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— VeteranÃ-s Park in Decatur was packed with an unprecedented number of people on Friday night for John ConleeÃ-s performance at the 56th annual Decatur Barbecue.

Fans traveled to the Decatur Barbecue from as far away as Washington State, Colorado and Monterey, Mexico to hear Conlee sing.

Conlee told the crowd it was his goal to perform as many favorites as he could over the hour and a half show. And with 30 hits over the years, there was plenty to choose from.

Music became one of ConleeÃ-s hobbies early on, he said. He began taking guitar lessons when he was only seven or eight years old, practicing with Jimmy Dickens songbooks.

As a teenager, Conlee said he was influenced by R and B music. But over the years, heÃ-s enjoyed many different types of songs.

Conlee was a disc jockey for nine years before he recorded his first song. By that time, he was so used to hearing his voice on the radio it wasnÃ-t a big deal to hear his songs played over the airwaves, he said.

ÃMy main goal was to have the hit records,î Conlee said, ÃWeÃ-ve been blessed; weÃ-ve been at it 30 years.î

The most memorable part of his career was being a part of the Grand Ole Opry.

ÃJoining that was very special,î he said.

Conlee said his favorite part of performing is the interaction with the people. He enjoys asking questions and getting the audience involved as much as possible. He also likes to sign autographs and meet Ãwhoever wants to say hello.î

Outside of his musical career, Conlee operates a farm in Kentucky and lives on another farm in Tennessee. He raises cattle and cuts hay, and like most farmers, ends up doing many different things. Conlee said he enjoys mechanical things, like doing all the maintenance on his tour bus.

ÃI love small towns ó the smaller the better,î Conlee said of Decatur.

Eight members of the Lundgren family from Lakewood Washington flew to northwest Arkansas for the performance. Sally Lundgren said the family decided to come to Decatur as a Ãfun, wild thingî after finding ConleeÃ-s tour dates online.

The family was complete with rosecolored glasses and matching T-shirts. The family came early and set their lawn chairs up just a few feet from the stage.

ÃWe couldnÃ-t ask for better seats,î Sally said.

Community, Pages 12 on 08/12/2009

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