Although Jimmy Arnold was never well-known -- during his brief life, he recorded only a handful of albums -- he remained one of the most acclaimed bluegrass musicians of the '70s and '80s. As a child, Arnold became interested in music after hearing his friends practicing next door. His first instrument was a guitar, but he soon learned how to play the banjo and by age 12 had founded a bluegrass band, the Twin County Partners, with his cousin Tommy playing mandolin and his friend Wes Golden on guitar. The group became quite popular in their area, which led to appearances on local TV shows and even a single for Stark Records. They disbanded in 1965, and Arnold began performing at music festivals all over the South.
After graduating from high school, Arnold was invited by studio musician Joe Greene to play with him in Nashville. He next teamed up with Wes Golden to play with the Virginia Cut-Ups, with whom he cut an album for Latco Records. Subsequently, Arnold joined many bands, including Keith Whitley & the New Tradition, but was frequently fired from the groups due to his excessive drinking. He recorded an album of banjo music, Strictly Arnold, in 1974. In 1977, he released his second album, Jimmy Arnold Guitar, followed six years later by Southern Soul. None of his albums were commercially successful, and Arnold abandoned music in 1984. He opened a tattoo parlor in North Carolina, but he soon fell into drug abuse and used the parlor as a front for selling narcotics. In 1985, he was arrested and briefly served a jail sentence. Following his release from prison, he was the resident artist at Martin Community College for a short time, but he soon returned to performing music. In 1992, he became a member of the Pentecostal Church and went completely sober. However, his body was irreparably damaged -- he died of heart failure on Christmas Day in 1992.