Earl Thomas Conley Biography

17 October 1941, Portsmouth, Ohio, USA. The son of a railway worker, Conley left home at 14 when his father lost his job. His influences were the Grand Ole Opry, followed by Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, and then the Beatles. He originally planned to be a painter, but developed his love for country music while in the US Army. After his military service, Conley had a succession of manual jobs and spent his spare time either playing clubs or hawking his songs around Nashville. His first successes were as a writer - ‘Smokey Mountain Memories’ for Mel Street and ‘This Time I’ve Hurt Her More (Than She Loves Me)’ for Conway Twitty. He recorded for Prize, GRT and Warner Brothers Records with moderate success and as Earl Conley. He started using his full name in 1979 to avoid confusion with John Conlee. His single of ‘Fire And Smoke’ reached number 1 on the US country charts in 1979, a major achievement for the small Sunbird label. RCA Records then took over his contract, although he continued to be produced by Nelson Larkin, and scored one chart-topping country single after another. His 1982 number 1, ‘Somewhere Between Right And Wrong’, was issued in two formats - one for country fans, one for rock fans. In 1984, Conley became the first artist in any field to have had four number 1 hits from the same album - from Don’t Make It Easy For Me came the title tune, which was written by Conley and his frequent partner Randy Scruggs, ‘Your Love’s On The Line’, ‘Angel In Disguise’ and ‘Holding Her And Loving You’. His duets include ‘Too Many Times’ with Anita Pointer and ‘We Believe In Happy Endings’ with Emmylou Harris, another country number 1 in 1988. Out of his 18 US country number 1 hits, ‘Right From The Start’ was as much R&B as country, and was featured in the film Roadhouse. Conley’s gutsy, emotional love songs found favour with US country fans, but despite a break from recording, he returned to the US country charts in 1991 with ‘Brotherly Love’, a duet recorded with Keith Whitley shortly before the latter’s death in 1989.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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