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GOLDEN SEALSDAN CAN'T ESCAPE FAME--EVEN WITH HIS COUNTRY RETREAT

To say that 1969 and 1970 were big years for Dan Seals is to say that Texas has a lot of cows. At the time, Seals was a 21-year-old veteran of the Lone Star State skating-rink-frat-house circuit, playing bass and the occasional saxophone in a band called Southwest Freight on Board. Composed of high school chums, the band played standard rock favorites like "Johnny B. Goode," and Dan would strap on the sax for a turn at the instrumental "Tequila."

The latter tune was made famous by the Champs, which Dan's elder brother--and early idol--Jimmy had joined at age fourteen. Of course, now Jimmy was half of the Cat Stevens-flavored conscience-pop duo Seals and Crofts, whose "Hummingbird," "Summer Breeze," and "Unborn Child" would soon render them great success.

Then, in late 1969, Jimmy Seals wrote his mother and little brother about his new faith, Bahai. Founded in Iran in 1863, Bahai preaches that all religions are various interpretations of one God, and that all races are, still, of one humankind. Fearful that his older brother had succumbed to the corrupting lures of a California cult, Dan consulted his Baptist minister.

"I don't know what it is," the preacher harrumphed, "but it ain't no good."

Dan Seals sent his mother to Los Angeles, where Seals and Crofts were recording. She was supposed to initiate the saving process and, when Dan arrived three days later, he figured to complete the rescue mission. Upon his arrival in L.A., however, Mom greeted her youngest son with the news that she, too, was now Bahai.

It was therefore up to Dan to save them both. A longtime lover and manipulator of the written word (he signed a BMI songwriting contract when he was in the sixth grade), Dan accepted three books on the Bahai faith from his brother and got out his own King James version of the Bible, determined to show his mother and brother the errors of their ways. After several months of reading, cross-referencing the Bahai tracts with his Bible and searching for loopholes, Dan Seals became an active member of the Bahai faith. The change would prove to be highly influential on his writing and music.

During this period, while his religious conversion was in the making, so, too, was the path of his music career. Seals and a fellow Southwest FOB member, John Colley, split the band to go it as a twosome. Seals didn't want to use his last name because of Seals and Crofts, so they initially toured local folk clubs as Waylon and Shawn. It didn't click, and the duo decided a name change was in order. Seals' sartorial splendor led to the nickname England Dan, and Colley dropped an l from his name to foment proper pronunciation. It wasn't until 1976, when Casey Kasem broke the news on America's Top 40, that the public learned England Dan and Jimmy Seals were related.

In the interim, however, England Dan and John Ford Coley concentrated on pure musical poppery, striking gold with hits like "Love Is the Answer" and "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight." The nearly decade-long run ended while the pair were at the top of their pop popularity. The year 1978 completed the highly successful England Dan and John Ford Coley collaboration, with Coley heading for the Hollywood scene and Seals opting to return to his country roots.

Born and raised in tiny Texas towns (including one called, ironically, Iraan), Seals had plenty of appropriate influences. His father was a semiprofessional musician who shared the stage and a friendship with Ernest Tubb. Hank Williams Sr. was a deity in the Seals household. Dad spent considerable time teaching his sons how to read and play music, and the effort paid off. Eldest son Eddie became part of the successful Nashville nightclub act Eddie and Joe, while Jimmy Seals became the Texas state fiddle champion at age nine. Furthermore, singer Johnny Duncan was a cousin, as were songwriters Chuck "Crazy Arms" Seals and Nashville's Troy "Lost in the Fifties" Seals.

Dan Seals was in his early teens when he decided to chuck the saxophone and bass guitar and concentrate on his singing. It was the right choice. The next two or three years found Seals writing songs and preparing to break the long-standing family proclivity for duets. After some fits and starts, the singer's 1983 LP Rebel Heart managed to bust into Billboard's Top Country Albums chart, rising to No. 40. The follow-up In San Antone rose to No. 24 and proved that Dan Seals' formula--solid story songwriting and a fine, tangy tenor--was a segue to success. Yet, it was 1985's Won't Be Blue Anymore that cemented his standing as a top country solo act. It topped the chart and spawned two ("Bop" and "My Old Yellow Car") of nine consecutive No. 1 singles. Also part of that run were "You Still Move Me," "Big Wheels in the Moonlight," and Seals' personal fave, "Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold)."

The singer's most recent release On Arrival features Sam Cooke's "Good Times," "Wood," and "Love on Arrival," a fast-and-friendly boogie which might signal a turn away from the didacticism that's occasionally made his post-England Dan and John Ford Coley music less-than-easy listening. While never as strident in promoting his faith as pious brother Jimmy (Seals and Crofts were known to play onstage for an hour or so, then spend equal time discussing their religion with concertgoers), his music nonetheless reflected his Bahai beliefs. The 1988 song "Rage On," for instance, goes pretty heavy on the message-making. The video of the title track, in fact, promoted the Bahai tenet of racial universality, portraying a Korean girl and an Anglo boy in a cross-racial dating situation. The clip no doubt tweaked the staid sensibilities of small-town Baptists.

Although On Arrival does contain elements of his religious convictions, they're relatively benign, overshadowed by the disc's more lighthearted, upbeat efforts.

The album is also a fair approximation of Seals' live act. Since the singer budgets no stage time for proselytizing, his shows allow concertgoers to appreciate the instrument that's garnered him resounding success: his voice.

Dan Seals will perform at Toolies Country on Thursday, January 10. Showtimes are 7 and 9:30 p.m.

"Love on Arrival" might signal a turn away from the didacticism that's occasionally made his music less-than-easy listening.

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Larry Crowley