England Dan & John Ford Coley

At a time in the Seventies when soft rock and pop had a place in history, you had many singer-songwriters, all talented, some more successful than others. Like so many artists, some are forgotten in the shadow of the likes of James Taylor and Loggins & Messina. Enter England Dan & John Ford Coley.

John Ford Coley (real name John Colley) grew up around Dallas, Texas, and had an interest in the piano at the age of 6. Although he is a classically trained pianist, other influences from that time of church music and rock'n'roll had filtered through into his life. He first met his music writing partner Dan Seals in High school, Dan being 16, John - only 15. Being as they had been in the same groups, you would figure something made them click, although John pointed out it was mainly writing that drew them together. In the bands they were in at high school, they were pretty much at odds with each other, but they were the two in the band who were writing all the material. The first band that came out of their efforts was called Playboys 5, with members including Dan, John and three other, Doc Walbright, Ovid Stevens and Buddy Lay. Originally Terry McKeecher was in the band but when he quit John Ford Coley took his place.  With Dan singing lead and John doing harmony vocals, the band played all the regular high school gigs possible, while covering Chuck Berry type songs. At some point the band went down to Nashville to record some demos under the name "The Shimmerers", but nothing ever came of this project. After this they changed their name to "Theze Few" with the same members; all this time John was still in college, studying pre-law, although his career ended up in music that wasn't in the plan if there was one!  They got to release a single on the Black Knight label, titled, "Dynamite".  He and Dan found they enjoyed music and could get paid doing this, and they were making more money than working in a local store. With another name change to "Southwest FOB" the band got a record deal with Volt Stax in 1969. The album was acid rock, as times had now evolved, but John and Dan still liked the acoustic guitar sound. They started opening the show with some of their own compositions on acoustic, although the acid rock crowds were none too eager to hear this kind of music. With some new members drafted in, Dan and John felt that it had run its course and that the new members were not falling in line. Also to make it big in rock'n'roll, you had to live in L.A. or New York. But they struck gold before they left Texas.

After leaving "Southwest FOB", they became "Colley and Waylands" playing their first gig at the "Rubiat" in Dallas. Using this name for 6 months, Louie Shelton came across them and told Herb Alpert at A&M about this fine country-rock acoustic duo. Herb Alpert at first said no, until he finally got to hear them on a demo while shaving.

With a change in the name to England Dan (due to his liking of the Beatles) & John Ford Colley (so his last name was pronounced correctly) they went to work cutting their first album for A&M. Opting for this kind of a name gave them identities rather than a group name, which would usually hide the band members. While recording this album, John was still studying and flying back between recording sessions to Dallas, although in the end his grades did suffer. The album was released in May '71, and although they didn't get to do any TV appearances, their first gig in Los Angeles was the Icehouse in Pasadena. They also got to do opening slots for Carole King at the Troubadour. The album's tracks were all written by the duo, and they recorded all ten of them straight for the album. The single "New Jersey" didn't chart, but they got to do a second album. They were getting more and more exposure now touring as an opening act for Bread, Three Dog Night, Poco, Carly Simon, Seals & Croft and even Elton John. With Three Dog Night they got to go to Japan and Elton John booked them as support on his English tour in December '71. John being a big history buff loved the chance to see all the culture and history while there, and, at a young age, too, this was a great feat. The second album, "Fables", came out on A&M, and the single, "Simone", went up the charts in Japan, but didn't do anything in the US. A&M promotion was doing its job, but the sound wasn't clicking with an audience. In the middle of recording the third album, A&M relieved them from their contract. It would be 3 years before they got another recording contract, which, in the wilderness, is a long time. Both had families, so they pulled in all favors they could, playing any gig that paid or working for Dan's brother in Seals & Croft. There were times when John had thought of giving up, but, while shopping for a Mothers Day present at a store, saw a plaque pertaining to the fact that persistence will get you through if you hang in there. That idea never left him and he strived even harder after that. In '76, they heard a demo of a song written by Parker McGee called "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight". They had demoed earlier on one of their own songs called "Westwood Wind", and nothing had happened, but they felt this was the one. Once again, Louie Shelton came to their aid, and said he would try to get them a chance to record it. It was almost their last shot, as friends helped them pay for the recording session!

Their manager took the demo around different record companies, one being Atlantic, whose Bob Greenburg said he liked it but turned it down, still. In the next room was Big Tree, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records: Doug Morris and Dick Vanderbilt heard the song through the wall! They liked it enough to come over and ask them to also record "It's Not The Same" as a single but shortly thereafter also asked them to record a whole album. It didn't take them too long to do it, less than 30 days, due to the fact that these were the songs the duo had been singing for years. Also around this time, A&M records released tracks that the duo hadn't finished or mixed down from their unfinished A&M album entitled, "I Hear The Music". Some of these tracks had been on the earlier A&M albums, the rest were from the unfinished third album.

Although "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight" became a monster hit for them, they were still supporting other acts such as Neil Sedaka. They didn't get to headline until their second album, though the turnout on the record was bigger sales-wise.

The next single released off the album was "Nights Are Forever", again written by Parker McGee, while the rest of the tracks was written by the duo with some outside help.

Now established with two hits, they went back to the recording studio and worked on the follow-up album which came out in 1977, called "Dowdy Ferry Road".

There was somewhat more of a moody feel to this album, with the title track referring to a road in Dallas. Dan and John used to go hang out when they were in their late teens and shoot off their airguns and do the things guys do when they're at that age. Parker McGee contributed one song to the album as he was off elsewhere, so most of the album was written by Dan and John but notably written individually. Although this album didn't live up to the merits of the "first album" commercially, it proved the duo's writing talents, though in a different area of what the public expected. 

Now getting to tour for themselves they had the chance to go to some far flung in places including Canada, Hong Kong and even Panama.

Due to the heavy touring schedule now starting to take place, they had started work on their next album, "Some Things Don't Come Easy" which limited their time constraints. John's feeling on this album ("It stunk") conveys also that looking at the writing credits show a heavy outside input. This was due to the traveling but also now they were established they were meeting other people in the business. This gained them new writing alliances and more options and outside input. This album did have the hit "We'll Never Have To Say Goodbye Again", which had the same feeling as the tracks on "Nights Are Forever". The interesting story behind this song was that Maureen McGovern had wanted to release it as well. This led to legal entanglement between both camps. Maureen's version missed the charts, but the Dan & John's version got the airplay, which causes its heavy rotation on the turntables today on the light airwaves. Their touring had been consisted, but they also toured colleges and the less likely Rock N Roll type venues.

After this they were offered to do a soundtrack for a movie called "The Sensuals", so they started recording the tracks for this album. After five tracks were completed, the movie was shelved, only to be released after the duo split up a few years later. 

With the movie not going forward, work on the next album started which became "Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive", which became technically their last album. John liked this album a lot, it was a fuller sound and moved away from the acoustic sound they were labeled for. In fact so much when they took it to radio stations to preview no one believed it was them. Even though the radio stations still wanted to hear the England Dan & John Ford Coley of old and didn't want them to progress and move forward. When they played live they were now trying to sound more like their records, which was much more than the acoustic sound which was easier to pull off. Now with string arrangements and horns added it became a bigger show.

Once again this time there was less creative input as a duo, and the world was changing, as was the situation of the group. John was now single, Dan was married but getting some flack from his wife for being away a lot, either touring or fishing. The song that really sold well on the album was "Love Is The Answer", a Todd Rundgren composition. John was an avid Rundgren fan so the opportunity was a pleasure to him as Doug Morris at Big Tree had found the song.

With the music scene changing rapidly, and a shift in fewer sales, Big tree released the "Greatest Hits" album with a few new tracks to help push it to sell more.

Plans to record a new album started with Big Tree wanting them to record songs handed to them that the record company thought marketable, John thought different. One of the songs entitled form that session titled "Stones" he in particular did not like and refused to participate. This Subsequently led him to be suspended by the record company. With this dispute and the fact that he was moving to harder sounding edge in music and Dan wasn't, he didn't really see a future. As it was the music scene had changed, and they had been less involved together as a musical unit. Feeling it had run its course and thought it better to finish on top, he finished the partnership.

Feeling that a solo album was possible, John didn't feel he right about it but had done some performances with Leslie and Kelly Bulkin at a few religious meetings in the past. They had co wrote "Running After You" with John on the "Heckle and Jive album", and felt comfortable to do an album. The demos they done, were sent to Herb Albert at A&M who asked them to come do a private audition in his office. Albert was delighted with the result, which resulted in them recording the "Leslie, Kelly and John Ford Coley" album. They toured colleges and high schools to promote this, though the album didn't sell.

Tired of the industry and being labeled he turned away from the performing side, to writing for movies if the chance arose such as "Major League 3", even acted in films like "Dream A Little Dream" and "Scenes From A Goldmine". He also had a job for a while working in the LA court system with abused children but found it way too depressing after even being involved as far as having go to the morgue to view the abused children. He had moved out of the LA area to Acton in CA, and played once every so often at coffee houses in LA more so for fun. He finally moved a year and half ago in 1998 to Nashville. It wasn't choice of country music, just music in general as much as his love for it across the board. Although he turned down offers in the past to record new material for himself, as like so many artists of his era he has become labeled and never given a open ear. Though now many artists of his era are releasing new material in Asia and having success with recording and touring, but in the states nothing has changed. He is currently in the process now of recording for that new album to released out there and does appearances in Nashville every so often, and keeps up with the music scene in the area.

When asked about a possible reunion, is a positive one though noting when he talked to Dan about it, Dan was somewhat hesitant. With managing to shake off the soft rock image and go Country, with some success he has a steady following. His feelings is that it would be an about turn and for what he has achieved, he would be taking a step back.

In the time John was suspended from not recording "Stones", Dan continued recording this album. He in fact finished out this and the next album as contractual obligations more so than anything else.

From a listener's point of view, there is no real direction as to what sound the album has, fragmented was the only word I could come up with. Three singles were released from the album, with the artist name being credited to England Dan Seals. The next album being called "Harbinger" was in a way like the last, in that Dan was keeping in the same frame as writers as back in the days of the big hits. Although using great writers like Rafe Van Hoy and Bob Grundy it wasn't giving him anything new here. This was his last album in this vein of music after this he went full on country. He couldn't record the last two albums as country as Atlantic had stated that was not the deal, they still wanted the England Dan of old.

I haven't covered this part of his career as it is a different genre of music entirely; I'd only like to say it has been a roller-coaster for him.  After his last album with Atlantic, the tax man paid him a visit and left him broke.  He lucked out with a record deal to do some country songs, but it wasn't until a few albums down the road that he hit a goldmine with the song "Bop".  He had a string of successful singles in the mid- to late 80s in the country vein but his popularity died down eventually as other young acts in country started to take over.  Although still recording today, his main focus is touring, as is his belief in Bahai faith - also a big part of his life.

Sadly, this is only a one-sided interview as I would love to have had both artists represented.  When I called Dan Seals Management company, I was asked "What's in it for Dan?  He's been doing interviews for 20 years, he is sick of it, it's all old to him, he doesn't need to..."  I had mentioned it was to give his view if he wished.  His manager said, "Dan's very busy and has better things to do with his time."  There you have it, folks, that's a true manager for you, no feeling or heart, just after good ole' fashioned money!

Discography

ENGLAND DAN & JOHN FORD COLEY

 

 

SINGLES

 

 

 

YEAR

A SIDE

B SIDE

CAT NO

 

New Jersey

Tell Her Hello

AMS1278

 

Simone

Casey

AMS7253

 

Iíd Really Love To See You Tonight

Itís Not The Same

GTREE16069

 

Nights Are Forever

Showboat Gambler

GTREE16079

 

Sad To Belong

The Time Has Come

GTREE16088

 

Gone Too Far

Where Do I Go From Here

GTREE16102

 

Never Have To Say Goodbye

Calling For You Again

GTREE16110

 

If The World Ran Out Of Love Tonight

Loviní Somebody On A Rainy Night

GTREE16125

 

You Canít Dance

Wanting You Desperately

GTREE16117

 

Whoís Lonely Now

In It For Love

GTREE17002

 

Love Is The Answer

Running After You

GTREE16131

 

What Can I Do With This Broken Heart

Caught Up In The Middle

GTREE17000

 

Why Is It Me

Part Of Me Part Of You

MCA51027

 

Just Tell Me You Love Me

?

?

 

Hollywood Heckle And Jive

Rolling Fever

GTREE16135

 

Westward Wind

Some Things Donít Come Easy

GTREE16130

 

I Hear The Music

Simone

AMS1465

 

 

 

 

ALBUMS

 

 

 

YEAR

TITLE

 

CAT NO

1972

Fables

 

AAM4350

1971

England Dan & John Ford Coley

AAM4305

1976

Nights Are Forever

 

BT89517

1976

I Hear Music

 

AAM4613

1977

Dowdy Ferry Road

 

BT76000

1978

Some Things Donít Come Easy

 

BT76006

1979

Dr. Heckle And Mr. Jive

 

BT76015

1979

Greatest Hits

 

BT76018

1980

Just Tell Me You Love Me

 

MCA3255

 

 

 

JOHN FORD COLEY

 

 

ALBUMS

 

 

 

1981

Leslie, Kelly & John Ford Coley

AMSP4841

SINGLES

 

 

 

1981

Come Back To Me

Love Has Got To Start

AM2311

 

 

 

 

DAN SEALS

 

 

ALBUMS

 

 

 

1980

Stones

AT19275

1981

Harbinger

AT19336

SINGLES

 

 

1980

Love Me Like The Last Time

 

AT3786

 

Stones

 

AT3769

 

Late At Night

 

AT3674

 

I Could Be Loviní You Right Now

 

AT4042

 

Canít Get You Out Of My Head

 

AT4015

 

 

THEZE FEW

 

 

SINGLE

 

 

 

Dynamite

I Want Your Love

Black Knight 901

 

 

SOUTHWEST FOB

 

 

SINGLES

 

 

July 1968

Smell of Incense

Green Skies

Stax 8002

1968

Nadine

All One Big Game

Stax 8009

1969

As I Look At You

Independent Me

Stax 8015

1969

Feelin' Groovy

Beggar man

Stax 8022

ALBUM

 

Dec 1968

Smell of Incense

 

Hip 7001


Big thanks to John Ford Coley for a great interview and to Dan Seals fan site - for their generous help with some of the details!

Keep checking back for updates. If you have any additional updates to the discography, send them in!


For more information, contact Jason Humphries

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