Eddy Arnold, one of the greatest singers in both country and pop genres, was born May 15, 1918 in Chester County, Tennessee, about 20 miles south of Jackson. On his eleventh birthday, his father died; later that year the farm the family lived on was auctioned off and the family became sharecroppers on the farm they once owned. Arnold went to school through the ninth grade. He then landed a job with a funeral home while he sang on the local radio station. Soon, he moved to Memphis, and then on to St. Louis where he appeared on radio for several years before landing a job with Pee Wee King and the Golden West Cowboys.
During World War II Arnold appeared at countless Armed Forces bases, touring the United States with the Camel Caravan. After the tour, he embarked on a solo career with the Grand Ole Opry. Known as "The Tennessee Plowboy," he was signed to host the show, then sponsored by Purina on the NBC network. On D-Day, his brother was killed in France.
In December 1944, Arnold, already a star on the Grand Ole Opry, made his first recordings for Victor Records at the WSM Studios - the first recording session by a major label in Nashville. The next year he joined forces with Colonel Tom Parker, who was his manager for the next eight years. During that time Arnold had a string of No. 1 hits. In 1947-1948, he had the top song on the country charts for 60 consecutive weeks. Arnold outsold the entire pop division of RCA Victor in 1948, and his sales figures were a major factor in persuading RCA Victor, as well as other notable record companies, to eventually invest in building and operating recording facilities in Nashville.
Despite his roots as a sharecropper, Arnold never employed the traditional "nasal" twang associated with country artist of his time. His musical influences ran from Bing Crosby to Gene Autry. Arnold's smooth baritone lent itself more to crooning and helped him cross over into the pop genre and gain favor with non-country audiences. That smooth style has never been paralleled in country music.
During the 1950s Eddy Arnold became the first country artist to host a network prime time television show when he served as the summer replacement for The Perry Como Show. He also hosted a national network radio show, The Checkerboard Jamboree for CBS and starred in two movies for Columbia Pictures, Feudin' Rhythm and Hoedown.
In 1952 The Eddy Arnold Show aired as a summer replacement for Dinah Shore's variety show on CBS. His theme song was "Cattle Call," a song he recorded four different times. The 1955 version with the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra was a No.1 record. In 1955 Arnold recorded "You Don't Know Me," which he co-wrote with the legendary Cindy Walker. That song was made a standard by Ray Charles and has been covered by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. Most recently it was recorded by Michael Bublé and Willie Nelson.
Despite a career downturn in the late '50s and early '60s, Arnold reemerged as a leading figure in the famed "Nashville Sound" movement, which brought a more refined touch to country music and expanded its mainstream appeal. In 1965, he scored the biggest hit of his career with "Make The World Go Away," a record that is now in The Grammy Hall of Fame.
Eddy Arnold was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966, and in 1967 he became the first person to win the Entertainer of the Year honor from the Country Music Association. He has sold over 85 million records and is the only country artist to have charted records in seven different decades. In 2000, Arnold received the National Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton, and in 2005 he was honored with a "Lifetime Achievement Grammy."
Eddy Arnold died on May 8th, 2008, thus silencing an unmistakable voice that inspired generations of singers and millions of fans.
Even after his death, Arnold continued to be successful. He extended his career chart history to seven decades, making his first entry into the country chart in 25 years and debuting at No. 49 with "To Life," a song from his RCA album, After All These Years. He also became the oldest artist to chart in Billboard and set the record for the longest span between an artist's first chart single and the last - 62 years and 11 months ("Each Minute Seems Like a Million Years" debuted on June 30, 1945).