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Music, Songs and Lyrics
Artist Profile
Hunley, Con


Soulful singer Con Hunley was born and raised in Fountain City in the Smoky Mountain foothills of East Tennessee. One of six children, Con had music in his life from birth. His first entrance into the music world was singing gospel songs at church with his family. Con's parents bought him a used "Stella" guitar for Christmas when he was nine years old. He was overjoyed. His parents taught him basic chords (G,C,D,A) and some simple songs. Con idolized Chet Atkins and taught himself to play thumb-style guitar while still a youth. When his parents bought a piano for his sister Beth, Con taught himself to play by ear and learned Ray Charles' famous hit, "What'd I Say." That was the beginning of a lifelong love affair. Con credits Ray Charles with having the greatest influence on his style and his music career. "That record was like a monster that just grabbed me up," Con says, "and it kept alive my motivation to play."

Con's first professional gig came in 1964 at the Eagles Club in downtown Knoxville. He played in a band that was headed up by Gene Hammock. Gene was a well-known local singer who sang in the style of Jim Reeves and Eddie Arnold. The gig paid $12.00 for three hours, which was more than Con was making per hour at the local mill. Con was determined to get out of the mill, and in May of 1965 he joined the Air Force where he hoped to learn a trade. During recruitment testing, the Air Force found that Con was mechanically inclined. After basic training, Con was sent to a tech school at Chanute AFB in Illinois where he was taught aircraft hydraulic and pneumatic systems. He excelled at that and was shortly made an instructor in that field. While there, Con played with a local band. As the Viet Nam War deescalated, Con was transferred to Castle AFB near Atwater, CA. He found a job playing piano at the Empire Lounge in Atwater, and from that moment he was destined for a career in music. He played there until his discharge in 1968.

Music City Success
When Con returned to Knoxville, he felt like a stranger in his own home town. He could not find any playing jobs. He began to go to the Corner Lounge on Central Avenue and play just for his own pleasure. After a month or so the owner, Ernestine Purkey, told him he could play on Thursday nights for tips. She said, "Thursday nights are bad so I know you can't hurt my business, and you might help it." Thursday nights at the Corner Lounge soon became a real happening in Knoxville, and it continued for almost 10 years. During that time Con Hunley was also playing the Village Barn with Marvin Russell and the Rhythm Masters Band.

In 1975 Con went to Nashville after catching the ear of Sam Kirkpatrick, who happened to be at the Corner Lounge one Thursday night. Kirkpatrick chartered Prairie Dust Records and Con, with the help of guitarist Larry Morton, who was band leader for Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass, cut five sides: "Misery Loves Company," "Pick Up The Pieces," "I'll Always Remember That Song," "Deep In The Arms of Texas" and "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do." "Breaking Up" received national attention. Soon after, Con, an avid golfer, was at the Acuff-Rose Publishing Company Golf Tournament in Nashville with Bobby Denton of WIVK Radio. After the first day of the tournament the golfer/musicians, made up of the biggest names in country music, had a "guitar pullin'." Bobby Denton asked Con to sing. He sang two songs after a lot of persuasion but was totally in awe of everyone in the room. A few days after the tournament, his phone started ringing. Major labels wanted to meet with him. After the dust settled, Con Hunley signed with Warner Brothers Records in 1977 and cut his first of five Warner albums, Cry, Cry Darling.

In 1982 Con recorded his biggest hit, "Oh Girl." During that time he was touring with various artists including George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Alabama, The Gatlin Brothers, The Oak Ridge Boys and others. In 1984 Con went with Capitol Records. One of his recordings for them, "What Am I Going To Do About You," was a hit and one of 20 of his songs that made the top ten on the charts. It stayed on the charts for 58 consecutive weeks. It was during these years that Con was nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year and Newcomer of the Year by ACM and CMA. In 1982 Hunley sang the National Anthem before the Heavyweight Championship between Big John Tate and Gerry Coetzee in Pretoria, South Africa. In 1986 Con performed with the 70 piece Knoxville Symphony Orchestra and his five piece band, a Knoxville first. He played at the White House in 1996 and did an annual New Year's Eve show in the Smokies for many years.

Sweet Memories
Con has played in venues large and small and still loves to perform more than just about anything. He has an active tour schedule and does appearances between recording sessions. He has continued to participate in charity golf tournaments, which makes the circle complete since his recording career was launched during the Acuff-Rose Tournament in Nashville. His latest project is a marriage of the old and new. He and Norro Wilson, his first producer at Warner Records, kept in touch and began talking about another project a few years ago. "We decided to do a new album, Sweet Memories, and enlisted the top musicians in Nashville," Con says.

In 1999 Con's mother, Priscilla Clodell Hunley, passed away. It was a year later before Con got back to the album. He had already recorded 8 cuts and added 6 more. Sweet Memories is completed now and is dedicated to Con's mother. She's the reason the final cut on the album is "Amazing Grace." She loved the song and she loved to hear her son sing it just like in the days of his childhood.

Con enjoyed being back in the studio so much that he is already looking forward to his next project. Con Hunley's music is better than ever and is sure to please fans with both sentimental favorites and some great new songs.

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