Eddy Arnold went to his eternal reward Wednesday (May 14) with a simple but elegant funeral service before a respectful audience of fans, friends and music business colleagues at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. A private family burial followed at Woodlawn Memorial Park, where his late wife Sally is buried.
The singer, who died May 8 at the age of 89, was brought to the Ryman in a procession of vehicles from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where his body lay in state for fans and friends to pay respects. The coffin was covered by a pall that had been designed by Sally Arnold and was used at her funeral service.
Vince Gill, who sang two songs in the service, remembered Arnold as “the most successful man in country music history, and he taught us how to be kind and how to be a gentleman.” Arnold’s pastor, Bishop Robert Spain, echoed those sentiments, describing Arnold as “a first-class entertainer and a first-class gentleman.”
“It was eight weeks ago,” said the bishop, “that we gathered at the Brentwood United Methodist Church to say goodbye to Sally, who Eddy loved very much. He used to say over and over again, ’I want to be with her.’ I’m not so sure that Eddy didn’t get his way.”
Gill, who sang his own “Go Rest High on That Mountain” as well as Arnold’s 1956 hit, “You Don’t Know Me,” remembered that a word of advice Arnold passed on to him changed his musical thinking forever.
“When I moved to Nashville,” Gill recalled, “Eddy and I were on a TV show together, and I sang a song — I don’t remember now which one — and Eddy said, ’Vince, you know, the next time you sing that song, realize that it was written by a blind man.’ That changed forever the way I thought about songs.”
Arnold biographer Don Cusic said Arnold “transcended country music and transcended Nashville. He made country music respectable and gave country music dignity. He put a tuxedo on country music.”
Arnold’s grandson R. Shannon Pollard remembered his grandfather as “a very social person. He would be pleased by all the events today. He is smiling down on us and is so happy that we’re all here.”
Other musical numbers were by the Jordanaires, who sang “Precious Lord Take My Hand” and “Peace in the Valley,” and by Bill and Jeanine Walker, who offered “How Great Thou Art” and “The Lord’s Prayer.”
Pallbearers for the service were Jerry Arnold, Frank Arnold, Bobby Campbell, Charlie Chase, Mike Curb, Don Cusic, Joe Galante, Bryan Howard, Jim Lance and Dan Miller.
Arnold is survived by his daughter, JoAnn Pollard, son Richard Edward Arnold Jr. and several grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other relatives.