I introduced Earl Thomas Conley way back in the day at the Executive Inn and found him to be just a really nice, laid back guy...who also recorded 18 number one songs.

Sadly, The Tennessean reports that the country music legend passed away early Thursday morning at the age of 77, after suffering from a "condition similar to dementia." He had spent the last several months in hospice care.

What a career Earl Thomas Conley enjoyed.

In addition to those 18 chart-toppers--including the timeless classic "Holding Her and Loving You" and one the greatest examples of songwriting ever "What I'd Say"--Earl Thomas Conley racked up another eight top tens, including memorable collaborations with the late Keith Whitley ("Brotherly Love") and Anita Pointer of The Pointer Sisters ("Too Many Times").

I remember an Earl Thomas Conley concert at the Sportscenter in the early 90s. One of our own on-air personalities, the late Karen Willoughby, opened for him that night.

Blake Shelton has always been one of Conley's most famous fans. In fact, Blake calls ETC his all-time favorite singer.

Needless to say, he is devastated:

It's always sad when we lose a country legend.

You can count me among Earl Thomas Conley's fans. That soulful sadness in his voice. That catch in his throat.

He will be missed.