Eddy Arnold passed away last week just shy of his 90th birthday. His passing went largely un-noticed by today’s music buying community.
Eddy Arnold is ranked as the most successful country artist of all time. He had 148 charted country hits, 92 top ten hits and 28 number one songs. In 1948 his songs were number one 48 out of 52 weeks. His 1947 release, “I’ll Hold You In My Heart (‘Til I Can Hold You In My Arms)” was number one for 21 weeks and the number one country song of that decade.
Eddy Arnold’s greatest contribution to country music was bringing his pop sounding baritone to county songs. This combination enabled country music to escape its niche of being just hillbilly music, and move it toward the mainstream.
Jimmie Rodgers may have invented country music, but Eddy Arnold made it more palatable to a large segment of the American population. In the 1960’s Eddy Arnold would re-invent himself by adding strings to his country recordings. This would be called the Nashville Sound and would soften the music enough to gain millions more fans.
One of the more interesting aspects of Eddy Arnold’s career revolves around the 45 rpm record. In 1948, the Columbia label was developing the long playing album to replace the brittle 78’s that had been the dominant music form for decades. RCA Victor countered this move with the 45 rpm record.
They developed a record player and a mechanism whereby the 45’s would drop down on one another thus giving continuous play. RCA noted that they were cheaper and easier to store than the long playing albums. RCA in turn announced in 1949 that they would release the first fourteen 45 rpm records. This would include 7 new releases and 7 older popular standards. “Banquet Of Roses/Texarkana Baby” by Eddy Arnold carries the 0001 number on its label, and in many circles is recognized as the first 45rpm release.
Eddy Arnold would return to the studio in 2005 at the age of 87 and record his last album entitled After All This Time. While his vocal power was severely diminished, it was his 100th album release.
In addition to all of the above, Eddy Arnold managed to stay married to the same woman for 66 years.
Eddy Arnold’s popularity goes back before my time. My mother and even my grandparents listened to Eddy Arnold on the radio and bought some of his original 78 rpm releases. I have to admit that while a have a number of his records in my collection (which numbers about 50,000 vinyl LP’s and 45’s), I rarely if ever listen to them. I am a child of the 1960’s and my musical tastes did not extend his way.
Tonight, however, I have pulled out one of his early albums and will give it a spin. 1956’s Anytime contains both “I’ll Hold You In My Heart” and “Banquet Of Roses” which seems appropriate.
I’ll give one last tip of the hat to the old Tennessee Plowboy, the greatest country artist of all time.