“england” dan seals dies at 61

from the article in his hometown paper, the dallas morning news:

Dan Seals, the kid from Pleasant Grove who emerged as a country music star after performing as one-half of the top 40 hit machine known as England Dan & John Ford Coley, died Wednesday night from complications of lymphoma.

Seals, 61, was born in West Texas but moved to Dallas as a teenager. He graduated from Samuell High School in Pleasant Grove in 1966. He and classmate John Colley, who later changed the spelling of his last name to Coley, formed a group with three other Samuell students called the Playboys Five. That became Theze Few, which morphed into the legendary Dallas high school band Southwest F.O.B.

“We were very popular in the late 1960s,” Coley, 60, said Thursday from his home in Nashville, Tenn., where Seals also lived. “We even opened for Led Zeppelin and Three Dog Night, and remember, we were just high school kids.”

As the friendship blossomed, Seals’ brother Jim was emerging as a musical superstar. Jim Seals was part of the multi-platinum-selling duo Seals & Crofts. But Dan Seals and Coley would soon put their own stamp on music.

They formed England Dan & John Ford Coley and became the toast of 1976 when their single, “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,” and album, Nights are Forever, became gold records, meaning each sold more than 500,000 copies. The duo also recorded an album titled Dowdy Ferry Road , named after a favorite thoroughfare in their Pleasant Grove neighborhood.

“Dan and I used to go down there and shoot snakes,” Coley said with a laugh.

But as often happens in the high-pressure, big-money industry, the group fractured. England Dan & John Ford Coley lasted from 1970 to 1980, at which point, “there were a lot of different influences coming into us from different people,” Coley said. “And it kind of put a little wedge in there.”

Finally, he said to Seals, “Look, man, we’re on top of this thing, and we’re thinking of calling it, so let’s call it now while we’re still on top. … It was a real loss. Dan and I were more like brothers. It was like having a family rift, where you just don’t speak for a couple of years.”

In 1982, the two saw each other in Dallas. “We sat down and got everything straight,” Coley said.

About that time, Seals moved to Nashville and launched his solo country career. He recorded 16 studio albums and notched more than 20 singles on the country charts, with 11 reaching No. 1. They included “Meet Me in Montana,” with Marie Osmond, “Bop” and “Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold).”

Seals contracted lymphoma two years ago.

On Monday night, Coley and Seals shared a final conversation. “We told each other we loved one another,” Coley said. Looking back at pictures of the two, circa 1970, Coley said, “We had that emaciated rock-star look,” but in their case, it wasn’t affected.

“We were so doggone poor,” Coley said. “Dan had an eight-string Martin guitar that had once been a 12-string. He took four strings off because you can boil strings only so many times. We were just broke.”

And then the hits started coming, though they never felt rich.

“We never sat down and thought about having time to spend the money,” Coley said with a laugh. “We just knew they wouldn’t be turning off the telephone that month.”

Seals was married to Andrea “Andi” Gilbert Seals. He was the father of four children and had seven grandchildren. He died at the Nashville home of his daughter, Holley Lizarraga, according to Tony Gottlieb, Seals’ manager since 1979. Gottlieb said the funeral will take place Saturday at the Baha’i Center in Nashville. The family has requested that flowers not be sent.

“If you want to honor Dan,” Gottlieb said, “you should oppose bigotry, intolerance and prejudice.”

i don’t remember a time, from the point when i was first exposed to pop music, that i wasn’t aware of england dan and john ford coley…their music was literally everywhere.   the year that i got my infamous clock radio for christmas, we’ll never have to say goodbye again was all over the radio…and, of course, the more i listened to the radio, the more of the back catalog i heard…nights are forever, soldier in the rain, gone too far, it’s sad to belong…and, of course, i’d really love to see you tonight.

dan seals (right) with john ford coley in their heyday
dan seals (right) with john ford coley in their heyday

later, when i became a devotee of hawleys’ book index in pensacola, i bought up all the albums….nights are forever, dowdy ferry road, doctor heckle and mister jive…and, as if often the case with artists from that era, there were some gems hidden between the hits.  songs like holocaustfalling stars,  the prisoner,  another golden oldie night for wendy,  children of the half light…not hit material, by most peoples’ standards, and that’s fine with me – but they’re part of my musical vocabulary now, the same as the stuff that everyone knows.

i knew at that point that they were no longer a duo, because the radio station i worked for in high school was already playing dans’ solo albums…i specifically remember playing san antone, my old yellow car, and the flip side of a single called you really go for the heart…a song called the banker that was played in one of my favorite tunings, double drop-D.  i had gotten his album stones when i’d first gotten to pensacola, and it spurred me on to pick up the duo’s back catalog…the title cut from that record is an undiscovered jewel from dave loggins’ catalog.

when i took my gig in robert hazards’ band, i found out some weeks into the job that michael vernacchio, roberts’ keyboard player, had been in england dan and john ford coleys’ road band for eight years…i think he was a little taken aback when i started quoting album cuts and obscure song titles, but we both got over it.  as it was, it was just another removed degree of separation in my continuing history of disintegrating degrees of separation.

i had heard that dan was ill, had read it on the velvet rope at one point…but i had held out hope that he’d at least recover his health and live out a somewhat normal post-cancer life.  alas, it was not to be.

dan was only a year older than robert hazard when he passed.

rest in peace, man.

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