NASHVILLE, TN (CelebrityAccess) — Country singer Earl Thomas Conley, who scored hits such as “Holding Her and Loving You,” and “Right From the Start,” died on Wednesday at the age of 77.
His brother Fred Conley confirmed Earl’s passing to the Nashville Tennessean on Wednesday, stating that his brother suffered from a condition similar to dementia and had been in hospice care for several months.
“He just kept losing ground,” Fred Conley told the Tennessean. “I’m brokenhearted.”
An Ohio native, Conley began his musical career while serving in the army, first performing with a Christian group and then shifting towards a more traditional country sound.
In 1973, he got his first break via Nashville producer Dick Heard, who partnered Conley with country singer Mel Street for the hit “Smokey Mountain Memories.”
In 1974, Conley signed with the indie label GRT but failed to generate a breakthrough hit though he found success as a songwriter for artists such as Mel Street and Conway Twitty.
Conley finally broke through to the mainstream when he signed with Warner Bros and then Sunbird Records, scoring an impressive string of number 1 hits through the 1980s, including Fire & Smoke, Angel In Disguise, Nobody Falls Like A Fool, and Love Out Loud.
However, as country music began its shift to a more progressive sound in the 1990s, his sales started to dwindle and he took a hiatus from recording for much of the decade.
In 1998, he began recording again and penned hits for artists such as Randy Scruggs, and Blake Shelton who remembered his friend on Twitter after news of his death broke.
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… pic.twitter.com/W75ZVV6fbe
— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) April 10, 2019
“When I first came to Nashville in the early ’80s, I studied the great singers, songwriters and human hearts – one that topped the charts in all areas was Earl Thomas Conley. He made a big difference in the songs I sang. Thank you for the lessons and the memories, my friend. God give you sweet repose ’til we meet again… ‘just around the bend.'” – Randy Travis, Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry Member
“Earl and I grew up about 30 miles down the road from each other. We’ve been good friends for many years. I’ve always loved his records and I’m gonna miss him.” – Bobby Bare, Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry Member
“Earl Thomas Conley, great country music star, I never had the pleasure of working with Earl but I have always admired his talent and his love for country music.” – Mickey Gilley