In early 1975, country singer Earl Thomas Conley and R&B performer Anita Pointer were just beginning to pick up steam in their respective careers. While Conley, who died yesterday at age 77, was denting the lower reaches of the country singles chart with his first releases, Pointer and her sisters Bonnie, Helen and June were taking home their first-ever Grammy award — in the Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group category — for “Fairytale,” a stone-country breakup tune Anita had penned about her ill-fated affair with a San Francisco DJ.
For a group that would earn their biggest hits with heavily synthesized early Eighties dance-pop including “Jump (For My Love),” “Automatic” and “I’m So Excited,” “Fairytale,” recorded in Nashville, was something of a one-off — although another country performance, “Live Your Life Before You Die,” earned a 1975 Grammy bid as well. But a little over a decade after the group made their Grand Ole Opry debut in October 1974, Anita Pointer returned to the country chart, minus her sisters and instead in the company of Conley, who was by 1986 in the midst of one of country music’s hottest hitting streaks.
With 11 Number One singles already under his belt, Conley released the title track to his latest LP, Too Many Times. Penned by Tony McShear, Scott Page and Micheal Smotherman, the song is a contemplative, heartbreaking ballad about the passage of time and the inability to go back and correct mistakes that built walls between us. The song’s traditional country-pop production (by Mark Wright and Nelson Larkin) and the soulful blend of vocal styles from Pointer and Conley were enough to carry the song to Number Two for a week and to give the duo the opportunity to appear on Soul Train and Solid Gold, in addition to a TNN concert special from which the above performance is taken.
Although neither of them wrote the hit, Pointer said in an interview at the time of the song’s release that being one half of country music’s “first ‘salt-and-pepper’ act” was a remarkable achievement. “I’ve always loved the country music,” she said. “I’ve been into it for a long time… My mother and father were from Arkansas [and] were both ministers. The kind of music we heard in our church was very country. Beautiful melodies that I use when I write country songs myself.”
Coincidentally, both the Pointer Sisters and Earl Thomas Conley also share a connection with country legend Conway Twitty, for two different songs. Twitty’s 1975 Number One, “This Time I’ve Hurt Her More (Than She Loves Me),” was co-written by Conley, and in 1982, Twitty took his sultry version of the Pointers’ “Slow Hand” to Number One on the country chart.