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John Conlee

John Conlee will perform at this year's Sesser Homecoming Rend Lake Days.

John Conlee doesn't have complete confidence in the Billboard charts, the gold standard for measuring success in the country music industry.

Conlee's debut single, “Rose Colored Glasses,” is his signature tune and a true country music classic. However, it only peaked at No. 7 on Billboard.

“Having your best-known song to reach No. 7 only proves that a No. 1 record really doesn't mean that much,” Conlee says. “Instead of telling people that I've had seven No. 1 singles, I tell them that I've had 30 hits.”

His long list of well-known tunes also includes: “Miss Emily's Picture,” “Friday Night Blues,” “Common Man,” “Backside Of Thirty” and “I Don't Remember Loving You.”

Conlee will be in concert at 8 p.m. on June 16 as the featured performer at the annual Sesser Homecoming Rend Lake Days celebration.

The musical portion of the festival kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on June 13 with a performance by Herrin-based Cat Daddy'O, followed by George Portz & The Friends of Bluegrass at 7:30 p.m. on June 14. Nationally known talent Jeannie Kendall and Carl Acuff Jr. are scheduled for 8 p.m. June 15 and Conlee will close out the 63rd season on June 16.

All entertainment is offered free of charge in the city park. Patrons are urged to bring lawn chairs for seating.

Food stands, featuring the event's famous roasted corn and barbecue, open at 5 p.m. each of the first three nights and at noon on June 16.

Carnival rides open at 6 p.m. the first three days and at 5 p.m. on the final day.

The 71-year old-Conlee has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1981.

Growing up in Versailles, Kentucky, Conlee was raised on a farm. His daily chores included slopping hogs, tending cattle and plowing fields. Accustomed to hard work from an early age and loving the farm life, he knew true financial security was in a different vocation and became a licensed mortician.

Conlee started singing and playing guitar when he was 10. The love of music led him to abandon his career as a mortician and he went to work at Music City powerhouse AM radio station WLAC in 1971.

He worked at the station for seven years, then broke out as a recording artist with “Rose Colored Glasses.”

Beginning in 1978, Conlee dominated the charts for a decade. He cracked the elusive Top 10 with 22 of 26 singles during this period, including a streak starting in 1983 of four consecutive No. 1 singles — “Common Man,” “I'm Only in it for the Love,” “In my Eyes” and “As Long as I'm Rockin' with You.”

Conlee has effectively summarized his career to this point with three albums: "Classics," "Classics 2" and "Classics 3."

"Classics" contains 22 original recordings of his biggest hits.

"Classics 2" contains a mixture of additional golden oldies and new material, including a special law enforcement tribute “Walkin' Behind the Star.”

“Recent deadly attacks against the people who keep us safe is unprecedented in America and I wanted to sing this song in honor of their sacrifice and willingness to serve,” Conlee says.

"Classics 3" is mostly new music mixed with a few old standards.

Conlee plans to soon release new recordings of his major hits.

“My voice has mellowed quite a bit over the years,” Conlee says. “People are encouraging me to record the old songs with my new voice as opposed to the voice I had 30 years ago. I'll probably do that.”

Acuff fronts an energetic show band that is an eclectic mixture of new and old country, gospel, nostalgic rock 'n' roll, Motown and disco. He will share the stage with Jeannie Kendall.

At 15, Jeannie became the lead singer in a duo, The Kendalls, which also included her father Royce. Their first two singles were country covers of Peter, Paul & Mary hit “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and “Two Divided by Love” by The Grass Roots.

It took seven years for the St. Louis-based act to experience mainstream radio success with signature tune “Heaven's Just a Sin Away.” They followed with major hits “Sweet Desire,” “Thank God for the Radio” and “It Don't Feel like Sinnin' to Me.”

The duo's radio popularity decreased in the mid-1980s, but they were still in high demand on the concert trail. They had their own nightclub in Gulf Shores and eventually became one of the main attractions in Branson, until Royce died suddenly of a stroke in 1998.

The 63-year-old Jeannie Kendall has released two solo albums, including a bluegrass project that featured guest appearances by Rhonda Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krause and Alan Jackson.

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Vince Hoffard can be reached at 618-658-9095 or vincehoffard@gmail.com.

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