records “for Mother”.  What memories I have of how she, and all of us, just loved that voice.

But it was not only Eddy’s voice that was so beautiful, it was also the songs he selected to sing.  There was meaning and feeling in those songs, and often there was humor too.  There were lovely ballads, great rhythm – He was always on pitch and in tune – and, of course, there was that YODEL!  Eddy’s songs could restore hope, remember love and/or loss, reinforce family values – all that and entertain you too.

Unfortunately my father passed away when my brothers and I were still pretty young, and my Mother had her hands full with a couple of us still in school.  All three of my brothers enlisted in the armed forces around the same time (If they hadn’t enlisted, they’d have been drafted, and they wanted to choose which service they went into.) while I was still in high school.  I’m sure that during this time Eddy appeared in the San Francisco Bay Area, but at that time, we just couldn’t afford to attend any shows.  So, it wasn’t until 1972 that Mother and I were able to drive up to Lake Tahoe and see Eddy perform on stage for the first time.  I can’t tell you how excited my Mom was about seeing the show. 

When we arrived at Lake Tahoe, I got Mom settled into our hotel, and then I went over to pick up our show tickets.  As I approached the counter to pick up the tickets, I noticed that there was a display being set up of Eddy’s autobiography, “It’s a Long Way From Chester County”, and I paused to pick up one.  ( I should have mentioned that I worked for our municipal government for many years, but I also teach literature classes at the college level, so I always am interested in browsing through books whenever I see them.)  Anyway, as I was paying for one of the books, the lady who was setting up the display asked me if we were attending the show.  I told her we had tickets for the dinner show, and she asked me if I would like to have Mr. Arnold autograph the book after the show

Now I was an officer of the government department for which I worked.  I was a manager.  I was a college instructor for goodness sakes.  Well, I was also almost totally speechless!  I have no recollection of any words that came out of my mouth, but I must have somehow said “yes”, because this very nice lady told me that after the show someone would escort us to Mr. Arnold’s dressing room and he would autograph the book for us.  I raced back to where my Mother was staying, handed her the book, and told her what had happened.  Needless to say, she was thrilled!

Of course we attended the show, and, sure enough, after it was over, we were escorted to Eddy’s dressing room.  He came right out, introduced himself, sat down with us, signed the book (which I still have), and spent quite a bit of time just talking with us.  He was just so kind and thoughtful.  I don’t think I said all that much (probably just stood there), but my Mother went off like a house afire.  She talked about how much pleasure his singing had brought our family, how great the show was, etc., etc..  When we eventually left, she was on cloud 9.  We drove home the next day (about 200 miles), and the whole way home she kept going on about how wonderful he’d been to us…”…just like another son…”

It wasn’t until we were home again that we learned that Eddy’s own son had been seriously injured just the previous year, and was still undergoing some of his many surgeries, and recuperating.  It was one more reason for us to appreciate his kindness to us.  He must have had a million other things on his mind, but took the time to be such a gentleman.

In March 2008, when I heard that Eddy had fallen and broken his hip, of course I was very worried, and concerned not only for him, but also for his wife, Sally, whom I was aware was not well.  Then almost immediately after Eddy’s fall came the news of Sally’s death.  Even though you know someone is ill, it is always a shock when they pass away.   Then just two months later we also lost Eddy, and, as I watched his service at the Ryman Auditorium on a webcast from Channel 4 in Nashville,  at least seeing the Jordaniers, Dr. Cusic, Shannon Pollard and some of the others gave me a feeling of  sharing in their grieving.  It’s so sad for us, but I’m sure Eddy and Sally are together again, just as they belong.

I truly don’t know how many Eddy Arnold records I have now – but lots of them.  I also have Michael Streissguth’s, Don Cusic’s, and Mike Freda’s books, plus other articles and books, and have enjoyed all of them

 What I enjoy the most though (aside from the records) is this web site.  Bill, you and your family have done such a beautiful job.  I used to check the site every day, but didn’t feel I knew enough about computers to sign the guest book.  I guess I thought it was more complicated than it turned out to be.  But since you have updated the site, it is so beautiful, and so well done, that I felt I just had to make an entry to thank you for all your work.  Even though I know you feel the site is a “labor of love”, I know it also takes lots of your time and effort.  So, as Eddy used to close his shows with the song “I’ve Got So Much To Be Thankful For”, I want you to know that not only has Eddy given all his fans “So Much To Be Thankful For”, but so have you, Bill.  And God bless you, Glenda, your family, Eddy’s family, and all who have helped you with this web site.


                                                Ruth McDonnell

Ruth:Thanks for sharing these comments concerning Eddy and your family with fans worldwide.  Bill Comer

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