My guest this month is Country Music star John Conlee who uses his voice and talents to honor God. Below are my questions/comments and his responses.
When did you begin to dream about being a radio announcer? Your career had some interesting stops before Country Music.
“I became interested in both music and radio when I was eight or nine years old. I took a weekly guitar lesson in nearby Lexington, KY. Eventually, after the guitar lesson, I started to visit a local radio station across the street from the music store and became interested in how DJs and news people work.
“My original career plan was to go to college and major in the radio arts department, but I became side tracked when I started working part time for a local funeral home and ambulance service during my senior year in high school. After working there for a few months, it became clear that I should get my licenses. But after six years I still had the itch to try radio so I got a job at a station in Fort Knox, KY. After six months there, I moved next door to Elizabethtown, KY and then back to my hometown of Versailles to help put a new station on the air. A year later, I sent an audition tape to WLAC in Nashville and was hired to do news. That job was the only reason I came to Music City.
“I was signed to my first recording contract in 1976 but kept the job at WLAC until we had our first hit, “Rose Colored Glasses” in 1978. I’m blessed to have maintained a full schedule of performances on the road and at the Grand Ole Opry for all these years. It was always my goal to create a body of work (30 or so hits to date) and to perform as long as people want to hear me.”
When did The Lord become really, really real to you? Was there someone who had a major influence in your Christian walk?
“I accepted Christ during a revival at my church, Versailles Baptist Church, when I was nine years old. I spent all of my years in that church until I moved to Nashville in 1971. There was a time after high school when I thought I might have been called to the ministry. Reverend John Kruschwitz was a tremendous influence as the one who led me to Christ. I think it was during my time in the funeral profession that I learned the most about serving the Lord.”
Do you believe your musical career has provided a platform to share your Christian faith?
“There is no doubt that my career in music has given me a way to reach a large number of people over the past 40 years. We’ve always tried to choose songs to record that offer a positive message that is mostly family friendly. Looking back, the events of September 11, 2001 certainly changed my focus on what’s really important. From that point I began to look more to my faith that manifested in my music as well. I released my first gospel CD in 2004 and began including some of those songs in the live shows. We’ve closed every live show with “Amazing Grace”. My musical focus is entirely aimed at spreading the gospel now and we’re in the process of recording another gospel CD that I hope will be available this year. We’ve included a number of faith based songs on our most recent secular CDs including a pro-life song called “Unborn Voice” and a Merle Haggard song “Jesus Take A Hold”; written when the country was divided over the Vietnam War.”
Tell about your worshiping at Cornerstone Nashville.
“I’ve been physically attending for about ten years, but I started watching Pastor Maury Davis on the weekly broadcasts years before that. I’ve always been a fan of straight ahead; no holds barred preaching like that of Pastor Maury or Pastor John Hagee for instance. Now at Cornerstone, the baton has been passed to Maury’s son, Pastor Galen Davis with an increased focus on community outreach. Thanks to Pastor Galen, Cornerstone has insisted on remaining open for in house worship during the pandemic which I think is so important for keeping the body of Christ connected.
“Musically, I’m involved with the prime life ministry of Pastor Deeanna Wall. We hold a 30 minute service between the two main church services called The Gathering featuring classic songs of faith like you might hear on a Gaither broadcast.”
What has The Lord showed you during this COVID 19 pandemic?
“I believe the pandemic is a wake-up call to get our priorities right and there can be no more important priority than getting our eyes back on the Lord. I think He is shouting to us from Heaven to come to Him and bring as many people with us as we possibly can! I also believe that we all need to live 2 Chronicles 7:14 with a renewed fervor because He is the only real cure for what ails us!”
Ralph E. Vaughn