Nancy L. Richardson
by Nancy L. Richardson
My father was an Iowa farm boy. Like Eddy he spent many hours of his youth behind a plow. Although Dad was 15 years older and 2 states apart from Eddy he still had the same country boy ways and expressions. Whenever I heard Eddy use a word or expression on a TV talk show that my Dad often used it would make me smile. My Father was a youth when the first motor cars and tractors came on the scene. He loved mechanics and was one for his lifetime. Dad stayed with an older brother in Massachusetts where he met my mother. He had an offer from a friend in Iowa to take a mechanic's job and decided to return. He drove as far as Chicago and realized he didn't want to leave Mom behind, he called her and asked her to join him. They were married in Chicago; Mom often laughed about spending their honeymoon looking at the stockyards. I was born a year later. We lived in Iowa until I started school then moved to Mass, when Mom got homesick for her family. My sister an only sibling was born in Mass.
I was in junior high when we moved to Sudbury, Mass. At the time I had a small record player that looked like a large briefcase and only played one record at a time. Like most kids, I could do my homework with the records blasting. Unlike most kids in the North, I loved country music, Hank Williams was my favorite at the time. Neither of my parents was musically inclined. My father said when his family sang the dogs yelped and hid under the porch. Standing next to my mother in church I asked her why she just moved her mouth instead of singing. She answered, "the people around me wouldn't want to hear me." I inherited their abilities; I can't carry a tune in a bucket with a lid on it. Regardless of his own singing ability, my father loved music from country to classic. He had one sore spot that I believe was my fault. In the- mid 50ís Elvis began to become popular, most of my classmates were infatuated with him. I didn't feel nearly as captivated by him but thought I should go along with the crowd. I bought a couple of his 45ís and played them as I did homework. Unfortunately, at about the same time my father sat in his favorite chair to read the newspaper. My room was off of the front room and the sounds of Elvis at his loudest filled the house. Up until he passed away in his mid 90ís, my Father could not stand the name of Elvis. Upon hearing the name he would mumble, "whoever told that guy he could sing." As a matter of self-preservation, my Dad decided I needed another musical idol. One day he came home with a couple of 45-rpm records and a smile on his face. I looked at the name on the label, "Eddy Arnold, the Tennessee plowboy and his guitar." My first thought was, "Oh no, not another singing cowboy fellow". I was more than pleasantly surprised, as the voice on the record was as rich as velvet, and clear as a mountain stream. From then on for almost 50 years I have been an Eddy Arnold fan. When I got my first Eddy Arnold LP, I was even more impressed. The young man on the cover had a ruggedly handsome, square face, with smiling blue eyes, and a dimpled chin. Not only did this fellow have the loveliest voice I had ever heard, but also he was (as the expression of the time went,) a hunk as well.
I was married in December of 1957 and my first daughter, Anita, was born in January of 1959, Diana, in December of 1960, and, Teresa, in September of 1962. Life was hectic with three little girls' 2 years apart. My little record player had been replaced by a floor model stereo hi-fi that played a half dozen records at a time.
I managed to purchase all of the new Eddy Arnold record releases. The man at the local record store soon knew me. Although, I liked Jim Reeves, Ray Price, and Johnny Cash, Eddy was my first love. My friend at the record store soon began to put one of each of Eddyís new releases aside for me, when I entered the record store he would say, "I have a new record that you are going to like!" He would sometimes come across old 45ís that were popular before I started collecting. One of some cute duets with Jaye P. Morgan, other religious songs, some very melancholy mother and child songs. My friend said that when a dealer came in he would ask him what he had for old Eddy Arnold records.
As the 60ís progressed, so did Eddyís popularity. His style of music changed from strictly country to pop country. The background music of his records contained string instruments that added to the richness of his voice. More of his songs were played on the pop music stations. Some of the die-hard country stars didn't seem to approve, they bragged that they would stay, strictly country. I subscribed to one of the country magazines at that time and didn't renew my subscription because of negative continents. The old hillbilly-western type of country music was on its way out; Eddy had brought country uptown. There were more of Eddyís LPís out each year, among some of my favorites were and still are, "Folksong Book," and "The Easy Way."
There were very few country music stations in New England. A few of the pop stations carried a couple of hours of country each day. When I wasnít too busy I would listen to them. We now lived in Framingham, Massachusetts, a city that was about 30 miles from Boston, less than 100 miles from Hartford, CT, and even closer to Providence, RI I had my choice of radio stations. If there was going to be a good country show in the area, my husband and I sometimes attended. I was listening to the Providence station one morning when they announced an Eddy Arnold concert. I stopped dead in the middle of the floor and listened, it was to be that night. I am sure they had announced it before but I didnít listen to that station regularly. Even on that short notice I was determined to somehow attend. I called my husband at work and he told me to try and get tickets. My sister who lived near us agreed to join us if I could get tickets. The theater ticket office said they had tickets in the 22nd row, center. I reserved them and walked around the rest of the day with my head in the clouds.
We left the girls with a baby sitter and drove to Providence. The traffic was quite heavy and we had a few problems finding the theater. By the time we parked and got to the ticket window it was almost time for the show to begin. Having attended other musical shows, we knew the star performer didn't come on until last. We stopped at the ticket office and after a long search were informed that the tickets we reserved had been given to someone else. It seems there were 2 people taking reservations. The man at the window said he had 4 tickets, 2 rows nearer, which we accepted. When the usher took us to our seats we realized why they were still empty. The seats were at the far right of the right side row, any closer to the outside wall and we would be out the exit door. These seats were so bad only the end of the stage was clearly visible. I told the usher what seats we were promised and these were not acceptable. He suggested going back to the office for better seats, though he admitted there were very few left. By now the lights were dimming, my sister tried to get me to sit down and make the most of the situation, I was to angry and went back to the ticket window with my sister followed me very reluctantly. I am usually on the shy side but by this time I was a 5 ft 1 - 101 LB force to be reckoned with. When the man that gave me the tickets saw me he looked sheepish. I slammed the ticket stubs on the counter and said," we paid for center orchestra, any closer to the wall and we will be back outdoors." He said, "Iím sorry thatís all we have left." I snapped,"Good, Iíll stand in the aisle." My sister was studying the posters of coming attractions pretending not to know me. A woman in the office, who seemed to be enjoying the confrontation, called the man over and showed him some tickets. He handed me the tickets saying," these are second row center, the people that ordered them didnít show." Although we had stiff necks from tipping our heads back to see the show it beat the alternative. My sister said she could almost grab the performers' shoes as they passed by. I donít remember much of the show, only Eddy, for so long I had heard him on records and seen him on TV it was almost unbelievable that he was standing here in front of me singing. The ticket problems and stiff neck were well worth the show.
We saw Eddy perform almost a year later at a concert in Boston. This time I had purchased the tickets ahead of time. Roger Miller was also on the bill and we enjoyed his humor. Not being as nervous, I appreciated Eddyís singing and style much more at this performance. He sang his newer songs backed by the orchestra. The part I enjoyed most was when he sat on a tall stool in front of the microphone with only his guitar as accompaniment and sang some of his classics. At every show that I attended he sang Cattle Call, the first couple of bars and the audience would clap. It was apparent that Eddy loved his audience as much as they loved him, as he went out of his way to please them. I am an amateur photographer but no longer brought my camera to concerts. Many of the other stars asked the audience to refrain from taking pictures during a concert. I never quite understood why, possibly the flash bulbs distracted them or they wanted to sell their own photos. Whatever the reason, Eddy wasnít one of them. When he saw the flashes of cameras he shielded his eyes from the stage lights so he could see where the photographer was standing and walked close so they could get a better picture. When he sang a song that drew applause he sometimes opened his arms wide to the audience as if to embrace them. I have never seen Eddy in concert when he didnít receive a standing ovation.
There must be quite a few times when performers have to deal with
adverse situations. I was in the audience once when Eddy had to deal with
one. There was a fellow in the back of the orchestra section that was apparently
quite drunk. He made a couple of loud calls to the first performer, but
soon became quiet. We thought he had fallen asleep, unfortunately that
wasnít the case for when Eddy came on stage he became louder and more obnoxious.
He let out a loud call, "HE-EY-EDD-DY," some of the audience laughed, Eddy
ignored him, and probably hoping the guy would shut up. This went on several
times during the next 10 or 15 minutes. By now the audience was getting
upset, they hadnít come to hear a drunk. I told my husband to go inform
the management. If Eddy hadnít been on
stage I would have gone myself. The woman behind us heard me and said her husband had already gone, so had a couple of people that were sitting near the man. None of us could understand why the management had let it go on for so long, possibly they were afraid the man would give them, or the people around him, more trouble if they tried to remove him forcibly. As Eddy began a new song the man yelled, "EDD- DY I WANí TO MAKE A REQUESHT! I!" Now some of the people in the audience were yelling back," SHUT UP!" Eddy stopped singing and said firmly, without anger in his voice, though he must have felt it, "fellow, I think you came in the wrong building the barroom is next door." The audience was dead quiet for a breath of time, then someone began to laugh suddenly the entire audience laughed and clapped. Just about that time a couple of police officers escorted the protesting fellow out. Eddy made a comical remark about not wanting to have that guy's head in the morning, the audience laughed and the show continued as though there had never been an interruption.
In June of 1966 my son was born. We named him, Edward Scott, after my husband's brother who had been killed in WWII. Of course he was nicknamed Eddy and we spelled it with a y instead of ie. We didnít go to any concerts that year and had to enjoy watching TV shows. Eddy was often a guest on various shows; I tried to watch them all. I now think how nice it would have been to have VCRís at that time. We did get a super 8-movie camera, screen, and projector, that year.
1967 more than made up for the concerts we missed the previous year. There was a county fair each summer in Brockton, Mass, about an hour's drive from us. They had a large midway, horse racing, and stage shows. They also had the most current big name artists at some of their stage shows. This year Eddy was to perform one night and Al Martino another. Because Monday night is a slow night, Eddy was billed to bring the crowds, and that he did. We took the 3 girls, they were anxious to see Eddy; they had heard him all of their young lives. I also brought my movie camera, although I was not sure the pictures would come out, it required very bright light. The stage show didnít start until late, my husband sat in the bleachers with the two youngest girls, and they were tired by then. My oldest Anita insisted that she wanted to come near the stage with me, she wanted to see Eddy better. The stage was very large; it sat in a field near the racetrack. People were allowed to gather around the stage, it was very informal and more festive than theater shows. I wanted to get close to the stage so I could hopefully get some pictures using the stage lights. The only place near was at the very end, unfortunately it was so high Anita could see nothing, I was trying to decide how to hold her and take pictures at the same time when a man standing next to me lifted her out of my arms and sat her on the stage. He said, "She wonít block anyoneís view back here, sheíll get a good view of the show." Eddy came on stage and sat on a high stool in front of the microphone, I didnít think I could get a good picture at that distance but took a few anyway. As he set down with his guitar, Eddy happened to look our way. He took the microphone from the stand and backed by the orchestra began to sing as he walked toward us. Anita was a sweet looking little girl with big blue eyes and golden curls, her hair was parted in the middle with a little pony tail on each side. Eddy walked up to us, bending down as he sang he gently pulled one of Anitaís ponytails. I believe he thought she would give him a big smile, instead she turned and glared, giving him a look that would have frozen a polar bear. Everyone standing near enough to see her face laughed, Eddy broke into a broad smile as he sang, Later I said to Anita, "I thought you wanted to see Eddy." She sighed indignantly, "I didnít think he was going to pull my hair." I did get some fairly good pictures of Eddy.
Later that year we saw Eddy in Boston, this time I did bring my camera. There were a couple of people besides me, from the audience, taking pictures. As he had done at other concerts, he walked close to us so we could get good pictures. A couple of my pictures came out very good though when I had them enlarged they were grainy. Regardless, I sent one to Eddy and asked him if he would autograph it. I was not sure if I would see it again but in a few weeks the autographed picture came back along with a friendly note signed by Eddy telling me that he appreciated hearing from me.
In the summer of 1969 Eddy announced, during a guest appearance on
TV, that he had written an autobiography entitled, "Itís a Long Way from
Chester County," I asked about it at a book store, the clerk said it hadnít
come in yet, she would order it and let me know as soon as it did. It came
in just a week before Eddy appeared at the Brockton fair again. This time
we let my sister and parents baby-sit and went alone. I took my book, determined
to get it autographed although I had no idea how. We played some games
and walked around the midway, by the time the show started my husband said
he was tired and sat on the bleachers. I was running on adrenaline, debating
how to get my precious book autographed as the modern generation would say, "I lucked out." I stood at the end of the stage as I had done two years before, it was much less crowded than the front and Eddy worked the entire stage. A young woman about my age stood next to me, before Eddy came on stage we struck up a conversation. She noticed the book that I was holding and asked if she could see it. While she was looking at the pictures I told her I had to get it autographed but didnít know where the starís dressing rooms were. She smiled and said, "Thatís easy, my husband is a stage hand, I know where the trailer they use for a dressing room is, follow me after the show and Iíll take you there." I stayed close to her, as soon as Eddy finished his performance she grabbed my hand, pulling me through the crowd. She was moving so fast that we could see Eddy and a couple of men walking ahead of us. They went into a trailer and shut the door; we were the first ones at the bottom of the small set of wooden stairs going to the door. We waited for some time, several people knocked and entered the trailer, my companion said they looked like reporters. The longer we waited the more nervous I became. Two young security guards guarding the door flirted with us, they were funny and it helped relieve the tension. When the door finally did open I dearly wished that we were not first in line, apparently my new found friend felt the same way, because she shoved me up the stairs ahead of her. Eddy sat in a chair a few feet back from the door, I debated whether to climb the rest of the way up the stairs or turn and run, though when looked back there were now so many fans behind us I donít believe I could have gotten past them anyway. I took a deep breath and walked slowly up the stairs, there was only three or four, but felt like twenty. I got to the door and froze, shaking so hard I could barely hold my book. Eddy said, "Hello there." What little sense I had suddenly evaporated, if someone had offered me a hundred-dollar bill to tell him or her my name at that moment I truly donít think that I could have done it. Eddy motioned me closer and I shuffled up to him. He tried again, "How are you tonight?" I squeaked out, "Scared to death." This answer made him smile. He said, "Bend your head down here, Pretty." He was tall and I was so short that standing beside his chair I was only about a head taller than he was. Although I was not capable of thinking much, it occurred to me that when I bent my head down he would whisper some bit of wisdom in my ear that would make me stop shaking so hard. I bent my head and he kissed my cheek. I was so surprised that I did stop shaking. When I handed him my book he was the one that was surprised, he said, "Look what you have here." He held it up and called to some men sitting in back of the trailer, probably some of the musicians, "hey, did you boys know that Iím an author?" A couple of the fellows teased him and asked if he was a good writer. He said something about having a little help. One asked him how many books he had sold, he quipped, "they just came out, I think I have sold about 100, 99 to my friends and family and this little lady bought the other one." Luckily by the time he picked up his pen to sign the book I remembered my name. I took my book, offered him my hand, which he held and gently squeezed I turned and daintily stumbled down the trailer stairs, a well padded fellow caught me before I fell flat on my face. My father loved the story; he asked me how many days it would be before I washed my cheek
Our children were growing fast, we decided that we would like to move out of the city. We purchased a small 12-acre farm in north central Mass; it was quite rural then. Although no longer was able to attend the stage shows we attended while living near the city, I still bought all of Eddyís new records, one of my favorites, "Standing Alone," came out the year that we moved I had always wanted a riding horse and the children wanted lambs, they liked our Iowa uncles sheep. We all rode the horse and soon purchased another, in 1972, Tika, our baby pony-horse was born. I was the one who fell in love with the sheep and soon began to bred and raise registered sheep. The years past, the children grew.
In the late fall of 1976 I noticed that there was something wrong with my youngest daughter, Teresaís, back, her spine was curving into an S. The doctors agreed that she had a very severe case of scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that occurs in early teens. They decided her case was so aggressive that she needed to have a rod put in her back from between her shoulders to below her waist. She went into the Massachusetts General Hospital in Jan. of 1977. She would be put in traction first, then surgery. I stayed with her days rooming with a cousin that lived near Boston, nights. The nurses debated how to help a young teenager that would be bed ridden for a month or more, pass the time. They realized she was interested in celebrities. There were several young musical groups on TV that teenagers liked. The nurses brought in paper, pens, and envelopes. They told her to use the hospital address because she would be there for an extended time. She wrote letters to singers and movie stars, explaining that she was in the hospital for surgery and asked for autographed pictures to hang on the bulletin board by her bed We posted the letters, at least 3O of them, and waited patiently for the replies. Each day she anxiously looked forward to the arrival of the mail. A couple of weeks later an autographed picture of John Wayne arrived.
Another few days and she received an autographed picture of Eddy along with a kind letter sending her good wishes for a speedy recovery. These are the only replies she ever got. After her surgery one of the surgeons stopped to visit her, he was a rather stern fellow. He studied the pictures and read the letter, turning to Teresa he said, "very impressive, young lady." She replied, "I must have sent a million letters these are the only ones that answered me." One of the nurses verified that she had sent letters using the hospital address. The doctor said," itís too bad those stars canít find the time to reply to a little girl in the hospital. I guess they forgot who made them stars." Turning to Teresa he said, "Iíd say you were very lucky after all." She replied, "how do you figure that?" He said, "because the two best ones did answer you!" From then on when anyone asked about her pictures she told them the story of all the letters she sent and used the doctor's explanation, the two best ones did answer her. The two pictures and letter stayed on her wall at home through her months of recuperation. They are now in one of her family photo albums.
When we bought our little farm in 1970 we could see two houses in the winter and only one in the summer. Now in the late 70ís there was a building boom in the northeast. A housing development had sprung up in back of the barn. We decided we would have to give up farming or move. I loved my home state of Iowa but the older I became the longer and harder the winters seemed, Iowa had warm summers but the winters were severe. We decided to look for land in the south and in 1979 we took a trip through Virginia and North Carolina. They were both pretty but nothing appealed to us. We had almost given up the idea of moving south, deciding to make a vacation out of the trip and see Nashville, Tennessee. On the way home we stopped at a realtor in Cookeville about 75 miles east of Nashville. The man showed us several properties, again nothing impressive. He said that he had a new listing to look at outside of a small town called, Gainesboro, and asked us if we minded stopping as we were quite near. It was an old farm nestled in the rolling hills, the house was over a hundred years old with high ceilings and long narrow windows with casements that came to the floor. The fireplaces were of huge chiseled stones a foot high and some up to almost a yard in length. In back of the old house standing in a row were two large barns, one a stock barn, the other for hanging tobacco. The hills rose on either side of the valley where the house and barns stood, they came to a high peak in back of the 100-acre property. Now in mid autumn the air was warm, the leaves of the maple trees in front of the house were tinged with orange. It was love at first sight, I couldnít remember seeing a place as beautiful, now 22 years later a visitor will sometimes comment on the beauty of the old farm and I remember how I felt the first time I saw it.
We moved to Tennessee with our 2 youngest children, Tika the pony, and 22 sheep. The hardest part was saying goodbye to our 2 oldest daughters who were married by then, and to my parents, and sister. In Tennessee we made new friends. An elderly hill woman who lived close to us became my best friend and she helped us adjust to this new world, so different in customs, speech, food, and even the music of the hills was unfamiliar. At first I thought the traditional Bluegrass, was too hillbilly for my taste but I grew to love it. Eddy was still my favorite, I collected his records into the 1980s and then the records went the way of the 8 track and everything became tapes and the new CDís.
My lovely Tennessee hills, like the ocean, are ever changing. Unlike, "The Great Smokie Mountains," of east Tennessee, "The Cumberland Mountains", west of the plateau are gentler. Now they are no longer called mountains, the natives simply refer to them as hills. Heavy fogs cover the hills in the spring and fall. The fog, like herds of silent deer, gathers in the valleys at dusk and noiselessly climbs the hills. At sunrise it slowly disappears from the valleys, sometimes leaving clouds of fog between the hills, disappearing as softly as it had come. In the summer on warm, clear nights the heavens are filled with stars, as though mirrored in the meadows fireflies dance in the grass. Songbirds of many kinds and colors fill the day and at night the calls of owls and whippoorwills echo from one hill to the other. As summer grows old the mournful cries of hoot owls pierced the night. In the spring hills flower in blooms from redbud, and dogwood trees, autumn dresses them in every color of gold, red, and yellow. From spring to autumn, insects and tree frogs sing of the beauty of the Cumberland nights. The old farm is inhabited by wildlife of many species; deer, raccoon, rabbits, and groundhogs, along with numerous wild turkeys often cross my path as I walk the hills. Even the winters, which I dreaded so much in the north, are mild. The winter sunsets turn the skies from deep red to soft purple and every shade of pink. There are early mornings in the winter when the leafless trees and the cedars on the hills turn Christmas card white, sparkling with heavy frost. The mighty Cumberland River that flows by the end of our street, once known for itís uncontrolled fury, is now tamed by hydroelectric dams and serenely wanders on itís way.
As the 80ís passed in quiet contentment the two children who had come south with us grew up. Teresa married and bought a small farm nearby and she had a baby boy in 1989. My son graduated and joined the Army and he was sent to Germany after basic training. The other girls had children, one three, and one two, all girls. Once Eddy was in concert at an auditorium in a nearby town and I didnít know about it until it was over and I could have cried.
The 90ís were a different matter; they were as painful and turbulent, as the last decade was serene. In 1991 my son was shipped to Saudi, Arabia to take part in, Desert Storm. He was in a warehouse in Dhabran that served as military barracks when it was hit by a scud missile. He returned home with a badly injured leg in September of that year. While he was stationed at a nearby Army base for medical treatment he was robbed and killed. They say that the flag on the square by our courthouse was lowered to half-mast in his honor but I remember very little of that time. My parents both died in the 90ís. My Mother was 87 and Dad 93. My dear husband was diagnosed with cancer in 1995 and died in my arms in the summer of 1998. There were times when I could hardly face the next day but I had a lot of support and each day became a little easier. I walked my lovely hills and it was reassuring to know there were some things that are unchanging. Long after we are gone these hills will be here and generations yet unborn will enjoy their beauty. I had at one time recorded three of Eddyís albums of hymns on a tape and they were a blessing to me now. I remember as a young child standing near my grandma in church and hearing her sing the same beautiful, Fanny Crosby, hymns that Eddy recorded on, Praise Him, Praise Him. There is a song on an album called Faithfully Yours. I have always loved, The song called, God Walks These Hills with Me, truly spoke to me now. I recorded the tape later for another widow and she said it was also a blessing to her.
By the time the millennium came I had adjusted to living alone. I have my critters to keep me company, old Tika, the pony meets me at the back door of the barn every morning, and she will be 30 in May. Each spring I look forward to the arrival of the lambs.
Last year my out of state friends and family decided I needed a computer to keep me company. I had heard both sides of the computer story; they were either hated or loved. I knew absolutely nothing about computers. Once while shopping with my 12-year-old grandson, I said, "Look at that nice big computer." He said, "Thatís not a computer, Gram, thatís a monitor." I replied, "That looks like a computer to me. You look at the screen and type things out on a keyboard." He said, "You have the right idea but nothing would come up on the screen without that thing there," he pointed to the computer. A friend and her husband helped me select a computer and set it up late in the summer of 2001. I didnít connect to the internet for a couple of more months, I was very happy playing card games and listening to my Eddy Arnold tapes, afraid if I connected to the internet I would do something to blow the thing up. In October I finally went online. My friend gave me a few e-mail lessons and told me to be brave, go to the Internet and type what interested me in the space at the top. I typed Eddyís name in the blank and several search sites came up I chose www.eddyarnold.com, "Welcome to My World," Bill Comerís site. I enjoyed the site so much that I opened and read everything from Eddy receiving his Doctorate of Fine Arts, to the stories by Bill Winstead, and Frank Cunningham; I left my e-mail on the guest book. Several weeks later I received an email from Frank Cunningham asking me to sign a petition to help Eddy receive the,"Kennedy Center Honors for the Performing Arts." I had thought of sending Eddy a letter telling him how much his beautiful songs have enriched my life, they have been with me through good and bad times like true friends and will be for my lifetime. When I received the e-mail from Frank I wanted to help, "what better way to show a man who has brought so much joy to so many lives, how much we care about him." Anyone that reads this who hasn't already signed the petition, please help us show Eddy how much we all care by helping him receive the honors he so dearly deserves. PLEASE, sign on this Website or contact Frank, firstname.lastname@example.org.
GOD BLESS EDDY AND ALL OF HIS FANS AND FRIENDS!!!
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