Member Since 1981
John Conlee’s hits have very rarely been songs that see life through the hard-fact-hiding “Rose Colored Glasses” described in his first smash record of 1978.
Through all the years since, his emphasis has been on songs of the lives of everyday people—middle class, hardworking people, and those who’ve been unable to attain even that level of economic ease. He made a fresh hit all over again of “Busted,” when country fans might have thought Ray Charles and Johnny Cash had enjoyed the last word on that one. He had us nodding in agreement to the tough realities of “Nothing Behind You, Nothing in Sight.”
“There are more of us ordinary folks than anybody else,” says the big-voiced baritone whose hits also include “Common Man,” “Working Man,” and “Friday Night Blues.”
When John Conlee looks at love, the view includes Harlan Howard and Bobby Braddock’s searing “I Don’t Remember Loving You”—and, never the movie-star type himself, he had no trouble singing about being on the “Backside of Thirty.”
No-nonsense John grew up on a 250-acre Kentucky farm where he raised hogs, cultivated tobacco with mules, and mowed pastures. He also worked as a funeral-home attendant and mortician, and as a pop-music disc jockey in Nashville before settling into a career in country music in the mid-’70s. It’s typical of the man that he used the returns from that long string of No. 1 hits (four in 1983 and ‘84 alone) to get back to farm life himself.
“I spend all of my off-time, what I have of it, with my family on our farm,” he explains. “I enjoy it. There’s no glamour to it. Woodworking, gunsmithing, or driving a tractor require getting grease or varnish all over you. It’s dirty work, but I like it.”
John, who became an Opry member in 1981, still stirs the hall to the rafters, most recently, with his salute to the families of American fighting troops on “They Also Serve.” He maintains an active touring schedule and recently released Classics, an album of classic hits plus new favorites, and an album of sacred songs, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.
Profoundly involved with Feed the Children, John has raised more than $140,000 - one dollar at a time—for the charity from the dollar bills tossed on the stage when he sings that 1983 hit version of “Busted.” Instrumental in the crusade for America’s farmers that became the Family Farm Defense Fund, he helped Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp organize and entertain at Farm Aid concerts that raised more than $13 million in grants.
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus