The life of legendary country singer Earl Thomas Conley was celebrated at a star-studded memorial concert in Nashville on Tuesday, with the likes of Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and more paying tribute.
Conley, known for such hits as “Holding Her and Loving You”, passed away five months ago at age 77.
“Earl had the saddest eyebrows when he was singing,” joked Shelton of the first time he saw Conley sing on a TV commercial for a greatest-hits album when he was just 10, reports The Tennessean.
“What really struck me about it was they started going through all these songs and [they were all my favourites]” he continued. “From that moment on, he became my favourite country artist of all time. It’s crazy that even through that cheesy commercial, he was still able to have a connection. That’s the power of Earl’s songs and… his voice.”
Other artists who took to the stage in tribute to Conley included John Anderson, Wade Hayes, Joe Diffie, Neal McCoy and bluegrass star Dale Ann Bradley; Randy Travis and Eddy Raven were also on hand, but did not perform
“I remember being a kid and just going, ‘Man, that guy is hurting right there,’” said Bryan of his early recollections of Conley. “I remember ‘What I’d Say’. I didn’t know everything he was talking about, but I knew whatever is going on in this song… I remember feeling hurt for the first time through music listening to that song. Historically, that is my number one favourite song through all of eternity.”
Ahead of the concert, Shelton spoke with Billboard to recall getting together with Conley to write a song together.
“The first time I ever went to his house, we wrote a song and I couldn’t get over the fact that I was sitting there with my personal hero, my favourite singer of all time, of any genre of music,” Shelton said. “I couldn’t get over how normal he was. Over the years, I think he accepted the fact that I truly did worship him. I remember every interaction he and I ever had. It was always a big deal to me.”