I haven't heard anything from Earl Thomas Conley in years. What happened to him? Is he still performing?
—Peggy Y. and Gloria G., Kentucky
Tired of music business politics and fighting vocal problems due to severe allergies, the consistent country chart-topper of the 1980s decided to slow down in 1991. He stopped making records for seven years and took some time to relax and recharge his creative energy. He concentrated on writing songs and put out a new album called Perpetual Emotion in 1998. He has a new album coming out this year. Conley, 61, was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, and showed an interest in art when he was young. He was ready to accept an art scholarship to college after graduating from high school but decided to join the Army instead where he started singing with a Christian trio. By the time he got out, he realized that he wanted to pursue music as a career. He found success as a songwriter in the 1970s. It took a while for him to make the move to performer, and he didn't do well at first. But in 1981, he released Fire and Smoke, which reached No. 1 in a matter of weeks. He went on to chart 18 No. 1 songs during the 80s. His songs still resonate with fans, and he draws enthusiastic crowds at his concerts.