Earl Thomas Conley has passed away at age 77. The news, which Blake Shelton announced via Twitter, was confirmed by Earl’s brother, Fred Conley, via the Tennessean, who said Earl died at 12:20 a.m. on April 10 after suffering from a dementia-like condition.
Earl was known for blending different musical styles with deep, intelligent lyrics into what was called “thinking-man’s country,” often bending the rules of what was considered traditional country. Earl recorded 18 No. 1 hits in the 1980s, including “Fire and Smoke,” “Somewhere Between Right and Wrong,” “Right From the Start,” “Love Out Loud” and more.
Earl released five Top 10 albums, including his gold-certified Greatest Hits in 1985, as well as recorded duets with legends like Emmylou Harris and Keith Whitley.
Earl’s early songwriting credits include “Smoky Mountain Memories” for Mel Street and “This Time I’ve Hurt Her More Than She Loves Me” for Conway Twitty.
Blake Shelton cited Earl as his “all-time musical hero,” telling Country Weekly in 2002 that his favorite song was Earl’s “What I’d Say” and his career highlight was co-writing “All Over Me” with Earl.
“I got up extra early that morning so I would be awake and alert,” said Blake in 2002. “I was so nervous I must have drank two pots of coffee. So when I got to his house, the first thing I did after meeting him was ask him if I could use his bathroom. When I got in there, the only thing I could think of was, ‘I’m using Earl Thomas Conley’s toilet.’”
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
photo courtesy of RCA/Country Weekly/Earl Thomas Conley