by Sarah Rosenbaum
Fun After Fifty recently had to the chance to speak with legendary singer and musician John Ford Coley, who will be appearing in Columbia at the 2017 Palmetto Senior Show on Thursday, January 19 at the State Fairgrounds. We asked Coley about his upcoming visit to Columbia, his past successes as well as his current projects.
John Ford Coley made up one half of the 1970s and 80s super duo, England Dan and John Ford Coley, perhaps best known for their 1976 single, “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight”. If you aren’t sure whether you know the song, just read the following lyrics and it will come to you:
“I’m not talking ’bout the movin’ in / And I don’t want to change your life / But there’s a warm wind blowin’ the stars around / And I’d really love to see you tonight.”
Yes, THAT song! The two forged a string of platinum and gold hit singles, leading them to a Grammy nomination and worldwide fame. Some of the songs have appeared in feature films, and over the years Coley shared the stage with the likes of Elton John, Heart, Fleetwood Mac, Chicago, Carole King, Bread, Loggins and Messina, Led Zeppelin, Carly Simon, Bill Cosby, Steve Miller Band, Air Supply, Lou Gramm and Gordon Lightfoot, among others. His past stints on television include “The Mike Douglas Show”, “The Tonight Show”, “Merv Griffin”, “Dinah”, “American Bandstand”, “Hollywood Squares”, “Make Me Laugh”, “Prime Time Country”, and the “Trinity Broadcasting Network”. He also wrote or performed several television and movie theme songs and, in the mid-80’s, began acting in TV, on “America’s Most Wanted”, and in films, “Scenes From The Gold Mine”, “Dream A Little Dream”, and “Aces and Eights”. Coley has spent subsequent decades touring, writing, recording, and producing other artists.
Coley has been through Columbia before; he currently lives in Nashville, TN and has a house in Charleston that he frequents, driving through our fair city on his way back and forth. Classically trained on piano, he eventually started playing guitar. He says he got much better in Nashville, where six string heroes are ubiquitous, and “can play you under the table”. He is nostalgic about the music he contributed and delighted fans with now that “the melodies have gone away”, and for the musicians – citing Herb Alpert, Gordon Lightfoot – not solely interested in selling their talent. “Music now is more entertainment”, he said. A lifetime of touring has shown him the then and now. At one show in North Carolina, someone came up to him and remarked, “You don’t move!”, but, he counters, he’s a “musician, not a carnival act”. He feels a lack of musical progression in today’s music, a lack of variety that is in need of “imagination”, commenting, “it’s a big world out there!”. He remembers back when record shop owners would ask what his band’s albums should be classified as – country, rock, folk, jazz, pop, show tunes… “Yes, we are!”, he would answer. With its broad appeal across genres, people could not pigeonhole his work, and he still thinks that’s a good thing.
His new double CD, Eclectic, started out as an acoustic guitar CD, but has grown into 26 songs that feature such guest artists as Vince Gill, Georgia Middleman, T. Graham Brown and Lydia Salnikova, and he’s very proud of it. He will have the CD for sale at the Senior Show next week. He will also have copies of his 2013 book, “Backstage Pass”, a highly entertaining behind-the-scenes account of his journey in the world of performing and the people he met, that reflects his still-to-this-day tendency to “collect stories like some people collect stamps”.
During the Palmetto Senior Show on Thursday, Jan. 19th at the State Fairgrounds, he will play the hits: “Love Is the Answer”, “Nights Are Forever Without You”, “We’ll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again”, “Soldier In The Rain”, “Westward Wind”, and of course, “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight”, and a few of the new songs. He still tours constantly, and will depart South Carolina for Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, collecting stories from his audiences all along the way. Visit John’s website for tour dates, CD and book-buying info: http://www.johnfordcoley.com/