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Eddy Arnold

Eddy Arnold: Pioneer of the Nashville Sound

Michael Streissguth
Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 302
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  • Book Info
    Eddy Arnold
    Book Description:

    "Fans of Arnold's mellow music will appreciate the intensely detailed record of his private life and public career. Others may find the vivid picture of country music's early decades (the many small-town radio stations and deejays that supported the music, the backroads tours, the struggling record labels) quite intriguing." --Kirkus Reviews

    Illustrated with fifty-four photographs and featuring a comprehensive discography and sessionography, this book traces Eddy Arnold's origins from a cotton farm in western Tennessee to his legendary status in the world of country music. Michael Streissguth covers Arnold's success as a top-selling artist in the 1940s and 1950s and his temporary wane as listeners gravitated toward the rock & roll sound, embodied by newcomer Elvis Presley. Arnold (1918-2008) kept recording, however, and working on his craft. By the mid-60s, he reemerged as a pop crooner with his hit song "Make the World Go Away." His blend of country sentiments and pop stylings created the template for Nashville's modern country music sound. Throughout his career he was a major concert attraction and a radio and television star. Few other figures can claim to have had as great an influence on contemporary country and popular arranging.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-342-6
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Michael Streissguth
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)

    Eddy Arnold stepped off a passenger airliner in New York City during the summer of 1964. The metropolis was old territory to Arnold. The singer who had dwarfed any country performer to ever bend a note could remember passing through the city on a World War II tour of military bases; he had recorded there as far back as the mid-1940s, working with legendary producer Steve Sholes. As recently as ten years before, Arnold had tapped into the best New York City had to offer—top-notch management, the best musicians, popular television shows—hoping that it would mold his country...

  6. 1
    (pp. 3-8)

    Tennessee’s hills lose their blue, bulbous splendor as they roll west from the midstate Cumberland Plateau to the Mississippi River. Their decline marks the final chapter in the east-to-west descent of the terrain that tumbles from sharp, rugged ridges near North Carolina across the Tennessee River Valley and Appalachians to the lowlands of West Tennessee. After a strenuous journey through the state’s eastern and middle highlands, a traveler finds haven in the gentler land of the west.

    Prehistoric peoples, known in retrospect as the Early Mississippian Indians, found West Tennessee inviting, settling there around 1000 A.D. and raising corn, beans,...

  7. 2
    (pp. 9-26)

    When Ed Arnold unleashed his first chorus on May 15, 1918, America’s first war with Germany was little more than a year old. Newspapers on that Wednesday in May traced the inch-by-inch advances against the Germans in Hailles, France, where French troops pushed the enemy back toward their homeland in a nighttime shower of bombardments. The press also hailed the tenuous inauguration of airplane mail delivery. Letters on that first day of air mail moved unfettered between New York and Washington, D.C., but a Washington-to-Philadelphia plane made a forced landing in Maryland just minutes after President and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson...

  8. 3
    (pp. 27-39)

    The future, Ed decided, dwelt up U.S. Route 45 in Jackson, Tennessee. Georgia, John, and W. D. could keep the farm going, and he would send money home. So, like his sister Patty before him, Ed—guitar in hand—blazed a path away from the farm. He told friends around the area that he could make a living with his voice. Many encouraged him, but some in the community scoffed, branding him crazy for wanting to sing and do as well as Gene Autry. “So many rural people have problems seeing past their nose,” countered Arnold. “They don’t know what’s...

  9. 4
    (pp. 40-62)

    Frank Julius Anthony Kuczynski died in the early 1930s, and Pee Wee King rose from his remains. As Frankie King, a name he took in tribute to his favorite bandleader, Wayne King, Kuczynski led the King’s Jesters, a Wisconsin-based band that toured the Dairy State dishing out polkas and western music. Kuczynski’s fortunes rose when a car carrying Gene Autry’s Range Riders crashed in Wisconsin, injuring some of the band members. Autry, who had yet to gallop to Hollywood fame, needed more men fast and called Kuczynski when, sitting in a gas station, he heard the Jesters on the radio....

  10. 5
    (pp. 63-84)

    “Hillbilly music,” the term music journalists tended to use at the time to describe country-flavored music of all styles, exploded commercially in the early 1940s. “Thar’s gold in them thar hillbilly and other American folk tunes,”Billboardmagazine declared in 1942. Sales of country sheet music and records reached an all-time high in 1943, and, in response,Billboarddebuted a chart to track the popularity of hillbilly records on jukeboxes. The entertainment trade magazine even put Roy Acuff on its cover one week, an honor typically reserved for big band leaders and vocalists. Radio stations in the Northeast joined the...

  11. 6
    (pp. 85-102)

    Eddy probably could do little but laugh as “Divorce Me C.O.D.” pummeled “That’s How Much I Love You” on the charts and, if he did laugh, he laughed heartily because Eddy Arnold never titters. Even the word “laughter” inadequately describes Eddy’s eruption when he finds humor in life; “guffawing” seems more appropriate. Jokes and one-liners fly freely over the tedium of a musician’s life, and Eddy welcomes the diversions with unrestricted expulsions. Humor has lightened his long, tiring drives and the “hurry-up-and-wait” regimen of recording and live performances.

    On a Chicago session subsequent to the “That’s How Much I Love...

  12. 7
    (pp. 103-117)

    During 1948, only six songs reached number one onBillboard’scountry chart; incredibly, five of those songs belonged to Eddy Arnold. For eleven weeks in ’48, Jimmy Wakely’s “One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)” claimed the top spot, but every other week belonged to an Eddy Arnold song. Wakely, who also had a Hollywood career and sang popappeal duets with Margaret Whiting, seemed to be Eddy’s only serious competition for country preeminence in 1948. “Jimmy sang good, very good,” said Eddy. “I’d see him, and he’d say, ‘You son of a gun.’ He was talking about the...

  13. 8
    (pp. 118-130)

    Over the years—between traveling, recording, Hollywood, and radio—Eddy has squeezed in time for a favorite hobby, reading the history of remarkable Americans like Andrew Jackson, Sam Houston, and Abraham Lincoln. A story from his casual studies that Eddy has often told has a simple, honest man from Springfield, Illinois, visiting Lincoln, who recently assumed the presidency. Unannounced, the man met the White House receptionist, and Lincoln, starved for news from his hometown, asked that the visitor be immediately ushered in. “Stay for dinner!” the President told his guest, and, after dinner that night, Lincoln asked the man why...

  14. 9
    (pp. 131-149)

    In the light of his forays into the pop charts, Hollywood, and network broadcasting, Eddy yearned to shed the “country” label. With record sales totaling some 18 million by 1952, he had the luxury to make a few choices about his direction. Eddy already had amassed an audience of rural and urban admirers—the Philadelphians of Pennsylvania were just as familiar with “Bouquet of Roses” as the Philadelphians of Mississippi.

    The trick for Eddy was using the widespread recognition to elude classification. The national press used terms like “corn” and “hillbilly” to refer to country music, which caused Eddy to...

  15. 10
    (pp. 150-166)

    Two hundred miles from Nashville, as Eddy looked forward to establishing himself as a pop star, a young Memphian in Sam Phillips’s Memphis Recording Service studio was on his way to becoming the major purveyor of the raucous rock and roll sound. To Eddy Arnold and other brand-name artists, both pop and country, Elvis Presley seemed to pose only a minor threat. In 1955, his country- and rhythm and blues–influenced rockabilly had mingled on the country charts with Eddy, Ernest Tubb, and Webb Pierce, and his “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” filled the number one spot for a...

  16. 11
    (pp. 167-182)

    Eddy’s musical endeavors had not ground down completely. Since Steve transferred Eddy’s sessions to Nashville, Chet Atkins had helped Eddy launch a few country hits. Eddy’s pop hopes dashed, there was little to do but return to his core audience; Atkins helped Eddy through the transition.

    Whenever he was asked, Steve Sholes would say one of his proudest accomplishments for RCA was hiring producer/guitarist Chet Atkins. Chet, in the midst of a radio stint in Springfield, Missouri (where he performed on the program “Korn’s-A-Krackin”), sent Steve an audition acetate in 1947. Springfield was just the latest stop for Chet in...

  17. 12
    (pp. 183-196)

    Jerry Purcell, in addition to booking the Roger Miller tour, took a hard look at Eddy’s recording prospects. “Eddy was very cold,” remembered Purcell. “Eddy was somebody you never could ignore or be impolite to, but he wasn’t in a position of power [at RCA].... He was being treated as a has-been, and that upset me very much. I didn’t feel that we were getting full cooperation.”

    Specifically, Purcell claimed that Chet Atkins and RCA Nashville failed to find the best songs for Eddy and, in general, refused to pay the singer the proper degree of attention. Not a matter...

  18. 13
    (pp. 197-212)

    The day after his monumental Carnegie Hall performance, Eddy performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, another prestigious New York venue. In July, he returned to the road for an extensive summer tour of midsize American towns: Minot, North Dakota; Casper, Wyoming; Oshkosh, Wisconsin; Wellington, Ohio; Reading, Pennsylvania; Asbury, New Jersey, among others. As Eddy wound his way through America in the summer of 1966, he could turn on the radio to hear another of his pop-country hits, “The Tip of My Fingers” (written by Bill Anderson), and switch on the television to see guest spots he had filmed earlier....

  19. 14
    (pp. 213-231)

    Country music had finally achieved the respectability and economic viability first suggested when the art form exploded commercially in the 1940s. Country songs frequently found favor among the pop audience, and stars like Hank Snow and Johnny Cash seemed equally at home abroad as in front of American audiences. Increasing favor across all audiences—international and domestic, country and pop—bolstered country music’s stature in the 1960s, as did Nashville’s status in the industry as a recording center on par with New York and Los Angeles. A remarkable growth of full-time country music radio stations also signaled the regard and...

  20. 15
    (pp. 232-246)

    As Eddy’s career cooled, he and his family enjoyed a comfortable material life derived from his mountain-high success in the recording industry and vast dividends from profitable business investments (there were unprofitable investments, too—like a failed fried-chicken shop). A self-made man if ever one existed, Eddy had pursued musical and business opportunities throughout his years, parlaying those winnings into financial reward and an enviable reputation in the music business.

    Eddy maintained a rigorous work schedule, but more frequently found time to enjoy what the world had given him, especially his forty-two-foot cabin cruiser, the “Sally K,” which he stored...

  21. SESSIONOGRAPHY Discography of Eddy Arnold Recordings, 1944–1996
    (pp. 247-310)

    The sheer breadth of Eddy Arnold’s recording career makes it one of history’s most remarkable. For more than fifty years, Americans and people around the world have found fresh Eddy Arnold material in their record stores, and in 1997 he plans to release new material on Curb Records. His songs have sold steadily over years of changing musical tastes, styles, and formats, from 78-rpm records to compact discs. Eddy adapted to the times and his own desires in order to preserve a beachhead in the industry, and certain efforts proved more successful than others.

    To follow Eddy’s career on record...

    (pp. 311-320)
  23. INDEX
    (pp. 321-329)