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 Presley, 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, he 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 his appeal.
With the advent of Rock and Roll, 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, a style that would come to be known as the Nashville Sound.
After Jerry Purcell became his manager in 1964, Arnold embarked on a "second career" that surpassed the success of the first one. In the process, he 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, Arnold's soaring rendition of "Make The World Go Away" became an international hit.
Bill Walker's precise, intricate arrangements provided the lush background for 16 straight Arnold hits that sparkled through the late 1960's. Arnold started performing with symphony orchestras in virtually every major city. New Yorkers jammed prestigious Carnegie Hall for two concerts. Arnold captivated the Hollywood crowd at the Coconut Grove. He 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.
Arnold also benefitted from his association 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 of Arnold's records, even after he started serving as producer. 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 his early hits, called Arnold a natural singer, comparing him to the likes of Bing Crosby and Caruso. Arnold worked hard perfecting his natural ability. A musical trip through the his catalog reveals his progression from young singer to polished performer.
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. He also serves as an inspiring role model; 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.
Arnold has been honored with induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame (in 1966), voted Entertainer Of The Year and received the Pioneer Award. Over his career, Eddy has sold over 85 million records and had 147 songs on the charts, including 28 number 1 hits on Billboard's "Country Singles" top. 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.