Singer and songwriter Dan Seals first came to fame as part of the pop duo England Dan and John Ford Coley. During the 1970s he and Coley released such pop and easy-listening hits as “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight,” “Never Have to Say Goodbye Again, “and”Love Is the Answer.“After Seals broke with Coley, he went on to become one of the hottest country performers of the late 1980s and early 1990s with smashes like”Bop“and”Love on Arrival.“As Bob Millard explained in Country Music, “Dan Seals has a lot of soul when he gets wound up around a really top notch song. He can sell a story and a feeling.”
Despite his adoption of the stage name England Dan, Seals was actually born in McCarney, Texas. His was a musical family—older brother Jim is famed for his work in the folk duo Seals and Crofts, while another brother, Eddie, tours the Nashville nightclub circuit with his duo, Eddie & Joe. In addition, cousin Johnny Duncan is a country singer and another relative, Chuck Seals, wrote the tune “Crazy Arms.” Dan Seals’s first musical love was the country genre, and while he was still a young child he played in the family country band. Seals’s father warned his children about the pitfalls of a performing career, though. “He’d sit down and say, ’Alcohol and dope and fast women killed every country singer there ever was, ’” Seals remembered in the Tennessean. By the time he was a teenager, however, he had come to prefer rock and roll, and it was when they were members of a high school rock band that Seals first became acquainted with his future partner, John Ford Coley. Despite often practicing with one another, it took some time for the two of them to become good friends and begin writing songs together.
Meanwhile, the band was changing its focus from rock to soul, then acid rock. Not pleased with the group’s direction, Seals and Coley left the band in 1969 to play milder music, especially folk. Unable to use Seals’s last name because of his famous brother, they initially used his middle name, calling themselves Wayland and Coley. They finally settled on the England Dan tag, though, even before garnering some popularity in that country where they were the opening act for then-rising superstar Elton John. Encouraged by their success, Seals and Coley began looking for a recording contract, eventually signing with A&M Records in 1971.
England Dan and John Ford Coley made two albums for A&M—Fables andI Hear the Music. Not only did these efforts meet with less success than the duo had hoped, but the two men were dissatisfied with their lives in general. Accordingly, they decided to concentrate more on their religion, the Baha’i faith, which seeks to promote the belief that all people are part of a spiritual whole. After a year and a half without recording, and
Bom Dan Wayland Seals, February 8, 1948, in McCamey, TX.
As England Dan, member of duo England Dan and John Ford Coley, 1969-80; signed with A&M Records, 1971; solo performer, c. 1983—.
Awards: Country Music Association duet of the year (with Marie Osmond), 1985, for “Meet Me in Montana,” and single of the year, 1988, for “Bop.”
Addresses: Record company —Warner Bros., 1815 Division St., Nashville, TN 37212.
performing only in small clubs or Baha’i Fireside shows, Seals and Coley were sufficiently refreshed to devote more attention to their professional careers. This time they signed with Atlantic Records, accepting songs written by other artists, and the hits began to come. Their first Atlantic album—released on the Atlantic subsidiary label Big Tree—was Nights are Forever Without You. It scored not only with the title track but with the duo’s first gold single, “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight.”
Seals’s next effort with Coley, the 1977Dowdy Ferry Road, garnered them a hit on the pop charts, in addition to the Number One spot on Billboard’s easy-listening chart with “It’s Sad to Belong.” Ironically, though England Dan and John Ford Coley became known and loved for the mellow sound of their chart-climbers, these songs were anomalies of a sort—much of the pair’s other work was more rock-oriented, and their concert performances surprised their fans with vigorous, upbeat music. Seals and Coley made three more albums together—including a movie soundtrack called Just Tell Me You Love Me —scoring two more big hits with “Never Have to Say Goodbye Again” and the uplifting “Love Is the Answer,” which was penned by singer and songwriter Todd Rundgren. In 1980, however, the duo decided to split up.
At that point Seals returned his attention to the country music he had loved so much as a child, hoping to establish a solo career. By 1985 he had hit the Top Ten on the country music charts three times, going as high as Number Two with “My Baby’s Got Good Timin’.” That year Seals released Won’t Be Blue Anymore with which a People review stated he had “arrived at the... heart of country music,” although he took “a far more circuitous route than a lot of Nashville mainstays.” The album also included the immensely popular “Meet Me in Montana,” a duet with country singer Marie Osmond.
The following year saw the release of On the Front Line. Alanna Nash of Stereo Review called the songs on this album “exceptionally well-crafted,” further urging listeners to “give him a try.” Apparently they took this advice to heart. “Bop,” a song from Seals’s next album, The Best, fared extremely well on the country charts—it was the Country Music Association Single of the Year—and received some crossover play as well.
As popular as his music is, Seals himself is thought of just as highly. Perhaps that’s why his fans are so loyal. Tennessean correspondent Robert K. Oermann likened Seals’s appeal to a “warm masculinity, quiet dignity or deep sensitivity. Whatever it is, it has kept country lovers coming back to him year after year, regardless of shifting fads and fashions.” Much of Seals’s character can be traced to his faith. Seeking to promote the international unity of all people, he participated in the 50th anniversary Voice of America show in Washington, D.C., in 1992. Later the same year Seals traveled to the remote town of Alma-Ata, located in what was once the Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, in order to attend the Voice of Asia Festival. Brotherhood was also the theme of the single “We Are One” on his Walking the Wire album, released in 1992. Seals was quoted as saying in the Tennessean, “We’re all members of the human race.... If we were unified with each other we could knock out the problems in the world a lot quicker.”
With John Ford Coley
Nights Are Forever Without You (includes”Nights Are Forever Without You“and”I’d Really Love to See You Tonight”), Big Tree, 1976.
Dowdy Ferry Road (includes “It’s Sad to Belong”), Big Tree, 1977.
Dr. Heckle and Mr. Jive (includes “Love Is the Answer”), Big Tree, 1979.
Just Tell Me You Love Me (soundtrack), MCA, 1980.
Best of England Dan and John Ford Coley, Big Tree.
I Hear the Music, A&M.
Won’t Be Blue Anymore (includes “Meet Me in Montanna”), EMI, 1985.
On the Front Line, Capitol, 1986.
The Best (includes “Bop”), Liberty, 1988.
Rage On, Liberty, 1988.
On Arrival (includes “Love on Arrival” and “Good Times”), Liberty, 1990.
Classics Collection, Volume 1, Liberty, 1991.
Greatest Hits, Liberty, 1991.
Classics Collection, Volume 2, Liberty, 1992.
Early Dan Seals, Liberty, 1992.
The Songwriter, Liberty, 1992.
Walking the Wire, Warner Bros., 1992.
Stambler, Irwin, and Grelun Landon, The Encyclopedia of Folk, Country, and Western Music, St. Martin’s, 1984.
Atlanta Journal, May 13, 1989.
Atlanta Journal/Atlanta Constitution, July 26, 1986.
Billboard, October 31, 1992.
Boston Globe, October 14, 1986.
Chicago Tribune, February 23, 1986; October 14, 1986; February 19, 1989; August 5, 1990; May 14, 1992; July 12, 1992.
Country Music, March/April 1986; January/February 1987; May/June 1990.
Los Angeles Times, January 11, 1989.
People, September 30, 1985; November 3, 1986.
Stereo Review, October 1987.
Tennessean, August 1, 1992.
USA Today, July 9, 1992.
Additional information for this profile was obtained from Warner Bros. press material, 1992.