NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A California man has filed a petition asking a Nashville court to order DNA testing he believes will prove the late singer Eddy Arnold was his father.
Christopher Edward Tanner, 47, of Anaheim, Calif., said that he submitted the request last week for paternity testing on Arnold's remains.
"I really don't want to have to exhume the body, but we've got no choice now," Tanner said.
Arnold died last month at 89. His vocals on songs such as the 1965 "Make the World Go Away," a Top 10 pop hit as well as a No. 1 country hit, made him one of the most successful country singers in history.
Bryan Howard, the attorney for Arnold's estate, said the singer had denied fathering Tanner, although he may not have done so publicly.
Howard said he plans to object to an exhumation, noting a response to Tanner's petition must be filed within 30 days. He said he speaks for Arnold's two children, who had no comment.
Tanner's mother, Arlene Tanner-Glynn, 69, said she met Arnold while working as a secretary at Decca Records in the late 50s. She said she asked the singer to undergo paternity testing while he was alive, but he never did.
"He probably figured if he dragged it out long enough I would give up," she said.
She said that although Arnold never acknowledged Tanner as his son, he never denied to her that he fathered the child -- even after she went public with her claims in The New York Post in 1992.
Upon learning the singer had died, Tanner-Glynn said she contacted Howard to renew her request for a paternity test.
She said Howard initially led her to believe the paternity test would be conducted before Arnold was buried. When it wasn't, she and her son decided to go to court.
"I got angry enough to say, 'That's it,' " she said. "He's thumbed his nose at us long enough."
Howard said Arnold's grieving children did not want to deal with DNA testing as they prepared to bury their father.
"They've had 47 years to do this and to wait this long is just absurd," he said. "And now to dig up someone who is dead and buried -- that's something that they, that the family, just don't want to do."
Tanner's attorney, J.D. Kious, said he hopes to work things out with Howard without having to go to court. No hearing date has been set.
Kious said Tanner is not pursuing any claims against the estate at this time, but he would not rule out that possibility in the future.
Howard declined to discuss Arnold's estate, but said Tanner will not get any of it because Arnold left specific instructions about how to dispose of it.
"Tennessee law allows you to pick who you will pass on your estate to," he said.
Tanner said he never met Arnold but would like to meet his remaining family one day. Over the years he sent Arnold letters and cards, telling him what was going on in his life.
"I'd like to think he kept them," Tanner said. "It's nice to think there was some part of him that did care."