Earl Thomas Conley Dead at 77
Earl Thomas Conley, a hit country singer-songwriter in the 1980s, has died. He was 77 years old.
Country star Blake Shelton broke the news of Conley's death on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon (April 10). Shelton and Conley, along with Michael Pyle, co-wrote Shelton's 2002 Top 20 hit "All Over Me."
"My heart is absolutely destroyed today," Shelton says. "Earl was my all-time favorite singer, hero and my friend. Prayers to his family. We will all miss you deeply my brother. Now go rest ..."
A post to a Conley fan page on Facebook also reported the news, noting that Conley "has been in poor health for a few years now." Conley's brother, Fred Conley, confirms to the Tennessean that the singer died at 12:20AM on Wednesday in Nashville. He had been in hospice care for several months and was suffering from a condition similar to dementia.
"He just kept losing ground," Fred Conley says. "I'm brokenhearted."
Born on Oct. 17, 1941, in Portsmouth, Ohio, Conley charted more than 30 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in the 1980s and early '90s. Eighteen of those songs hit No. 1 -- the third-most No. 1 songs of the decade, among artists of all genres, behind Alabama and Ronnie Milsap. However, music was not Conley's first love: It was paining, which he began to do at the age of 10.
Conley moved to Dayton, Ohio, to live with his sister as a teenager. He was ready to accept an art scholarship to a local college after high school, but enlisted in the Army instead. That's where he discovered his musical talent, as part of a Christian-influenced trio, and began to write songs.
In 1968, Conley began going back and forth to Nashville, eventually moving to Huntsville, Ala., to be closer to Music City. In 1973, he met producer Dick Herd, with whom he wrote Mel Street's Top 10 song "Smokey Mountain Memories." Conley officially relocated to Nashville after that, earning a No. 1 hit in 1975: Conway Twitty's "This Time I've Hurt Her More Than She Loves Me."
Conley first tried his luck at a career as an artist in 1979, with the release of three singles for Warner Bros. It took until 1982, however, for him to earn his first No. 1 song: "Fire & Smoke," from Conley's Blue Pearl album, released on Sunbird Records. Conley then signed with RCA Records. Beginning with 1983's "Your Love's on the Line," Conley earned nine consecutive No. 1 singles. After a No. 2 duet with Anita Pointer broke that streak in 1986, the same year's "I Can't Win for Losin' You" began another run of seven consecutive No. 1 songs.
Conley found crossover success as well thanks to his R&B- and pop-influenced sound: That duet with Pointer, "Too Many Times," earned him a performance spot on the famous TV show Soul Train. Conley also received numerous ACM Awards, CMA Awards and Grammy Awards nominations throughout his career.
Conley took a hiatus from the music industry in the early 1990s, though he began recording again in 1998. The album Perpetual Emotion was released that April.
Funeral details for Conley have not yet been announced. The Boot will update this story with more details as they are made available.
Remembering the Country Artists Who Have Died in 2019