Earl Thomas Conley

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Earl Thomas Conley
ETC country singer in concert.jpg
Earl Thomas Conley in concert
Background information
Born(1941-10-17)October 17, 1941
Portsmouth, Ohio, United States
DiedApril 10, 2019(2019-04-10) (aged 77)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
GenresCountry
Occupation(s)Singer
InstrumentsVocals, Guitar
Years active1974–2019
LabelsGRT, Warner Bros., Sunbird, RCA
Associated actsKeith Whitley

Earl Thomas Conley (October 17, 1941 – April 10, 2019)[1] was an American country music singer-songwriter. Between 1980 and 2003, he recorded ten studio albums, including seven for the RCA Records label. In the 1980s and into the 1990s, Conley also charted more than thirty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, of which eighteen reached Number One. Conley's eighteen Billboard Number One country singles during the 1980s marked the most Number One hits by any artist in any genre during that decade except for Alabama and Ronnie Milsap.[1]

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Conley was born October 17, 1941, in Portsmouth, Ohio, to Glenna Ruth (née Davis; 1918–2002) and Arthur Conley (1910–1989). When he was fourteen, his father lost his job with the railroad, forcing the young boy to move in with his older sister in Jamestown, Ohio. He was offered a scholarship to an art school, but rejected it in favor of joining the U.S. Army. While in the Army, Conley became a member of a Christian-influenced trio, where his musical talent and vocal ability both first became apparent. Conley then decided to consider performing as a serious career option. He shifted more deeply into the classic country sounds of artists such as Merle Haggard and George Jones. During this period he first tried his hand at songwriting. In 1968, after his discharge from the Army, Conley began commuting from Dayton to Nashville. In 1973 while in Nashville, Conley met Dick Heard, who produced country music singer Mel Street. This meeting eventually led to the Conley-Heard collaboration on the song "Smokey Mountain Memories," which made the top 10 for Street.[2] After being honorably discharged from the military, he began playing in clubs in Nashville, Tennessee, at night, supporting himself by working blue-collar jobs during the day.[3]

Career[edit]

Feeling that he wasn't making any progress in Nashville, Conley moved to Huntsville, Alabama, to work in a steel mill. There, he met record producer Nelson Larkin, who helped him sign with independent record label GRT in 1974. Conley released four singles on that label, none of which became large hits. At the same time, he was selling songs that he had written to other artists, including Conway Twitty and Mel Street, who were having much success with them.[3]

Conley returned to Nashville, now writing for Nelson Larkin's publishing house. In 1979, he signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records. Two years later, he had his first Top 40 hit, "Dreamin's All I Do". He left the label in 1979 and joined Sunbird Records, where he again worked with Nelson Larkin. This time, Conley found success, with a Top Ten and a Number One single within the next two years. He continued to have success over the next few years, and in 1983, he was nominated for multiple Grammy Awards for his song "Holding Her and Loving You". He set a record the following year as the first artist in any genre to have four Number One singles from the same album, Don't Make It Easy for Me (released in May 1983).[3] In 1986, Conley was credited with breaking down country music barriers when he dueted with pop/R&B singer Anita Pointer of the Grammy-winning Pointer Sisters. Their single, "Too Many Times," the title track to Conley's 1986 album, reached #2 on the Country charts.

Later years[edit]

By the end of the 1980s, Conley began collaborating with Randy Scruggs (son of country singer Earl Scruggs), in the hopes that he could bring his music back to his country roots. His record sales began to drop in the 1990s, as country took a more progressive turn, and Conley was dropped from his record label in 1992. He took a seven-year recording hiatus between 1991 and 1997 due to a number of factors, including vocal problems, disenchantment with record label politics, road fatigue, and mental burnout.[2] He began recording again in 1998.[3] In late 2013, Conley gave a telephone interview with Pods o' Pop. Conley recalled that he may have been the only country artist to have appeared on the Soul Train television program (he performed his duet with Pointer) and went into detail about the string of hits Randy Scruggs and he co-wrote.[4][5]

In 2002, Blake Shelton charted in the Top 20 with "All Over Me," which Conley co-wrote with Shelton and longtime friend, songwriter Michael Pyle.

Death[edit]

Conley died on April 10, 2019, at 77 years old from cerebral atrophy.[6][7]

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Wood, Gerry. (1998). "Earl Thomas Conley". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 108.
  2. ^ a b Dennis, Paul W. (2009-08-19). "Forgotten Artists: Earl Thomas Conley". Engine 145. Archived from the original on 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2011-06-17.
  3. ^ a b c d Roland, Tom. "Earl Thomas Conley biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
  4. ^ Thibodeaux, Tracy (2 December 2013). "Pods o' Pop-Earl Thomas Conley-Part 1". Interview. Pods o' Pop. Archived from the original on 22 December 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  5. ^ Thibodeaux, Tracy (2 December 2013). "Pods o' Pop-Earl Thomas Conley-Part 2". Interview. Pods o' Pop. Archived from the original on 22 December 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  6. ^ Farrell, Paul (April 10, 2019). "Earl Thomas Conley Dead: Country Legend Dies at 77". Heavy.com. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  7. ^ Friskics-Warren, Bill (April 11, 2019). "Earl Thomas Conley, Country Star of the 1980s, Is Dead At 77". nytimes.com. Retrieved April 11, 2019.