Portsmouth (West) Native and Legend, Earl Thomas Conley passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 77. Word of his death started Wednesday afternoon when a Twitter comment from Blake Shelton began showing up on social media and soon afterward, the news media also began posting that he had passed away in the early morning hours.
According to an article in USA Today, 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 on Wednesday in Nashville, his brother Fred Conley confirmed. Conley suffered from 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.”
Shelton’s first tweet was, “My heart is absolutely destroyed today… I’m sad to report that Earl Thomas Conley passed away very early this morning. 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… “— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) April 10, 2019.
Conley helped influence today’s generation of country singers. Upon hearing of his death, Blake Shelton tweeted that his heart was “absolutely destroyed.”
According to Oldies.com some well-known facts about Conley were: 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 one 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 one 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 favor 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.
Most websites about Conley and his life never cease to leave out that Conley grew up in Portsmouth until he was 14 years old. Conley then moved to his sister’s, in Ohio also, and then later, he joined the Army. Conley was well loved by so many in the area for many years. And, in the early 1980s, Riverside Park became The Earl Thomas Conley Park in West Portsmouth and was renamed in honor of Conley.
Steve Hayes, longtime local radio personality with WNXT and Hometown Broadcasting had this to say of Conley:
“In my opinion, Earl Thomas Conley was one of the greatest country music artists of all time, not of just his genre, but of all of country music. I think his influence on other artists right up to today, was incredible due to his incredible songwriting and the way he was able to write songs that everybody could relate to,” Hayes said. “I believe having a chance to spend some time with him, I was also impressed with the fact that he was just a down home country boy from Portsmouth Ohio who was easily accessible and never considered himself any better than anyone else. Earl always came back to town for a long period of time and gave back to the community. He had his Earl Thomas Conley scholarship golf outing, where for over 25 years, he came back to town and the money that was raised went to a scholarship for local kids. He always when he came back to town he wanted to bring back something better for each year and again he never forgot his roots.”
When asked about how Conley felt about the park being named after him, Hayes said, “I had talked to him several times and he was very humbled by it. Earl was the kind of guy that he thought you should never make a big fuss over,” Hayes said. “He always felt like his music which was really in his heart and that was his soul and what he did, was just a part of him. I think he always enjoyed coming home to see people and if you’ll listen to his music very very carefully, his hometown was very important to him and he threw a lot of that back in the songs he wrote.”
Hayes concluded, ” his music really struck the heart core of America and it still does today.”
Along with the rest of the country, many country musicians, and many of this community will mourn the loss of someone who came from here, was successful made it big, and never forgot where he started and was a great man because of this.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740) 353-3101 ext. 1928