Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Earl Thomas Conley, “Your Love’s On the Line”

“Your Love’s On the Line”

Earl Thomas Conley

Written by Earl Thomas Conley and Randy Scruggs

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

July 22, 1983


#1 (1 week)

August 6, 1983

Alright. Hold up just a minute.

I’ve been listening to country music for over thirty years, and I pride myself on being a genre historian.  I certainly have enough eighties country music in my collection to run my own oldies station.

How am I only discovering now that Earl Thomas Conley is a brilliant singer-songwriter?

This cautionary tale directed toward a man considering cheating on his wife is so fantastically written that I just keep staring at the lyrics and getting progressively more annoyed that I never properly delved into Conley’s work:

You still think your first love’s the best in your lifeWhen you know you should hurry, but you can’t say goodbyeAnd you know you can’t go backAnd feel like you’re where you belong
Now the sweet taste of freedom is hard to controlWhen the touch of a woman’s so tender to holdShe won’t even let you remember how long you’ve been gone
Boy, you’ve got your head in the cloudsAnd your heart in a bindSo how come you’re feelin’ so proudWhen your love’s on the line?
I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that many men of a certain generation got up and got the hell out when this song played on the jukebox.  He’s like a honky tonk Jiminy Cricket. 
Listening to the depth of his vocal performance and the overall groove of the record, I’m also starting to suspect that a good chunk of the Brooks & Dunn aesthetic was lifted directly from Earl Thomas Conley.  I’m looking forward to testing out that theory as I listen to the the fifteen consecutive No. 1 singles that will follow this one.
This man’s already made a year of wading through T.G. Sheppard’s Letters to Penthouse totally worth it.
“Your Love’s On the Line” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. I’m so glad you’re enjoying Earl Thomas Conley. While not a huge favorite I do enjoy his music quite a bit and go through listening phases every year with him. I really enjoy a lot of his singles. Very contemporary but sophisticated. Not a term applied to him but Progressive country would be a good fit for his music.

    • My first inkling was on that Lorrie Morgan album from a couple of years ago. She covered “What I’d Say” and I thought it was a new song. I couldn’t believe how good it was. When I did my FSBFA for her, I learned it was an ETC cover. I should’ve looked more deeply into him back then!

  2. ETC was indeed a brilliant songwriter and while I am not a huge fan of his singing voice I did appreciate his unique sound. I first heard ETC as a guest on a syndicated radio show (he was introduced as Earl Conley) and he had placed some songs with Mel Street and Billy Larkin (both really good performers who never made it really big). At the time he was working his current single “When I’m Under the Table”, which has never appeared in digital form (as far as i know). I enjoyed his single but I never guesed he would become as big a star as he turned out to be.

  3. This is my very favorite ETC song from a very long list of favorites. It’s the one I play the most.

    Thanks for recognizing his incredible songwriting talent. Somewhere I read that Earl was known as the thinking man’s country singer. I definitely agree with that title.

    Kevin, I think you’re going to love the next 15 songs. A lot of people are going to start wondering why Conley isn’t revered more in country music. He’s amazing.

    So glad this song received an A.

  4. Etc is the best male country artist from the 80s to be overlooked by all the awards shows. His 80s streak was by far the best of any 80s male artist. I got his greatest hits for Christmas from a coworker on year and have been in love since! Underated is an understatement…..

  5. It is a hoot to see all this excitement and anticipation for an upcoming run of amazing ’80s country music by an artist time has unfairly forgotten or moved on from.

    At the time, and in the moment, , I know I took his gifts as both as a songwriter and singer for granted. Maybe younger fans have always felt this way when a particular star dominates the charts in their formative years. Everything is too close and immediate to gain any perspective.

    Their consistency is like the sun coming up. It’s simply assumed. There was a time I couldn’t imagine the day when George Strait or Alan Jackson wouldn’t be played on country radio but then that day came. I am sure people felt the same way about Merle Haggard and George Jones.

    Either way, people unfamiliar with these singles are in for an education and a thrill.

    ETC was special. His earlier number ones this decade were already proof of that.

  6. Earl Thomas Conley is from my hometown. There is a park and huge recreation area named after him there. Growing up in the 90s – past ETC’s radio run – I wasn’t familiar with his music until about a decade ago either. He was just the famous local guy who had some pop country hits in the 80s to me.

    Like The_trouble_with_the_truth, someone gave me a greatest hits disc of his and I gave it a listen on a road trip one day. It was fantastic. “Holding Her and Loving You”, “Love Don’t Care Whose Heart It Breaks”, the duet with Emmylou… I can’t believe I had overlooked such a great artist. It’s gonna be fun reading your reviews of these songs that I only recently discovered myself.

    “Your Love’s On The Line” is probably my favorite ETC single. I didn’t know he was a co-writer until today. But I think the “head in the clouds, why are you feeling so proud” lyric is one of the best ever written in a country cheating song. And I love the honky tonk Jiminy Cricket reference. Great stuff.

  7. This man’s already made a year of wading through T.G. Sheppard’s Letters to Penthouse totally worth it.

    Literally LOLed here.

    ETC’s always been a favorite of mine; I agree with the assessment that he’s one of the more underrated artists of that decade. He really was great. I often say that pop-country in’t bad by default, that it just used to be a lot better. Alabama and ETC are the artists I most often think of when I make that observation.

    I don’t know how I just thought of this — but maybe the guy in this song should’ve had a word with the guy in ”Holdin’ Her And Lovin’ You,” yes?

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