Dad First Loved Eddy, Then Willie

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Make the world go away

Get it off my shoulders

Say the things you used to say

And make the world go away

— Made famous by Eddy Arnold, written by Hank Cochran


Eddy Arnold was known as the Tennessee Plowboy, back when the music industry loved to hang nicknames on singers. Arnold, born in 1918, grew up on a farm that his dad sharecropped until he died when Eddy was just 11. He had to drop out of school to help on the family farm. His dad had been a fiddle player, and his mom played guitar, so he naturally took to music and began playing at school functions and other events. Legend is as a teenager Eddy would arrive on a mule, a guitar strapped to his back.

Eddy’s music filled our family’s living room for much of my childhood. My parents both loved music. Mom played piano and, later, a small organ. Dad didn’t play an instrument, but he sure did love to spin those Eddy Arnold albums. The smash hit, Make the World Go Away, came out in in the summer of 1965. It was written by the prolific Hank Cochran, whose approach to songwriting was: Make it short. Make it sweet. Make it rhyme. Cochran was a songwriting phenomenon, writing I Fall to Pieces and She’s Got You, both of which were hits for the incomparable Patsy Cline, when he was in his mid-20s.

Make the World Go Away became Eddy’s signature song. I was 10 years old and quickly developing a love for rock ’n’ roll — the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Monkees were my early favorites. I would curl up on the bottom bunk bed with my tinny transistor radio and listen to the AM rock stations from Boston. The crooning of Eddy Arnold, invariably accompanied by lush strings, began to grate on me. By the time we moved to Texas in 1968, I was an uppity teenager listening to Steppenwolf and Grand Funk Railroad so loudly that Mom would pound on my closed bedroom door and yell at me to turn the volume down.

I was trying to drown out Eddy Arnold.

When I was 15 and working part-time at the Longview News-Journal as a photographer, I put a stereo on layaway at the Howard’s Discount Store on Mobberly Avenue, across from LeTourneau University. Howard’s was a precursor to Walmart and an irresistible lure for teenagers with its decent selection of albums. From our home on South Twelfth Street, right behind the campus, I could cut through LETU and walk to Howard’s to check out the latest releases.

The stereo was about $150 as I recall, which translated to about 100 hours of working at the paper at the then-hourly minimum wage of $1.60. I was buying it as a Christmas present for my parents, whose turntable stereo was pretty low fidelity. (They had bought one for me the previous Christmas). They were rather stunned and pleased by the gift, which made the sacrifice well worth it. Eddy Arnold continued to croon away, while I hid in my bedroom when not at work or school, playing Light My Fire by the Doors.

Sometime in my late teens, Dad abruptly switched his musical allegiance from Eddy to Willie Nelson. I came home from college at SFA one weekend to discover he and my brother, Scott, had recently seen Willie in concert at the Longview fairgrounds. Now, I could get on board with Willie. Dad, a commercial artist who drew and painted fine art at night, even produced a fine pencil sketch of Willie and had prints made to sell at Alley Fest. I still have a pile of them in storage, along with a similar rendering of John Wayne. I still love Willie.

One of the funniest arguments Dad and I had was whether Willie smoked weed or not. Although it was common knowledge, Dad simply refused to believe his musical hero would toke on a joint, even when I showed him interviews with Willie freely admitting his pot habit. I finally gave up trying to convince him.

So, why did I get to thinking about Make the World Go Away? It was an earworm I woke up with one recent morning. For grins, I added it to my song app and quickly learned to play it on the guitar. The version I play, as a novice who likely will never rise above mediocrity, contains exactly three chords — a classic country song arrangement. I also found a Spotify playlist of others playing Hank Cochran songs, with a fine version of Make the World Go Away sung by Alison Krauss and Jamey Johnson.

Eddy Arnold sold more than 85 million records in a career that spanned seven decades. He died a week before turning 90 in 2008. Dad passed away nine months later. It would probably tickle him no end that I am playing Make the World Go Away on my classical guitar. And some Willie as well.


I’m sorry if I hurt you

I’ll make it up day by day

Just say you love me like you used to

And make the world go away

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