Looking through rose-colored glasses has given John Conlee perfect focus his whole life.
Counting 19 Top 10 country hits from the late 1970s through the 1980s – begun in 1978 with a number he co-wrote, “Rose Colored Glasses” – Conlee will perform at 7 p.m. Sept. 23 at Ground Zero, 904 Chester St., Myrtle Beach.
Buy tickets at 800-965-9324 or www.itickets.com/events/382830.html. General admission is $35 advance or $40 day of the show, and respective VIP rates, including a meet-and-greet at 6:30 p.m., before the concert, are $50 and $55. More information at 843-808-4437 and www.johnconlee.com.
In a phone call last month, Conlee said “he stepped on a lot of different rocks” in building his career, from mortuary work, to “the itch” that led to several years working as a disc jockey on radio stations in Nashville, Tenn., and later recording music that beamed on airwaves. The Kentucky native said such a succession fortified him for each milestone achieved.
“Every one of them was useful, necessary, and what I was supposed to do at the time,” Conlee said. “Radio was the only reason why I moved to Nashville. I went from a hobby to a career. Music was a hobby to that point for me.”
Topping the charts with such singles as “Friday Night Blues,” “Common Man” and “I’m Only In It for the Love” during the era unleashed by the “Urban Cowboy” movie and soundtrack to start the 1980s gave Conlee perfect timing for his next step.
“Every big explosion that occurs,” he said, solely in a positive sense, “really in any form of entertainment, moves the needle farther down the road. That certainly was the case for me.”
Conlee said the “Urban Cowboy” effect widened the genre’s appeal to new generations, especially youth, prompting more radio stations to play country, which “spread the music to a broader audience.“
Induction in 1981 into the Grand Ole Opry only humbled Conlee, sounding so happy and kind throughout this interview. Asked for his view of the biggest change he has noticed in more than three decades in the Opry family, he said “so many of our iconic artists have moved along and passed on.”
“I’m so thankful,” he said, “that I got to spend time on stage with Little Jimmy Dickens, who was our last connection to that era.”
He also brought up Sarah Cannon – better known as Minnie Pearl – Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb among those he misses from “the people I grew up listening to when I had the Opry on the radio.”
“I look around,” Conlee said, “and I’m one of the senior members.”
Conlee, 71 and loving his home farm life, said he still performs 70 concerts a year, without any desire to slow that pace. His Myrtle Beach visit will cap off three days in a row of shows, after stops in Virginia and North Carolina.
Promoting his forthcoming “Classics 3” CD collection, he also looks forward to another project, an album blending gospel songs with some new material.
Conlee’s devotion to charities, including Farm Aid, Feed the Children, and causes for wounded warriors, has kept a youthful vibe and energy all his life, only enhanced by his faith.
“I grew up that way,” said Conlee, a married father of three, including a Marine deployed twice to Iraq and who earned a Purple Heart. “That’s the way I was raised. I still believe the best way to live your life is to look after your neighbor.”