The Night I Could Have Been a Groupie (No Naked Barry Manilow Involved)

I doubt many of you have ever heard of Earl Thomas Conley. He was a fairly successful country music singer in the mid-80s. His biggest hit was “Holding Her and Loving You.” Yea, that’s about as country as it gets.

My summer had been spent at the bargain basement, selling everything from motor oil to slightly irregular polar shirts.  I met one of my bffs back then. She and her family were hardcord country…not just music, but life. They farmed, her brother was a rising star on the rodeo circuit and vacations were planned around the annual fair. This became my second family.

Of course, being a Barry Manilow fan, I didn’t think I was into country. As I listened, I found a few songs that caught my hear, a few groups even earned enough respect for me to plunk down $9 for a cassette tape. That’s the background you need to know to understand the one night I almost became a groupie.

One of the country artists that I kind of liked was a guy named Earl Thomas Conley. I didn’t like his signature song, but I his songwriting skills were above par and he add a good beat. Plus, he sung about the same things Barry sings about: unreturned love.

I’ll fast forward to the juicy stuff. Word came out that Earl Thomas was appearing at the fair this year and my friend just knew this would be the most exciting night of my life. I got a little carried away in my enthusiasm and somehow accepted a dare/threat/peer pressure proposal to give Earl Thomas Conley some flowers. What the heck? It wasn’t like I was ever going to see anyone from the fair at college. And it would make my friend’s family so proud…I finally had became a country girl. My friend didn’t see the need to invest much money in this venture. After all, the tickets to the fair and the gas money alone took about a day’s pay in the bargain basement. We decided I’d just pick out the flowers from a nice assortment of plastic funeral arrangments that had arrived in the bargain basement that week. I bought three roses for 19 cents a piece and another friend that worked at a floral shop brought home some green paper and ribbon and they didn’t look half bad.

We arrived early enough to get good seats and I did feel out of place. Surprisingly, Earl Thomas Conley actually had a lot of female fans, and several of them also decided to bring flowers. Most of them, though, were twicde my age. And I think they had a little honky tonk experience behind them. I must have looked completely like a fish out of water with my plastic roses, dressed in some preppie polo shirt and a khaki skirt.

So, the show starts and it’s really a good show. I was impressed by the music. The concert ends and I stand up, along with a dozen other girls/women, to present him with my flowers. From all of the beautiful bouquets, he actually took mine! He chose my flowers! The first thing he did was smell them. they had no scent. They were plastic. If he was disappointed, he didn’t show. Then, he waved the bouquet at the audience. Sure enough, one of the plastic bulbs popped off. I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but I was truly horrified. Now, everyone attending the fair knew that I had presented the then-hottest singer in country music with 19 cent-fresh-from-the-bargain-basement bouquet. Again, he didn’t care.

So, as the crowd was clearing up, someone from his band came up to my friend and I. Would we like to go back and meet Earl Thomas? We were just giddy!!! Yes, of course! He told us to stay seated while the rest of the crowd filtered out. Then, he came back and let us to back stage, which was basically a curtained area with a few chairs and the bus. We got a quick tour of the bus. Wasn’t quite what I expected. Had a fairly lavish bedroom for a bus. On the bus, my friend and I were offered a beer, but we instead chose a coke. and stepped off the bus. The next 30 minutes seemed a little odd at the time. Only later, when we recounted the events for my friends brother did he help us make sense of it.

We told the group it was a great show. Earl Thomas and the band signed a photo for us and gave us a T-shirt. One of the guitar players told my friend she was cute. She just giggled. I, being a journalism major, pulled out my notepad and began asking questions. Wow…do you drive this bus everywhere? What’s the story behind “Holding Her and Loving You?” When’s your next album coming out. In the meantime, the drummer shows up with plastic glass with ice and a bottle of JD.

BM: (band member): “Hey, let’s add some real taste to those cokes.”
Us: “Oh, no, we’re fine. But I would like some ice. It’s hot in here.”
BM: “It wasn’t hot back here before you ladies joined us.”
Us: “Oh yeah, because those lights over the field weren’t on during the show.”
BM: “Why don’t you come up on the bus and watch some t.v. with us and ET”
Us (being completely perplexed on why someone would want to watch a t.v. at the fair): No

At that time, security came in and said my friend’s dad was looking for us.

Us: “Hey guys, it’s been great to meet you.”
BM: “Yeah whatever” (Not those exact words, but you get the feeling.)

So, do you think I almost became a groupie?

(As for the title, I thought I would try Kevin’s suggestion about provocative titles getting more points again…)

About the Author ()

Leave a Reply