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The Hip-­Hop Legacy of Eric C. Conn

By Coleman Larkin |

Our man in Eastern Kentucky offers commentary on the recent indictment of Eric C. Conn. Or, how a respected jazz guitarist wound up writing awful raps for the state's most hated attorney.

Eric C. Conn, the most ridiculous lawyer in a land of ridiculous lawyers, had been playing it cool lately.

 

He'd been eating at El Azul Grande, the Pikeville Mexican restaurant, with his Spanish-speaking girlfriend about 10 times a week just to keep up appearances. Everybody was always trying to Snapchat a picture of him inhaling Pollo Bandido or eavesdrop on the rudimentary español that he's so proud of ("Mas cervesas, por favor! Muy bien!").

 

Some people just blatantly flipped him the bird, I heard.
 

"How's this freak just going to sit there sucking down free salsa like he's not the most wanted man in Eastern Kentucky?" they wondered. "Where's his shame? I wish they'd slap the cuffs on him right now."

 

And then, earlier this week, they did.

 

Mail fraud. Wire fraud. Conspiracy to retaliate against a witness. Destruction of evidence. Making false statements. Money laundering.

 

Some of the charges could mean up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for the man that billed himself as Mr. Social Security. They're also coming for about $12 million worth of his cash and toys.

 

Plus we finally got a mug shot. Those are always satisfying.

Eric C Conn-mugshot

As slippery as he's been, it looks like The Conn Man is down for the count this time. And it'd be hard to find somebody who doesn't think he deserves whatever punishment he gets. But, at the same time, I think everybody on this side of the Commonwealth is going to miss having the guy around.

 

For decades he's been omnipresent, advertising everywhere, all the time, as loudly and as brightly as possible. Just when you thought you'd seen the last of his fluorescent, nuclear-meltdown­-yellow billboards a new one would pop up on the horizon.

 

It was like a perpetual sunrise.

 

Some of the billboards had waving, life­-sized mannequins perched on top of them. These became known as "ManneConns".

Eric C Conn-ManneConn

People were always abusing the ManneConns – throwing things at them and stuff. After a lot of botched attempts, somebody finally managed to steal one. Conn put a $10,000 reward out for the return of his beloved likeness. But nobody ever took him up on it. Legend has it that it eventually turned up on the bank of the Big Sandy River with a fishing pole in its hand.

 

Conn was on the front and back cover of every phone book. Every page of every newspaper. Every superstore flyer. And he'd show up at every public event within a 50-­mile radius with a handful of honky-tonk specials he called "The Conn Hotties".

 

At Hillbilly Days in Pikeville, you could have your picture taken with The Conn Hotties and a cardboard cutout of Conn. Or an inflatable space shuttle and a cardboard cutout of Conn. Or actual Conn, an inflatable Conn, and a cardboard cutout of Conn.

Eric C Conn-Hotties

He made 3D TV ads that didn't work unless you just happened to be wearing 3D glasses at the time ("Come with Eric C. Conn to the future!") and his "I've Got a Question" spot belongs in the internet Hall of Fame. That's the one where he struts out of his Rolls Royce and some robotic-sounding dunce, in reference to the rumors that he'd skipped town or had already been locked up, pleads, "Eric, we need you back."

 

Conn throws his jacket over his shoulder and answers in a deadpan Sling Blade voice.

 

"I never left."

 

Other highlights include shelling out about $50,000 to get Dr. Ralph Stanley, Jesco White and "The Obama Girl" together for a disastrous music video that was supposed to, somehow, make Conn look like a logical choice for appointment to the Social Security Advisory Board.

 

He paid a half-million dollars to put a giant replica of the Lincoln Memorial in the parking lot of a gang of welded­ together trailers that he calls "The Eric C. Conn Law Complex" because he thought it would be fun.

Eric C Conn-Lincoln

He dated porn-star Raven Riley and, as if that wasn't entertaining enough, spun their breakup into a cringeworthy attempt at guerilla marketing with a YouTube video of her supposedly blasting him over the phone.

 

In what looks like a shoebox diorama of a teenage girl's room, Riley does some of the worst acting of her career and doles out some obviously scripted zingers like, "I don't need your money, honey. Matter of fact, you can take your Mercedes, your beach house, your Armani suits … AND SHOVE 'EM UP YOUR ASS!"

 

Then, at the end, she goes, "And P.S. ya f—in' prick, you can tell your friend Don he can go to hell, too!"

Eric C Conn-poon

Which is way funnier if you know that "Don" is Doctor Don, the since-deceased Pike County DJ who was Conn's sidekick. The two of them had a short­-lived cable access travel show that allowed them to capitalize on their shared love of desperate foreign females. Yes, for a few magical months, East Kentuckians had the pleasure of tagging along with this very odd couple as they cruised for poon in a fan boat on the rivers of Vietnam.

 

How can you not miss a guy like that?

 

As a side note: Doctor Don once got hit by a truck while recording live at Apple Days. That doesn't have anything to do with anything. It just had a profound effect on me and I thought I'd share.

 

But what I'll miss most about Eric C. Conn are his radio ads, specifically the songs. That's where his megalomania really shined.

But what I'll miss most about Eric C. Conn are his radio ads, specifically the songs. That's where his megalomania really shined.

In the early 21st century, he commissioned and proudly distributed what I believe to be some of the worst noises ever recorded. I loved them.

 

His friend and fellow local hero Marlow Tackett wrote a country ditty called "He Gets the Job Done" that'll make you weep with lines like, "His mom and dad gave him some land and a trailer."

 

Conn was so keen on this that he turned the lyrics into a print ad and published it in all the area papers.

 

Dr. Ralph Stanley recorded a bluegrass version for some reason. Money, I'd say.

Eric C Conn-Stanley

And then there was a rap song. For the life of me, I can't find the copy that I'd burned to a CD and listened to about a thousand times when I was in high school, so you'll just have to believe me when I say that it sucked. It's roughly two minutes of poetry with gems like, "No need to be shy, yes this man's a fly white guy" and "Even if you're Latino, no need to worry cuz this gringo speaks the lingo."

 

Then it repeats his phone number a bunch of times.

 

"1-­800-­232­-HURRRRRRRRRT!"

 

It was one of those things that's so bad it makes you feel like you're going crazy. Like maybe you have a fundamental misunderstanding of beauty that renders you inhuman. Like you're alone with the awfulness.

 

As it turns out, a young Brandon Coleman was having that very same experience over at Pike County Central High School. He'd also heard the Conn songs and was transfixed by their terribleness.

 

"I was in a drama class. The assignment was to write a comedic play about Pike County. Of course I had to reference Eric C. Conn," he says.

 

So Brandon came up with a skit, the gist of which was that Conn had hired 50 Cent to write a rap song for him. To really sell the idea, Brandon actually wrote and recorded the ridiculous song.

 

Everybody loved it. The skit was a hit. And he went off to college, figuring that was the end of it.

 

But somebody had put the song on the internet. And, a year or so later, nobody's sure when exactly, Eric C. Conn heard it. Far from being upset, the narcissist in him actually liked the parody enough to use it as an actual ad.

 

Or maybe he didn't understand that it was a parody? That's a distinct possibility. Anyway, that's how I first came across it.

 

I was home from college and my radio started squealing, "Eric is my daddy he's the man with the plan! And he ain't gonna stop 'til he gets that check in my hand!"

 

Brandon had no idea.

 

Fast forward to 2013. Brandon is now an accomplished jazz guitarist and composer.

 

He's an actual, serious musician going to grad school in Louisville.

Eric C Conn-Brandon Coleman

He gets a phone call from a mysterious 606 number.

 

A lady with a pronounced Appalachian accent asks, "Is this Brandon Coleman?"

 

"Uh. Yeah."

 

"Did you happen to write a rap song about Eric C. Conn about 10 years ago?"

 

His heart immediately dropped. He thought for sure he was being sued for defamation or something. But that wasn't the case at all.

 

"Eric loves it!"

 

And Brandon thinks to himself, "What? Why? It's mocking him AND it's terrible. I call him a 'crunk attorney' for god's sake."

 

The Appalachian voice says, "Eric wants to hire Brandon to write another rap … and he'll pay him $3,000 to do it."

 

That's when Brandon Coleman became MCBC and the world got a little richer.

 

"[Conn] wanted to use a lot of stuff from the original rap but he also wanted to add his own stuff," Brandon says.

 

It turned into a constant back and forth. They went through a million different versions. Conn would want very specific words added and removed for weird reasons. He wanted the word "dedication" taken out, for example, because he thought it sounded too much like "medication".

 

"It really freaked him out. He thought people would think he was involved in some sort of drug scandal if they heard the word 'medication'," Brandon says. "It was super bizarre."

 

And everything was filtered through his secretary. Anytime Brandon tried to talk to Conn personally, he was conveniently unavailable. He never had any direct contact with him.

 

"I didn't know what to do. It was very weird. I thought he was going to sue me for making fun of him, but he basically wanted me to make fun of him again. Only this time he wanted to give me a bunch of money."

 

So he just rolled with it and got himself paid.

 

"I am definitely NOT a professional rapper. I had to lower my voice just to sound more gangster," Brandon says. "But I was a broke student so …"

 

Check out a choice excerpt and recording below:

 

For a crunk attorney / just take a short journey / to the offices of Eric C. Conn / He knows every statute / and he's got a sweet statue / Whatever ya got he'll make the best of your case. / Come to his office, you know the place / with the statue in the front and the Royce in the back. / When it comes to SSI he knows all the facts.

 

Coincidentally, it was right after Brandon's song debuted that Eric C. Conn's house of cards began to fall. He stopped advertising so much and started lying a little lower.

 

Brandon recently went back through his inbox to refresh his memory and all of the emails ever sent from Conn's office have disappeared. They were deleted and destroyed, most likely, like everything else at the Law Complex. All that's left is Brandon's side of the conversation. Like he imagined the whole thing.

 

But the proof is online and will stay there long after Eric C. Conn is locked away and his last billboard comes down.

 

"Go buy it," Brandon says of the song. "Turn it into a ringtone."

 

You can hear some of Brandon Coleman's actual music on his website, BrandonColeman-Music.com. Find and purchase the final version of his Eric C. Conn song here.

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