Soulful singer Con Hunley and Jimmy Fortune of the Statler Brothers fame will perform at Country Tonite in Pigeon Forge November 7 at 8:00 p.m.
Hunley was born and raised in Knoxville. Unlike many country music stars that move to Nashville, Hunley decided to remain close to home and maintained a Knoxville residence.
Hunley got his start in music shortly after a stint in the Air Force. He began singing in local bars and taverns until he met a music producer and signed to record with Warner Brothers Records in 1978. What followed was string of more than 20 hits that won him a devoted and enthusiastic fan base including “Oh Girl,” “What’s New With You,” “You Lay a Whole Lotta Love on Me” and “Week-End Friend.”
He recorded five albums with Warner Brothers before the label reorganized and Hunley and several other artists were released.
“I had started recording another album when they released me,” said Hunley. “After that I signed with MCA and I was recording an album and the same thing happened again. There was a shake-up at the label and I was among several artists that were released.”
In an instance that may have seemed like deja vu, the same thing happened when Conley signed with Capitol. A frustrated Hunley decided to step back from the recording industry. What followed was an 18 year hiatus from the recording business and numerous sold out concerts before throngs of eager fans.
Hunley signed with Immi Records in 2004. He teamed again with Grammy-winning producer Norro Wilson, the architect of several of his early Warner Brothers hits. His first album with the new label “Sweet Memories” was selected by CMT.com as one of the top ten albums of 2004.
Hunley’s recent “Tennessee” was named as an official state song of the Volunteer State by order of Gov. Bill Haslam.
Hunley is no stranger to Country Tonite. He has performed at the theater numerous times and one of his fondest memories was performing with “The Possum” himself, George Jones.
“I was big fan of George. The first time I ever heard ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ I had to pull off the road. I got so emotional. I was at Country Tonite when George was performing and he called me up on stage to perform with him. I have so many good memories of that theater. It’s going to be a great show. I still have my pipes and I still sing in the same key as I did 40 years ago.”
Jimmy Fortune, also formerly of the Statler Brothers, will be performing as well. Fortune wrote the group’s second number one hit, “Elizabeth” and followed that with two more number one hits, “My Only Love” and “Too Much on My Heart.” Fortune also wrote the top ten hit “Forever” and co-wrote “More Than a Name on a Wall.” Fortune and The Statler Brothers were inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 2007 and were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2008.