From Hobby to Music Career
Interview: John Conlee has no plans to retire
John Conlee has remained firmly rooted in the heart of country music fans, and locals will see him in concert at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15, at Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino in Shreveport.
He has had 26 singles reaching the top 20, eight of those reaching No. 1. He was the Academy of Country Music’s Best New Male Vocalist in 1979.
Born and raised in the farmland of Kentucky, Conlee has volunteered his services in nine Farm Aid concerts and assisted in raising millions to aid the American farmer.
Since hitting with “Rose Colored Glasses” in 1978, Conlee matched that success with “Lady Lay Down,” “Backside of Thirty,” “Before My Time” and “Baby, You’re Something.”
He will don rose-colored glasses when he does the song near the show’s end. Glasses are sold at the concession table. “Thousands are floating around,” he said. He has a new shirt with his hit songs, and all hits are available – along with new music – on a USB drive.
When he performs “Busted,” it is a cue for fans to come up to the stage with money. It started as a joke at a state fair 35 years ago, and he donated that $60 to Feed the Children, Conlee said. Contributions now also focus on law enforcement. “We are under vile attack in a lot of cases, and I added these to the campaign,” Conlee said.
Conlee worked as an undertaker at a funeral home, beginning as a senior in high school, for six years. He keeps his Kentucky license current, so he doesn’t have to take the test again. “I learned more about helping people at the funeral home than anything I can think of in my life.” He cherishes the experience more than having a degree.
He then “scratched an itch” for broadcasting and turned his music hobby into a music career. Conlee worked at Nashville’s WLAC from 1971 until 1978. “Had I not gotten that job, I probably would have never moved, and music would have remained the hobby it had been up to that point.”
Bud Logan has enjoyed a relationship as Conlee’s producer, encompassing an entire career filled with hits. His manager, along with his road manager/ lead guitarist, has been on board from the beginning. He said loyalty is a twoway street.
Conlee is always a popular addition to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry— where he was bestowed the honor of membership in 1981. Conlee is in the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.
For relaxation, he returns to the farm—his 32- acre spread outside Nashville. He has been married to Gale for 40 years, and they have three children— Rebecca, Jessica and John.
He just turned 76 but has no plans to retire.
He said music is what he is supposed to do, and God will “retire me when I am not supposed to do it anymore.” As long as his voice and health hold out, he will perform.
Ticket prices are $29 for handicapped, $39 for general admission and $49 for reserved seating. Tickets are available at www.Outhousetickets.com, or by phone at 936-554-5822.
“You can’t party down if you don’t come out,” Conlee said, adding that he would hang out after the show for autographs.
He knows he has been to Shreveport and is aware of the music history, but he can’t say exactly when. He is sure people will come up to him and say remember when you were here? He’ll say no, but they know.