One half of the 1970’s duo with John Ford Coley
February 8, 2022
For years I was never quite sure who, exactly, this artist was. He had an interesting name and together with his partner, topped out at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 charts with their song I’d Really Love To See You Tonight in 1976.
England Dan never had a last name in my orbit. But he and John Ford Coley enjoyed a few years riding the wave of soft rock which was so very popular in the era.
The duo met each other in high school and forged their musical reputation in Texas, playing with different cover bands, attracting the attention of record producers, and eventually finding success with Big Tree records.
But who, exactly, was “England” Dan and how did he get that name?
It turns out that he was the younger brother of Jim Seals of, ostensibly, the better known and more commercially successful duo Seals and Croft.
Danny Wayland Seals was born on February 8, 1948. The Infallible Wikipedia tells us of how his name came to be:
“Dan’s childhood nickname, given to him by his brother Jim, was ‘England Dan’ because he was a fan of English rock band The Beatles, and he occasionally adopted an affected English accent. John Colley’s last name was re-spelled ‘Coley’ for ease of pronunciation; ‘Ford’ was added as his middle name for flow purposes, thus England Dan and John Ford Coley.”
While their songs were quite popular on the adult contemporary charts, they did not have enough momentum for an ongoing profession and the duo parted ways in 1980 when Dan moved to Nashville to pursue a solo career.
Now, unless you are a big country fan, the chances are that you’ve never heard a single one of his songs in that genre. I know I have not. From the time they started keeping track of such things, Seals charted 11 number one songs. That’s more than the following ‘big’ names in country music: Trace Adkins (4), Jimmy Buffet (2), Patsy Cline (2), Miranda Lambert (5), and Taylor Swift (9).
In fact, his 11 is tied with Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, and Dierks Bentley. There are only 36 country artists with more number one hits since 1944.
More from the Infallible Wikipedia:
“Throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s, he released 16 studio albums and charted more than 20 singles on the country charts. Eleven of his singles reached number one: ‘Meet Me in Montana’ (with Marie Osmond), ‘Bop’ (also a No. 42 pop hit), ‘Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold)’, ‘You Still Move Me’, ‘I Will Be There’, ‘Three Time Loser’, ‘One Friend’, ‘Addicted’, ‘Big Wheels in the Moonlight’, ‘Love on Arrival’, and ‘Good Times’. Five more of his singles also reached top ten on the same chart.”
Sadly, Seals died of mantle cell lymphoma in 2009. He was only 61 years old.
For me, England Dan and John Ford Coley’s music was a part of the background to life as a 19 year old. The, at times, haunting melodies and wistful longings served to feed the ennui of a time in life when one is trying to find their path. It was, I think, I’d Really Love To See You Tonight, which so eloquently captured young love found and then lost:
Hello, yeah, it’s been a while
Not much, how about you?
I’m not sure why I called
I guess I really just wanted to talk to you
And I was thinking maybe later on
We could get together for a while
It’s been such a long time
And I really do miss your smile
What’s genius about the song is that you never find out if the former lovers ever see each other again.
As a writer, I appreciate how well the musical story was told; it was partially responsible for prompting the question ‘what if’ when I started writing my first novel. “What if” the singer never acted on the thought but then an extraordinary circumstance brings them face to face years later? Well, the possibilities for a fiction writer are endless and the story could end any number of ways.
That song then led to finding and listening to more of their music and my feeling that Seals, especially, was underrated. His voice had a quality which soothed, instantly recognizable. In all he wrote or co-wrote 19 songs, and during his solo career had 36 singles, 13 studio albums, and six compilation albums. Along with John Ford Coley, he produced 10 albums and released 14 singles.
In my travels to Yakima during the 10 years of helping to care for my parents, I added the pair to my “hitchhikers” with their album The Very Best of England Dan and John Ford Coley. It was like discovering them for the first time. How was it I had never heard the wistful Lady, the soulful What Can I Do with This Broken Heart or the haunting Soldier In The Rain?
I discovered that I can listen to them over and over, and never tire of their voices or songs. Which is pretty high praise for any musical artist.
A few links:
And links to the two other songs mentioned above:
https://youtu.be/CM8yoUGEWSA (Soldier In The Rain)
https://youtu.be/xdBUqp2a8Ow (What Can I Do with This Broken Heart)