(Compiled By Leo Beaulieu)
“ I love country music, every note and bar and tune. This is my music. It's wholesome, honest and simple, reflecting the America I know and love. My entire effort over the years has been to make it more acceptable to the nation that gave it birth." …quote Eddy Arnold.
In the long and glorious saga of country music, no other singer has
been more dedicated to that goal or more successful in achieving it than
the man who said those words, Eddy Arnold.
Thanks largely to him, country music has become accepted as the music of the entire country; its "wholesome, honest, and simple" qualities find response in every part of the United States.
To Eddy Arnold, music is music and should never be categorized or performed in such a way that its appeal is limited to only one section of America. In fact, he wrote in his autobiography, “ It's a Long Way from Chester County ”, that when he was growing up, he didn't know there was such a thing as country music. It was just music, the only kind I heard, the only kind I knew. It was happy music, sad music, foot-stomping music for a dossy-do and spirituals that could, I thought, stop the birds from flying south as they heard it drift across the valley."
Although he was born in rural Tennessee, Eddy's singing was never
marked by a nasal twang or any other backcountry characteristics. It has
always been warm, sincere, mellow and intimate, with a rare quality that
every listener feel as if each song were meant for his or her ears only.
If at times there's a touch of Gene Autry or a hint of Perry Como, that's perfectly understandable, both as a tribute to two of Eddy's all-time favorites and as further indication of his ability to transcend a purely regional style.
Since his first Victor release in 1944, Eddy Arnold has recorded
a staggering number of songs and has achieved an equally staggering number
of enduring hits. Until George Jones surpassed him in the 1990’s, Eddy
held the record for most country chart hits at 145. He still holds the
record for most Top Ten country hits (92) and most weeks at the No.1 spot
(28 chart-toppers for a total of 145 weeks). In addition, 32 of his country
hits also entered the pop charts, making him one of country's greatest
crossover artists ever. Obviously, such an achievement could not have come
about by catering exclusively to those who love only one kind of music
in only one part of the United States. In order to win new followers for
himself and for countless other country performers, Eddy had to broaden
his appeal to show that there was more to country music than twangy voices,
clanging guitars and scratchy fiddles.
But no matter whether he is singing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville or at grand old Carnegie Hall in New York City, Eddy Arnold has succeeded by being true to himself. And that honesty of approach can be heard in songs that run the gamut of music-including pop, gospel, cowboy and folk. But of all the songs that Eddy has sung and made his own, he still prefers the sentimental love songs that, despite their roots in country, are accepted as pop numbers. " There are many excellent romantic ballads within the country-music field," he has written, "and all I did was to convert them to middle-of-the-road."
Actually, there have been two Eddy Arnold careers. The first was between 1943 and 1955, the second from 1955 to the mid-'80s. In the first, Eddy was recognized as a country singer whose appeal went beyond the borders of the South; in the second, he was recognized as a pop-country singer who is definitely a part of the mainstream of American music. As one newspaper account put it, "Eddy Arnold has brought country music out of the hills and has given it a dressed-up, universal appeal." In common with so many country stars, Eddy Arnold was born on a farm. The date was May 15, 1918, and the locale was near Hendersonville, Tennessee. As a boy, he and his brothers worked the 240-acre farm by day and relaxed at night by singing and taking turns playing a mail-order guitar. The family was always poor, and after his father died when Eddy was only 11, conditions in the Arnold household became even more difficult. To repay debts, the farm was auctioned off-including most of the livestock and implements, and the family worked as sharecroppers on what had been their own land.
Eddy first began singing in public at school and at church socials. From there it was a logical and inevitable step to entertaining at square dances and barbecues. Certainly this was more fun than working on a farm. He had seen what that had done to his father and decided the only way he could escape a lifetime of drudgery was to capitalize on his musical talents.
In addition, what could be more satisfying than the sheer joy of giving pleasure to others?
At 17, Eddy made the important decision to leave home and try his luck as a singer. Teaming with a fiddler named Howard "Speedy" McNatt, he first performed over station WTJS in Jackson, Tennessee. He also picked up extra money driving an ambulance for an undertaker and playing club dates, sometimes only for tips. After breaking up with Speedy in 1940, Eddy joined Pee Wee King and The Golden West Cowboys, who were performing on a local station in Louisville, Kentucky. The group was soon signed by station WSM in Nashville. However, Eddy realized that to win any kind of recognition as a singer, he would have to do it on his own. With the help of the station manager, he got his own radio spot and was also hired as a regular on the Grand OIe Opry. Things seemed to be moving right along, especially when Eddy signed a record contract with RCA Victor. But this was during the musicians' strike in 1943, and for 15 months Eddy had to mark time until it was settled. His first two sides were "Mommy, Please Stay Home With Me" and "Mother's Prayer." Though the initial release caused little stir, within a year Eddy had zoomed to the top of his field with a string of hit records-"That's How Much I Love You," "Bouquet of Roses," "Anytime" and " l'll Hold You in My Heart."
The late '40s and early '50s were a fabulous period for Eddy. Almost everything he recorded landed high on the best-seller charts. He had his own coast-to-coast radio series, was in great demand at fairs and appeared at a swank Las Vegas night club and in two popular but forgettable movies, Feudin' Rhythm and Hoedown. He made guest appearances on television and was the star of one of the first syndicated shows, Eddy Arnold Time.
Then suddenly it seemed as if there was no time for Eddy Arnold. The advent of rock-and-roll brought a new sound to American music, one that tended to eclipse the kind Eddy had built his career on. Country music, even Arnold's kind of country, was losing its appeal. Although he was doing weIl financially, thanks to a variety of business interests, Eddy still had the itch to entertain; nothing in the world mattered as much as singing his songs the way he wanted to. It occurred to him that he must change something in his style. The basic Eddy Arnold with the easy grin and folksy manner would remain. But his arrangements would change so that they would be more palatable to people who had neither succumbed to the rock craze nor developed a liking for country music. He would, he decided, drop the country fiddles and electric guitars, and substitute lush strings, a full orchestra and a chorus. He had tried it on a few records in the past, but now he would attempt to use this style for all of his recordings. In addition, he made his personal appearance conform to the new sound by doffing the string tie and quasi-cowboy gear in favor of dark suits and evening dinner jackets. It was dressed-up country, all right, both aurally and visually. Soon Eddy was back on top again, more secure than ever before. The unaffected warmth was still there, and his legions of country fans were still with him, but the new image gave him wider acceptance. Perhaps 1966 was the year in which the "new" Eddy Arnold made his strongest impact. He headlined a concert at Carnegie Hall, and Time magazine referred to his "mellifluous baritone that poured out just as warm and creamy as milk fresh out of the barn cow."
He appeared on British television and made appearances throughout
England. And during most, of the year, he had three entries that were consistently
on Billboards' list of the 150 best-selling albums.
But Eddy's biggest thrill in 1966 came when he was the seventh performer elected to the Country
Music Hall of Fame. The citation read, in part: " After a humble beginning, he rose to great heights as a performer and as a recording artist, selling millions of records. He has been a powerful influence in setting music tastes. His singing, warm personality, and infectious laugh have endeared Eddy to friends and fans everywhere."
Today Eddy Arnold remains one of the few truly immortal names in country music.
To enter his world of music is to accept the hospitality of a genial,
tasteful, supremely endowed artist who can make any time, Eddy Arnold Time.