On The Fringe
Who is the best singer in the history of country music? According to stars like Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter and Marty Robbins, the answer is Eddy Arnold. Unquestionably, no other performer has been more responsible for taking country music from its rural roots to widespread acceptance than Eddy Arnold.
Richard Edward Arnold was born on May 15, 1918 in Henderson, Tennessee. During his childhood, he suffered through the death of his father and the loss of the family farm. When he turned 18, he left home to try to make his mark in the music world.
Eddy Arnold's formative musical years included early struggles to gain recognition until he landed a job as the lead male vocalist for the Pee Wee King band. By 1943 Arnold had become a solo star on the Grand Ole Opry.
The dream of a recording contract finally became a reality when Arnold was signed by RCA. In December of 1944, he cut his first record. Although all of his early records sold well, his initial big hit did not come until 1946 with "That's How Much I Love You."
Managed by Col. Tom Parker, who later went on to control the career of Elvis, Eddy Arnold began to dominate country music. In 1947-48 he had 13 of the top 20 songs. He successfully made the transition from radio to television, appearing frequently in the new medium.
In 1955 Eddy Arnold upset many in the country music establishment by going to New York to record with the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra. The pop oriented arrangements of "Cattle Call" and "The Richest Man (In the World)" helped to expand Eddy Arnold's appeal.
With the advent of Rock and Roll, Eddy Arnold's record sales dipped in the late 1950's. He continued to try to court a wider audience by using pop-sounding, string-laced arrangements.
After Jerry Purcell became his manager in 1964, Eddy Arnold embarked on a "second career" that surpassed the success of the first one. In the process Eddy Arnold realized his dream of carrying his music to a more diverse audience.
Having already been recorded by several other artists, "Make The World Go Away" was just another song until it received the Arnold touch. Under the direction of producer Chet Atkins, and showcased by Bill Walker's arrangement, and the talents of the Anita Kerr Singers and pianist Floyd Cramer, Eddy Arnold's soaring rendition of "Make The World Go Away" became an international hit.
Bill Walker's precise, intricate arrangements of the Nashville sound musicians provided the lush background for 16 straight Eddy Arnold hits that sparkled through the late 1960's. Eddy Arnold started performing with symphony orchestras in virtually every major city.
Eddy Arnold, the country boy, had finally achieved the recognition he craved from New York City to Los Angeles. New Yorkers jammed prestigious Carnegie Hall for two Eddy Arnold concerts. Arnold captivated the Hollywood crowd at the Coconut Grove. Eddy Arnold also had long sold-out engagements in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe.
There are many reasons for Eddy Arnold's incredible success. From the beginning he stood out from his contemporaries. He never wore gaudy, glittering outfits. He sang from his diaphragm, not through his nose. He avoided honky-tonk themes, preferring instead to sing songs that explored the intricacies of love.
Eddy Arnold would be the first one to tell you that he has been fortunate to be associated with some marvelous musicians. The distinctive steel guitar of the late Roy Wiggins highlighted early recordings. Charles Grean, once employed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, played bass and wrote early arrangements, adding violins for the first time in 1956. Chet Atkins played on many Eddy Arnold records, even after he started serving as producer.
Eddy Arnold also benefited from the management of Col. Parker, who guided his first career, and Jerry Purcell, who masterminded the second.
Of course, the most important factor for his success is his voice. Steve Sholes, who produced all of Eddy Arnold's early hits, called Eddy Arnold a natural singer, comparing him to the likes of Bing Crosby and Caruso. Eddy Arnold worked hard perfecting his natural ability. A musical trip through the Eddy Arnold catalog reveals his progression from young singer to polished performer.
Eddy Arnold's longevity is simply amazing. For more than 50 years, he has transcended changing musical mores. His recent concerts often attracted three generations of fans.
Eddy Arnold is not just a great singer. He is the consummate gentlemen. In a field often awash with alcohol and drugs, he has remained temperate. In an era where marriage vows are often taken lightly, Eddy and Sally Arnold are on the verge of 59 years together.
Although he has been honored with induction into the Country Music Hall Of Fame, voted Entertainer Of The Year and received the Pioneer Award, Eddy Arnold still has not been given all the recognition he deserves.
The man who has had 147 songs on the charts, including 28 number 1 hits, is a remarkably versatile singer. Among his recordings are songs for mothers and children, hymns, show tunes and novelty numbers. But, undoubtedly, Eddy Arnold is best known for his inimitable way with a love song.
Eddy Arnold never had to resort to gimmicks - no smashed guitars or psychedelic lights. Instead Eddy Arnold used what TV Guide called "his ace in the hole: an extraordinary voice" and incomparable charm to touch the hearts of millions.
Those of us who have been fortunate to follow Eddy Arnold's career know that the Ambassador of Country Music could tug at your heart with one song, then bring a smile with the next.
From Eddy Arnold's Official Website.
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