England Dan & John Ford Coley

  • Soft rock duo formed in 1970 from Dallas Texas. “England Dan” was born Danny Wayland Seals and “John Ford Coley” was born John Edward Colley. Both contributed to songwriting, though most of their hits were written by other songwriters.
  • Seals was born into a musical family – his father performed in bands led by Ernest Tubbs and Bob Willis, and his two older brothers were successful musicians – most notably, Jim Seals of Seals & Crofts. Colley learned classical piano as a boy. Seals and Colley became friends in high school, and they began to work together as members of cover bands – first Playboys Five, and then Theze Few. In the late 60s, they made some demo tapes in Nashville, recording as The Shimmerers, without getting a recording deal. Returning to Dallas, they joined a band with other high school friends called Southwest F.O.B. – Seals on sax and vocals, Colley on keyboards. The band became popular locally, and it was signed to a recording contract, releasing one album in 1968 and opening concerts for Led Zeppelin and Three Dog Night.
  • While in Southwest F.O.B., Seals and Colley began to work together as a duo, writing their own songs and performing as Colley and Wayland, the warm-up band for Southwest F.O.B. concerts. By 1969, realizing their their style was more acoustic mellow compared to the band, they left the group and moved to Los Angeles, hoping to secure a recording contract. Seals used a nickname that his brother Jim gave him, England Dan (because Dan had a love of British rock groups like The Beatles), and Colley dropped an “l” in his name and added “Ford” because he liked the flow of the name and so fans would pronounce his last name properly. A musician who worked with Seals & Crofts gave a demo tape of England Dan & John Ford Coley to a record company, and in 1970 they were signed.
  • Albums were released in 1971 and 1972, neither of which charted, and two singles released from the second album failed, though one song, Simeon, reached #1 in Japan. They were dropped by their label, and for the next four years, they performed concerts and tried to get re-signed. In 1976, they found a song written by a country music songwriter and they recorded a demo. They shopped the song to various labels. While it was played for Atlantic Records, another label with an adjoining office heard it through the wall. Atlantic rejected the song, but Big Tree Records, the label next door, signed the duo.
  • The song, I’d Really Like To See You Tonight, was released in May 1976, and it was included on the album Nights Are Forever, released that July. It was their breakthrough – the song peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 chart, and at #1 on the Easy Listening chart, earning a Grammy nomination. The album peaked at #17 on the Billboard 200 album chart and was certified Gold. A second single from the album, Nights Are Forever Without You, reached #10 on the Hot 100 and #6 on the Easy Listening chart.
  • Three more studio albums were released between 1977 and 1979. While the albums did not sell well, they had four more top 30 hits, and three of these songs reached #1 on the Easy Listening chart – It’s Sad To Belong, We’ll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again, and Love Is the Answer. 
  • By the late 70s, their style of sweet harmonies and soft acoustic music had fallen out of favor as disco peaked and punk/new wave was a growing genre. They split in 1980, with Seals starting a career in country music (as Dan Seals). He released 13 studio albums and 37 singles, 11 of which topped the country chart between 1985 and 1990. Seals died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2009 at the age of 61. Coley recorded a soft rock album with sisters Leslie and Kelly Bulkin in 1980, and then stepped away from the music industry. In the 90s, he returned as a touring musician for other acts, and he released solo albums in 2009 and 2016.
  • England Dan & John Ford Coley managed to have a successful run when soft pop was getting pushed aside by disco. I appreciated their great harmonies and early contributions to yacht rock. Here’s the duo performing their breakthrough hit, I’d Really Like To See You Tonight on The Midnight Special.

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