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Eddy Arnold – Fan Favorite For 7 Decades

  • Monday, May 20, 2024
  • Earl Freudenberg
Eddy Arnold
Eddy Arnold
Traditional country music fans remember Eddy Arnold and his long string of hits. The Henderson, Tn., native died May 8, 2008, just a few days short of his 90th birthday on May 15th.

Arnold got the nickname “Tennessee Plowboy” after his father, a farmer, died when he was only 11 and Eddy went to work in the field.

Arnold learned the guitar from his mother and would play events while attending Pinson High School in Pinson, Tn. He started on the radio at the age of 16, and to earn some extra money, Arnold worked part time at a local funeral home.
His singing caught the eye of RCA Victor and he signed a contract with the recording company in 1944.

“Hello Chattanooga” by David Carroll documents at least nine Eddy Arnold concerts in and around the Scenic City during his musical career that spanned seven decades.

What could have been Arnold’s first performance in Chattanooga was Feb. 15, 1942 at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium. Arnold appeared with Roy Acuff and the Smokey Mountain Boys, Minnie Pearl and Pee Wee King.

According to Mr. Carroll’s book, another of Arnold’s early concerts was Oct. 31, 1944 at the Peerless Auditorium in Rossville, Ga.

The concert this writer remembers was Jan. 27, 1968, at the Memorial Auditorium. WDOD radio was one of the sponsors and management asked me to introduce the man known to have helped pioneer the Nashville Sound.

I don’t remember exactly what I said, except something like, “Put your hands together and give a big Chattanooga welcome to the Grand Ole Opry’s Eddy Arnold.”

I do remember Arnold asked the curtains be closed. He brought a stool to center stage and played his guitar sang hit after hit for about 30 minutes. The audience interrupted him several times with applause, and at the end they gave the singer a standing ovation.

Lloyd Payne, who did his radio broadcast from a wheelchair after contracting polio, interviewed Arnold several times on the “Hayride," a daily country music show in the mid 50s on WDXB in Chattanooga.

Mr. Payne said the two became good friends and Mr. Arnold even came by the studio in the Dome Building for an interview. Mr. Arnold sent flowers when Mr. Payne died unexpectedly in 1976.

In early 1965, Mr. Arnold recorded ‘What’s He Doing in My World?” co-written by Billy Joe Moore, the blind concession stand operator at the Hamilton County Courthouse. Floyd Cramer played the piano and it featured the Anita Kerr Singers harmony. The song was number one on the billboard chart for several weeks in the summer and was voted song of the year. It was one of the first songs I played when going to work for WDOD in June of 1965.

Mr. Moore would see me around the courthouse and always thank me for playing his song. He said, “It helped me buy my Cadillac.”

Mr. Moore was good friends with Hamilton County Executive Dalton Roberts, also a musician. Mr. Moore also wrote songs for Faron Young and Webb Pierce, but the Arnold tune was his biggest hit.

During my radio years Mr. Arnold’s songs were among the most requested.

Europeans also liked Eddy Arnold and my mail reflected it while hosting a country music program on the American Forces Network in Frankfurt, West Germany.

“Make the World Go Away,” was released in the fall of 1965 and went to number one; it became a cross-over hit.

Although WDEF radio wasn’t a country music station, Luther Masingill and Jolly Cholly Krause played a lot of the singer’s records.

Mr. Masingill said, “He was so smooth and a listener favorite.”

Mr. Arnold recorded most of his career with RCA, although he made several LP’s for MGM in the mid 70s.

Allmusic.com said Eddy Arnold was the most popular country performer of the 20th century. Not only did Mr. Arnold have 28 number one singles, he had more charting singles than any other country artists for several decades.

Many of Mr. Arnold’s songs were copied by others. “You Don’t Know Me” and “Just A Little Lovin” were included in Ray Charles' million selling project, “Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music.”

Mr. Arnold recorded “Anytime” in 1948 and it went to number one. The song was brought back by Eddie Fisher in 1951 and became a million seller for the pop singer. Mr. Arnold said his version had somewhat of a revival in the early 50s when DJ’s started playing his recording of the Happy Herbert Lawson song written in 1921.

When asked his most requested song(s), Mr. Arnold responded, “It depends on the age of the individual; my older fans liked "Cattle Call" and "Anytime," but the all-time favorite might be "Make the World Go Away." I enjoy singing them all.”

Mr. Arnold was married to Sally Gayhart Arnold for 66 years and she preceded the singer in death by two months. Mr. Arnold said often, “Sally was my number one fan.”

Mr. Arnold received a lot of recognition and awards during his lengthy career, but said he was most honored when inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966.
Billy Joe Moore
Billy Joe Moore
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