Born: May 15, 1918, Henderson, TN
Died: May 8, 2008, Nashville, TN (Natural Causes)
Spouse: Sally Gayhart Arnold (m. 1941–2008)
Richard Edward "Eddy" Arnold was born May 15 1918 in Chester County, TN in the family home on the Jackson-Jacks Creek (TN) Road, name later changed to the Needmore Road (the house was torn down after Eddie died). He was the youngest of 16 children from the family of Will C. and Georgia Wright Ingle Arnold that contained 1/2 siblings. Eddie went to County Line school, (near Madison Co line), a one room community school that had a curtain in the middle to divide it for 2 teachers. Eddy went here for grades 1 thru 8 and then he went to high school in Pinson TN for one year and at age 16 did not go back for his Sophomore year.
Music was Eddy's way out of poverty. He went to work to help buy farm equipment for the family. He quit working on the farm full time, secured a part time job with a funeral home and at age 16 started performing on radio station WTJS-AM in Jackson TN with Uncle Tom Williams on "The Hayloft Frolic", later to WMPS-AM in Memphis and then KWK-AM in St Louis. He started singing with fiddler Speedy McNatt and in 1939, they joined Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys on WSM and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. (Pee Wee King is known as an entertainer and the co-writer of "Tennessee Waltz") In 1940 Eddie was single, a lodger and a musician in the Nashville, Davidson County TN Census.
During his time with the Golden West Cowboys, the group performed for about a year on WHAS-AM, Louisville KY. During their time performing in Kentucky Eddy met Sally Gayhart and they began courting and were married on November 28, 1941 in Davidson Co, TN - Sallie was 21 and Eddie was 23 - Pewee King was Surety on the license. Shortly there after, he left with the Golden West Cowboys on a Camel Caravan tour,(sponsored by Camel cigarettes) performing on military bases all over the United States and in Latin America. That tour lasted from November, 1941 until December 1942. When the Pee Wee King group returned to Nashville, Eddy Arnold embarked on a solo career. Redd Stewart replaced Eddy Arnold as lead singer in Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys.
WSM General Manager Harry Stone hired him for a variety of musical jobs and made him a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1943. In December, 1944, Eddy Arnold made his first recordings for Victor Records at the WSM Studios - the first recording session by a major label in Nashville. On the Opry he was the Host for the Ralston Purina segment. In 1945 he joined forces with Colonel Tom Parker (later of Elvis Presley fame.). Colonel Parker was Eddie's manager for the next eight years.
During that time Eddy Arnold had a string of hit records. He recorded over 400 songs and some were, "I'll Hold You In My Heart (Till I Can Hold You In My Arms)", "Anytime", "Bouquet of Roses", "Texarkana Baby", "Just a Little Lovin' (Will Go a Long, Long Way)", "A Heart Full of Love (For a Handful of Kisses)", "Don't Rob Another Man's Castle", "I'm Throwing Rice (At the Girl That I Love)", "Take Me In Your Arms and Hold Me", "Kentucky Waltz", "I Wanna Play House With You", and "I Really Don't Want To Know", became number one hits.
Other hits included, "Gonna Find Me A Bluebird", "I'll Hold You in My Heart", "Anytime" and "What's He Doing In My World". During the period 1947-1948, Eddy Arnold had a number one song on the country charts for 60 straight weeks. In 1948 he sold more records than the entire pop division of RCA Victor - a feat that no other country artist has since done. 37 of his hits crossed over to the pop charts. During his early peak years, 1945 - 1954 he had 57 consecutive singles that made the charts. Also during this period Sally and Eddy Arnold started their family. In December 1945 their daughter, JoAnn was born and in January 1949 their son, Richard Edward Arnold, Jr was born.
He left the Grand Old Opry in 1948 so that he might reach a larger audience. (George Morgan replaced him on the Opry.) When he left Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys and formed his own band (The Tennessee Plowboys). 16 year old Little Roy Wiggins was the band member hired to play steel guitar. Little Roy Wiggins is heard on most of Eddy's early records. He dropped Little Roy from the band when he left the Opry.
During the 1950s Eddy Arnold became the first country artist to host a network prime time show when he became the summer replacement for "The Perry Como Show". He hosted a network radio show, "The Checkerboard Jamboree" for CBS and starred in two movies, "Feudin' Rhythm" and "Hoedown". In October 1950 HOEDOWN featuring Eddy Arnold, the Tennessee Plowboy was being shown in movie theaters.
He became a major concert draw during the late 1940's and in 1952 "The Eddy Arnold Show" was a summer replacement show for Dinah Shore on CBS. He was on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts. He hosted the TV show, "the Kraft Music Hall and filled in for Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.
His theme song and most poplar was "Cattle Call" and he recorded it four different times in his early years. His 1955 version with the Hugo Winterhalter Orchestra was a number one record - he had crossed over into Pop. He co-wrote the country and pop song, "You Don't Know me". Ray Charles made "You Don't Know me" his standard.