CATCHING UP: RETURN ENGAGEMENT

A disillusioned Con Hunley closed the door on Nashville - until the music business came knocking again.

After hits like "What's New With You" and "Oh Girl," the soulfulsounding Con Hunley left Nashville behind in the late '80s when his career hit a rocky road. Bitter, he entered a tailspin that kept him from recording for more than a decade. Now he's back with a new album, a hot new single and a new lease on what he loves doing.

But getting to where he is today had its twists.

"While playing Knoxville clubs, I was invited to play in a celebrity golf tournament in Nashville," recalls Con of a fateful incident back in the late '70s. After the tournament, he was asked to participate in a "guitar pull," an informal gathering of singers. "And within days," he says, "I had offers from five major labels!"

He signed with one of them, Warner Bros., spent five years there and then switched to MCA. Five songs into recording a new album, the label got new management and Con got the ax.

Con hopped onboard another label, and one of his first singles, "What Am I Gonna Do About You," was flying up the charts in 1985 when the powers that be changed at the top again, and once more he was one of the casualties. His single sank like a rock.

"I got to thinking a country music career wasn't meant for me," confesses Con. "I was filled with selfdoubt - maybe I wasn't good enough, maybe I didn't deserve success. So I left Nashville and went home. Soon, with no new songs on the radio, gigs dwindled."

Then in 1996 Con was a surprise guest performer at the induction of his former producer, Norro Wilson, into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. After Con sang, a lot of industry folks came up, encouraging him to get back in the game.

"It was sweet moment for me," reveals Con. "My broken spirit was lifted up, and I realized how much I missed music and how much it meant to me."

Eventually, he and Norro went into the studio, and the result is Con's just-released single, "Still" - his endearing take on Bill Anderson's No. 1 smash - and a new CD called Sweet Memories.

"The title song came about when I lost my mother while I was recording the album," he explains. "Mom loved 'Sweet Memories,' that old Mickey Newberry song, so I put it and 'Amazing Grace' on the album in her honor."

Today, Con is a man at peace with himself. "I hold no bitterness or resentment," he declares. "All I care about is making the most out of doing the music I love.

"It's a love unlike any other love."

- Larry Holden

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