Eddy Arnold Defends Songwriters at Fest for “One More Day”

If you absolutely must be the center of attention, don’t invite Eddy Arnold to your party. The 82-year-old star stole the show from the official guests of honor at a No. 1 celebration held Thursday (March 29) at BMI’s Nashville offices.

BMI threw the party for Bobby Tomberlin, co-writer of Diamond Rio ’s No. 1 single, “One More Day,” and for the group itself. BMI also honored members of Diamond Rio’s support team. As various speakers doled out their awards, Arnold grazed quietly at a distant buffet table, pausing now and again to speak to friends and fans. However, virtually everyone who received an award devoted part of his acceptance remarks to thanking the Country Music Hall of Fame member for attending.

Finally, Arnold came forward to say a few words. Choking back tears, he told how, in 1943, the owner of a Chicago music publishing company launched his recording career by urging the Victor Co. (now RCA) to sign Arnold, which it did. Arnold recalled that the publisher said at the time, “Eddy, I want to give you a bit of advice. When you get a good song, even if it might be written by your enemy, you sing it.”

Addressing his fellow recording artists, Arnold continued, “When a guy brings you a song you like, don’t try to get half the copyright. Let the songwriter have his chance.” The room bloomed with applause. (Arnold was referring to a common practice in which a recording artist demands from a songwriter a co-writing credit in return for recording his or her song.)

When an artist is faced with such a choice, Arnold said, “You’ll probably not record the best song — you’ll record the song you have half of.”

Among the familiar faces cheering Arnold on were Bill Anderson, Jan Howard, Hal Ketchum, Dickey Lee, Merle Kilgore, Country Music Association chief Ed Benson and writer and radio personality Jerry Dahmen. Sara Evans dropped by near the end of the party to offer her congratulations.

In introducing Tomberlin, BMI’s Mark Mason pointed out that “One More Day” had pulsed up to No. 1 twice within the past four weeks. Tomberlin brought forward his co-writer on the song, Steven Dale Jones, to share the spotlight. (Jones took a back seat at the event because he is affiliated with BMI’s competing performance rights organization, ASCAP).

Tomberlin recounted how he used to work at a Nashville Kroger store and see Diamond Rio’s drummer, Brian Prout, “come through my line all the time.” Even then, he said, he was thinking what it would be like to have a Diamond Rio cut.

Thomas Cain, BMI’s senior director of writer/publisher relations, said, “’One More Day’ is one of the greatest songs I’ve heard in a real long time.” He also praised the members of Diamond Rio. “These guys can play,” he said with obvious admiration. “If you can’t play an instrument, you’d better not get near these guys.”

Marty Roe, Rio’s lead singer and spokesman, thanked the celebrants for supporting the band. “The longer I’m in the business,” he said, “the more I appreciate how close our business is.” He singled out Mike Clute, who co-produces the band’s albums. “Mike Clute has been with us since Day 1. He’s our seventh band member.”

Clute spoke briefly about the joys of his job, particularly searching for songs for the group to record. “What I get to listen to every day and every night,” he said, “a pleasure I don’t think I’ll ever get over.”

Most of the speakers credited Bobby Kraig, head of promotion for Artista Records (Diamond Rio’s label) with the chart success and tenacity of “One More Day.”

The CMA’s Benson congratulated Tomberlin for both his song and for recently becoming a member of the CMA. Those who haven’t heard the band’s new album (also titled One More Day), he said, should immediately get a copy. And he predicted that the album is “going to help our business get back on track.”

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.