On October 17, 1941, Jim Seals was born. He was half of Seals & Crofts, a 1970s duo who played amiably breezy pop. He was also part of an extended family of musicians who have been successful in pop and country music over the last half-century. Today, we look at the members of the Seals family, and since there are several of them, we’re going to be a little less formal than usual and refer to them mostly by first names.
Jim and his partner, Dash Crofts, began performing together in the late 1950s. Their first few years found them coming in on the wrong end of careers. They played for a couple of years with The Champs, but only after that band had its only big hit, “Tequila;” they moved on to play with Glen Campbell, and left him just before his first big hits in the late 1960s.
Seals & Crofts started recording as a duo in 1969, and their first few albums didn’t get much attention. But from 1972 to 1976, they were very popular, peaking at #6 on the pop charts with each of their three biggest hits—“Summer Breeze,” “Diamond Girl,” and “Get Closer.” They continued to record together until 1980, and have briefly reunited a few times since then.
Jim’s brother Dan (February 8, 1948 - March 25, 2009) picked up the nickname “England Dan” as a child when his fondness for The Beatles led him to put on an English accent. He carried that name into a musical partnership with high school classmate John Ford Coley. Like Seals & Crofts, England Dan & John Ford Coley struggled a bit at first, releasing some unsuccessful albums in the early 1970s.
They finally clicked with listeners in 1976, when their album Nights Are Forever produced a pair of top ten hits, “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” and “Nights Are Forever Without You.” They continued to record an album each year until 1979, and each album brought a new hit single—“It’s Sad to Belong,” “We’ll Never Have to Say Goodbye Again,” and “Love Is the Answer.”
The general style of England Dan and John Ford Coley wasn’t all that far removed from that of Seals & Crofts; both duos made light, breezy, soft rock. And given the similarity of the brothers’ voices, you could easily mistake one group for the other. In fact, in the early 2000s, Jim and Dan occasionally toured together as Seals & Seals, giving nostalgic concerts of both pairs’ greatest hits.
After the split of England Dan and John Ford Coley, Dan Seals moved on to a solo career as a country singer. His first big hit came in 1984, with “God Must Be a Cowboy.” In 1985, he started a remarkable run; beginning with the 1985 Marie Osmond duet, “Meet Me in Montana,” eleven of Dan’s next twelve singles reached #1 on the country chart, a streak that lasted through 1990.
Dan wasn’t the first member of the family to find success as a country singer. At about the same time that Jim and Dan were having success on the pop charts with their respective duos, their cousin Johnny Duncan (October 5, 1938 - August 14, 2006) was doing well as a country singer. Johnny’s career lasted from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, but he was at his most successful in the late 1970s. His self-titled 1977 album sent two songs to the top of the chart, “Thinkin’ of a Rendezvous” and “It Couldn’t Have Been Any Better.” He reached #1 twice more in the next few years, with “She Can Put Her Shoes Under My Bed (Anytime),” and a cover of the 1964 Jay and the Americans song “Come a Little Bit Closer,” recorded as a duet with Janie Fricke. All of these songs can be heard on the greatest hits collection The Essential Johnny Duncan.
The Seals family returned to the country charts in the 1990s, when another cousin, Brady Seals (born March 29, 1969), was the lead singer for the band Little Texas. The band’s first three albums—First Time for Everything, Big Time, and Kick a Little—generated seven top ten singles between them, including the #1 hit “My Love.” Brady left Little Texas in 1994; he went on to form the band Hot Apple Pie, which released one album in 1995 and to record a few solo albums. Little Texas recorded three more albums after Brady’s departure, but neither Brady nor Little Texas had the same kind of success apart that they had together.
Finally, there’s another cousin, Troy Seals (born November 6, 1938). Troy recorded a couple of albums in the 1970s but was much more successful as a songwriter. Working with several different songwriting partners, Troy wrote dozens of country hits between the mid-1970s and the 1990s. Among the artists who went to #1 on the country charts with Troy’s songs were Alabama (“When We Make Love”), Randy Travis (“I Won’t Need You Anymore”), John Schneider (“Country Girls”), and the unexpected pairing of Ray Charles and Willie Nelson (“Seven Spanish Angels”). Troy was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988.