Hinton Conolly, one of Cayman Brac’s greatest voices of country music, has died following a battle with cancer. He was 82.
His son Curtis Conolly remembers his father living life to the fullest.
“He was just a fun person. Up to age 80, he was still playing his music and cooking,” he said.
He said his father died on Wednesday, 18 Sept., at Health City Cayman Islands after a short illness.
Conolly was born 9 Sept. 1937 to parents Kitchener and Olive Conolly. He had five sons, one daughter and several grandchildren. He lived in Creek with his wife Franscine.
Conolly demonstrated his love of country music by performing regularly on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac. He performed all over – at Galleon Beach, Buccaneers Inn, Coral Isle and Blackie’s Bar. He also played with Eddie and the Beach Boys – a popular band in Cayman Brac.
His biggest hit was ‘A Quick Drink at the Pool Bar’, which he recorded at a New York studio in 1977. The song was inspired by a thatch-roofed bar at the Brac’s Buccaneers Inn, which was known as the Pool Bar. The vinyl record became an overnight success, not only on the Brac and Grand Cayman, but also among audiences in the Bay Islands and Belize.
He loved to sing other country songs, such as the ‘The Green, Green Grass of Home’, ‘Maria’, ‘The Lights Got Dim’ and ‘Nothing I Can Do About It Now’, and was a fan of singers Merle Haggard, George Jones, Jim Reeves and Willie Nelson.
“Daddy and his friends would gather behind Ed’s Place, strum their guitars and sing as others listened; he was a fun person,” Curtis Conolly said.
He said his dad had a building behind his house which he used as a recording studio – he called it the ‘Las Vegas Hilton Hotel’.
“He did a lot of cooking, entertaining and listening to the playback of himself and other Brackers singing their favourite country tunes in there,” Curtis said.
He loved backyard and farming … he grew peppers, sweet potatoes, bananas and lots of other fruits and produce in his garden, his son said.
His favourite line was to call everyone ‘skip’ or ‘skipper’ and one of his most repeated expressions was ‘not there, skipper’, Curtis said.
At 11:40am on Monday, a giant pipe laying ship routed to pass close to Cayman Brac blew 10 long blasts on its horn to honour Conolly, who had been a seaman. The ship’s horn also blew in honour of Deputy Premier Moses Kirkconnell’s mother Zeta, who also passed away last week, and for the late Rena Reid.
Raymond Scott, Brac shipping traffic adviser, made the request with Saipem Constellation to blow the whistle in their honour as the ship passed.
In a 2017 interview with Cayman 27, Conolly said he never learned to read music, but could find “every chord I’m looking for”. He said he taught himself to play, and at the age of 80, knew around 500 songs.
He told the TV station he had started playing the guitar after his father brought one home from sea in the late 1940s. When it was his turn to go to sea, he signed up with National Bulk Carriers at the age of 17 and spent six and a half years sailing around the world.
“We would all get together, nights when we get off watch, we get to guitars,” he told Cayman 27.
When he returned home to the Brac, he took up farming before working for the Brac Power and Light Company, and then moving to Cable & Wireless, where he worked for some 30 years.
The funeral service for Hinton Conolly will take place at the Aston Rutty Centre in Cayman Brac on Saturday, 28 Sept. at 2pm.