Earl Thomas Conley - lead vocals, guitar; Shannon Fontaine - lead guitar, vocals; Kyle Fredrick - lead guitar; J.D. Williamson - bass; Fred Williamson - saxophone, percussion, vocals; Tommy McGovern - keyboards; Bill Watts - drums
Originally broadcast on WHA-FM for the Silver Eagle Cross Country Radio Concert Series, this energetic show merges the best elements of country, rock and pop into one well constructed music set. Conley, who was a massive Country Music star in the 1980s and early part of the '90s, is in fine form during this performance, recorded just as his song "Somewhere Between Right And Wrong," was about to hit #1 on the Billboard Country Chart. Conley was obviously thrilled to have his first #1 hit (even though, as a Nashville songwriter, he had already written hits for Billy Larkin and Conway Twitty), but little did he know he was about to set a music industry record. Within a year, Conley would be the first artist ever to have four #1 hits off the same album, although Michael Jackson would repeat the feat later, in 1984.
Regardless, considering the fact that Conley would go on to have 21 straight #1 hits between 1984 and 1990, he remains a relative footnote in Country music history. Born into a poor working class family in Ohio, Conley left home at 14 to live with an older sister when his father was laid off from his job at a railroad. Although he had strong artistic visions as a teen, the stigma of his poverty made him decide to pass on a college scholarship and enter the military instead. While in the service, he picked up the guitar and became enthralled with traditional country music, and the emerging country rock sound of The Eagles and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Upon leaving the Army, he worked for a number of blue collar jobs while moonlighting in country bands. A fledging Nashville producer named Neil Larkin decided to record his demos, and eventually Conley landed a deal with the indie GRT label in 1974. He recorded a few regional hits; wrote some songs for Larkin's brother, Bill and legend Conway Twitty (both had Top 20 hits with them) and eventually landed a deal with Warner Brothers in 1977. By 1979, however, he was back to an indie label, where again he had more regional hits. Eventually, RCA's powerful Nashville Music Machine got behind him, and he started having Top 10 country hits.
This show was captured just as Conley was experiencing his first major wave of national success. He was an artist well on the way to becoming a country superstar, and it certainly sounds that way here.