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Earl Thomas Conley

Early in his career, Earl Thomas Conley's music picked up the label "thinking man's country." An accurate description -- Conley looks into the heart and soul of his characters, finding the motivations for their actions and beliefs. In the process, the astute listener can find fragments of himself/herself in nearly any Conley creation. Born into poverty in Portsmouth, OH, Conley struggled with the limits of his social class. He aspired to be a painter or actor, but found that his aspirations for music lingered after the other interests died down. Influenced by everyone from Hank Williams to the Eagles, Conley delved into the details of writing, trying to learn the craft by following the rules and regulations of the Music Row songwriting community. Eventually, torn by the limits of the "law," he found his own niche by breaking many of those same rules. His public self-analysis -- in both his songs and his interviews -- has proven inspirational to some, bothersome to others, but Conley has evolved stylistically, even though the "thinking man" label continues to follow him. He's admittedly chased a more commercial sound, with a certain degree of success, but the run for the dollars also put him into a financial bind. He spent part of the late '80s and early '90s overworking himself to pay off his debts. Although he has been a hitmaker for more than a decade, his contributions to country have often gone almost unnoticed.

The son a railroad man, Conley left his Portsmouth home at the age of 14, once his father lost his job. After living with his older sister in Ohio, he rejected a scholarship to art school, deciding to join the Army instead. While he was in the military, he fell in love with country music. Following his discharge, he worked a number of blue-collar jobs while he played Nashville clubs at night. Conley wasn't making any headway, so he relocated to Huntsville, AL, where he worked in a steel mill. While in Huntsville, he met Nelson Larkin, a producer who helped the fledgling singer sign to the independent label GRT in 1974. Over the next two years, he released four singles on the label -- which were all credited to "Earl Conley" -- and each one scraped the lower regions of the country charts. While his chart success was respectable for a developing artist, he was soon eclipsed by other artists who were having hits with his songs. Nelson Larkin gave his brother Billy "Leave It Up to Me," which became the first Earl Thomas Conley song to reach the Top 20. It was followed shortly afterward by Mel Street's number 13 hit "Smokey Mountain Memories" and Conway Twitty's version of "This Time I've Hurt Her More (Than She Loves Me)," which reached number one in early 1976. By that time, he had moved to Nashville, where he was writing for Nelson Larkin's publishing house.

In 1977, Conley signed with Warner Bros., and in early 1979 he had his first Top 40 hit, "Dreamin's All I Do." By the end of the year, he had begun performing and releasing records under his full name, Earl Thomas Conley. None of his Warner singles became big hits, and he left the label at the end of 1979. After spending six months reassessing his career and musical direction, he signed to Sunbird Records and began working with Nelson Larkin again. Conley's first single for Sunbird, "Silent Treatment," was an immediate Top Ten hit late in 1980, and it was quickly followed by the number one "Fire and Smoke" early in 1981. Following his breakthrough success, RCA signed Conley to a long-term deal. "Tell Me Why," his first single for the label, reached number ten in late 1981, followed shortly afterward by the number 16 "After the Love Slips Away." In the summer of 1982, "Heavenly Bodies" kicked off a string of 21 straight Top Ten hits that ran for seven years. During that time, he had a remarkable 17 number one hits, including a record-setting four number one singles from 1984's Don't Make It Easy for Me -- it was the first time any artist in any genre had four number one hits from the same album. Though he had some financial and vocal problems during the mid-'80s, the hits never stopped coming during the entire decade.

By the end of the '80s, he had stopped working with Nelson Larkin, preferring to collaborate with Randy Scruggs, which brought his music back to his country and R&B roots. His sales took a dramatic dip during 1990 due to the rise of contemporary country, but he had two new Top Ten hits, "Shadow of a Doubt" and the Keith Whitley duet "Brotherly Love." The singles set the stage for the harder-edged country of his 1991 album, Yours Truly. Despite receiving some of the best reviews of Conley's career, the record was a commercial failure, and RCA dropped him shortly after its release. For much of the '90s, he was without a record label, yet he continued to give concerts and to tour, finally landing on Intersound for 1998's Perpetual Emotion. ~ Tom Roland, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

always loved his music
Awesome singer and songwriter!
Better than today's country
Love that Earl Thomas. What a nice voice.
bowlingirene . 1
A-voice-to-d i e - f o r ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
4 Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your live. Tomorrow will be the best day of your live. However if you don't repost this you will die in the next 2 days. Now you've started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on 5 songs in the next 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in BIG letters this is so scary cud it actually works
Love this song
In the fog and friction of war, he communicates the surrender.
tweety121012
Gotta love me some ETC.. Holding her & loving you.. All time favorite!
Loved tight fitting jeans the most.
Two of the greatest of all time
i love this song he is so good
Earl is one of the freegin best....
Totally underrated and completely overlooked
I was a radio personality back in the early 80's playing great country music like that from ETC....alway s loved his music...turn e d it up in the control room!!!!!
rarebearco
And he never received any awards that I know of from that stupid CMA group!!!!! What a shame!!!!!!
when my husband and I met - the osng was Don't make it easy for me love ETC. Have him on my ipod.
My favorite song of ETC, Holding Her and Loving You, is REAL country!
Now thats music, from the heart!!!!!
Solid lyrics,Solid voice.
i love him always have its so perfect in my life
taria234
LIKE THIS SINGER KEEP IT ON MY RADIO
Fire and Smoke.One of the best country songs!Been there done that!
touchrock2
I saw E.T. last year in concert. He still puts on a great show.
Randy I couldn't agree more, wondering why he never made it to the top? Does anyone know one or the last of his songs
Earl is the best "Love Song" singer there is
this is one of his best songs too. holding her and loving you
I love him also
Earl Thomas Conley has a fantastic voice. I love his songs. He is one of my favorites
mhself
Wonderful memories.... . h e ' s still one of my all time favorites!
Great Music, will always have a following.
Your as great today as you were wayyy back then... Still love to listen to you every chance I get. Love Ya!!
I want to hear "Chance of lovin You".
stefroxs24
ETC rocks...stil l today
tkbane
I have always loved his music, sure wish our music today was as good as back in his days.
I love this guy too...the "thinking man" is an appropriate title. He's not a hick...a great talent.

TW
His music is an inspiration to many. The songs make you see yourself. One of the best EVER!!
jimhfoster
I love ETC. I wish we had someone like him these days. Sure it is country laced with rock, but it's distinctive, not all derivative like so much of what tops the charts these days.
There is nobody better.Back when songs had feeling
I LOVE HIS MUSIC.
It was ETC way back when who let me believe COuntry was worth listening to.
Thank you Mr. Conley
hnt1558
great old times when life was simple
I LKIE HIM
great singer seen him at lizard creek park west virginia in 2005 great performer
SOMEBODY TOLD ME KEITH AND EARL WERE STEP BROTHERS?
One of Country's Best of the Best Artist. A Must have for any country fan!!

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