In Memoriam: Earl Thomas Conley (1941-2019)

Earl Thomas Conley, an eighties country music hitmaker who enjoyed 18 #1 hits, has passed away.

The Tennessean reports:

Country singer Earl Thomas Conley, known for hit songs including “Holding Her and Loving You,” “What I’d Say” and “Right From the Start,” died at 12:20 a.m. Wednesday in Nashville, his brother Fred Conley confirmed.

The singer had a condition similar to dementia, his brother said, and had been in hospice care for several months.

“He just kept losing ground,” Fred Conley said. “I’m brokenhearted.”

Erinn Scates, 22, Earl Thomas Conley’s youngest child, said, “He was a great dad, and he filled our lives with color.”

“I could always count on Daddy to rescue me from life when life wasn’t always perfect,” said the singer’s oldest daughter Amy Edmisten, 50. His son Ty Conley, 55, added: “My hero.”

For those unfamiliar with his work, or feeling particularly nostalgic for it today, Billboard has a rundown of his twenty biggest hits, which included collaborations with Emmylou Harris and Anita Porter.  Conley’s last big chart hits came in 1991 with “Shadow of a Doubt” and “Brotherly Love,” the latter a duet with Keith Whitley that became Conley’s 26th and final top ten hit.



  1. ETC led the wave of artists who developed a new Nashville sound sans the steel guitar twang of AM Radio-friendly music. Eddie Rabbitt, Ronnie Milsap, Alabama, Crystal Gayle and Juice Newton would share space, but it was mostly cuts from “Don’t Take It Easy on Me” that dominated the charts. We cue-burned nearly every cut on that album with the Stanton cartridges because the stations didn’t have CDs yet. It was an easy time to be in country radio.

  2. Such an amazing talent and so sad that country radio dropped him (like so many great artists) in the 90s.

    He was the first artist in any genre of music to have four #1 hits from the same album. Yes, you read that correctly – he did it before Michael or Janet Jackson, before Whitney or Mariah, before the Judds. He was the first to do it in 1983-84 from [I]Don’t Make It Easy For Me[/I].

    He rarely missed hitting #1 in the 80s because his music, voice, and style were all that good. He was once called ‘thinking man’s country’. He wrote or co-wrote most of his songs as well.

    So glad that many of today’s country stars are tweeting about his influence in their careers. He was an amazing talent. So sad to hear of his passing.

    Oh, and a correction in the very nice memorial above – his duet was with Anita [b]Pointer[/b] (of the Pointer Sisters). He was a huge fan of R&B music.

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