Anita Pointer of the Pointer Sisters recalls her unlikely duet with country star Earl Thomas Conley

Anita Pointer is so excited these days.

The 71-year-old singer/songwriter of the girl group the Pointer Sisters – Anita, Ruth and June – recently helped launch a new exhibition at The Hollywood Museum titled “Ever After,” which celebrates 50 years of iconic fashion and memorabilia from her decades-long career.

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The Pointer Sisters’ first album was released in 1975 and soon won their first Grammy Award for the country-Western tune “Fairytale,” leading them to become the first black female group to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Elvis Presley himself would also record the song for his last studio album.

Then in 1986, the R&B star teamed up with country singer Earl Thomas Conley for “Too Many Times,” a track that reached No. 2 on the charts.

But Pointer insisted her love of country music wasn’t always met with open arms. Still, she was determined to pursue her passion for creating a new sound, all while breaking barriers.

Pointer spoke to Fox News about collaborating with Conley, hearing Presley perform her song, her favorite memory of Tim Conway and what life is like for her today.

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Fox News: Looking back, what inspired you to share a duet with Earl Thomas Conley?
Anita Pointer: I didn’t know him before the duet. But some friends over at Nashville thought we would do well together so they hooked us up. Simple as that *laughs*.

Fox News: That 1986 song “Too Many Times” reached No. 2 on the country charts. How did you feel about this achievement?
Pointer: Nobody talked about it. It just seemed like it wasn’t acknowledged.  We presented it at one of the CMA Awards and we did a lot of TV in Nashville. It was a country and R&B thing going on and yet they didn’t make anything of it. There was no social media back then.

The Pointer Sisters, circa 1970. 

The Pointer Sisters, circa 1970.  (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

My sisters and I, we were the first black female group to ever perform at the Grand Ole Opry. And the first black group to ever win a Grammy for a country song. They just pushed it under the rug. But they don’t talk about that. I heard when we played the Grand Ole Opry through my manager that there were protesters with signs outside saying "Keep country music country" — which really meant keep country music white.

We got on stage and started singing. A guy from the audience got up and hollered, "Hot damn, them gals are black." Right in the middle of our song. We started singing and then he went, "Play it again honey!" And we sang it again! But hopefully, they’ll open up to the idea more. They seem to be doing that now… We now have Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X. I think it’s so cute and wonderful. I think it’s fantastic that different genres of music are merging together.

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Elvis Presley on Aug. 1969 at Las Vegas' International Hotel, where he made his first public stage appearance in nine years. (AP Photo, File)

Elvis Presley on Aug. 1969 at Las Vegas' International Hotel, where he made his first public stage appearance in nine years. (AP Photo, File)

Fox News: How did Elvis Presley end up recording one of your songs?
Pointer: I wrote one of my favorite songs in the ‘70s called “Fairytale.” We got our first Grammy Award for "Fairytale." And it was a country song. And writing that song felt so natural to me. I remember listening to a James Taylor cassette while I was in a motel back when I was on the road and I just started writing. I love James Taylor. And I ended up writing “Fairytale” in one night. It wasn’t intentional.

Then Elvis recorded it on his album "Today." And he performed it live on his shows in Vegas. He would say, "This song is the story of my life." I never got a chance to meet Elvis, but I was so honored and thrilled that he legitimized my song. He realized it was a good country song.

Fox News: You and your sisters had also recorded a song meant for Presley. How did that happen?
Pointer: That was “Fire.” When we first heard that song, we thought it was really for Elvis Presley. And I found out later it was. That song became our first gold single. Needless to say, I was shocked!

Fox News: You appeared on “The Carol Burnett Show” from 1974 to 1976. What was that experience like?
Pointer: Oh God, it was so much fun. It was honestly one of the most fun times in our careers… We had four days of rehearsing. And on the fifth day, you taped twice. But Carol was so great. She was such a great teacher.

We also went on the road with her. We went to Vegas and Tahoe with her and Tim Conway. One thing she taught us is that you don’t take all your wardrobe with you on the road. Your show is like a stage play and you bring wardrobe just for that. You don’t have to take everything in the closet. When we went on tour, she had like two dresses. That was the play. It’s not about the clothes — not completely.

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Fox News: What’s your favorite memory of Tim Conway?
Pointer: He was so, so sweet and so, so funny. We had a skit at Carol’s show where he would come out and they made a dress for him that matched our dresses that Bob Mackie had made for us. This was around the time when June was not with us because she wasn’t doing very well. So he would come out as a Pointer sister. It was hilarious. And he would play like he really was with us. He had the same dress on and everything! I loved working with him.

Tim Conway and Carol Burnett during Taping of NBC Special "Comedy Hall of Fame" in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Tim Conway and Carol Burnett during Taping of NBC Special "Comedy Hall of Fame" in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Fox News: You also appeared on Cher’s show in 1975. What was she like?
Pointer: We did Cher’s show a couple of times. It was really nice. She was so sweet to us and a free spirit… She opened one of her shows with my song, "Could I Be Dreaming." When I saw her singing my song, the words that I wrote, I just started to cry. She just loved my music and that meant so much to me. I love Cher. She was great and we had a fun time working with her.

Fox News: Was performing with your sisters difficult?
Pointer: Our different styles came in the way from time to time *laughs*. We would decide what we were going to wear one night. But I remember June didn’t want to wear a specific dress that went with the set. She insisted she wasn’t going to wear it. We were trying to convince her to wear it. But she took the dress to the bathroom, put it in the tub and set it on fire. “Pow, I told you, I’m not wearing this dress!” *laughs* But I can’t tell you what a joy it was to perform with my sisters. I loved working with them so, so much. It was such a blessing.

Fox News: When did you realize you and your sisters made it?
Pointer: I’m waiting for that moment *laughs*. We knew things were going great when we could take care of our parents. Give them a house and take them out of that ugly place in Oakland they were forced to move into. We were able to give them a car. My mom and dad had their first plane ride. That’s when I felt we had made it.

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Fox News: In 2016, Ruth Pointer candidly spoke to the UK’s Daily Mail about facing addiction. How did you cope with the temptations that came with fame?
Pointer: You know, I partied just like the rest of them. But when I decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore, I totally stopped. I didn’t go to rehab, I didn’t go to therapy. I just stopped. It was something I wanted to do. I never felt like I had to go and have a drink or get some weed or whatever it was.

I just never felt that. Everybody’s different. Ruthie had her demons and her situation, but mine was nothing like that at all. I was very close to my daughter. She passed away in 2003. It’s the worst thing in the world. My life has totally changed and I’ll never, ever be the same.

Fox News: What is life like for you today?
Pointer: Retired. I’m finally getting the chance to enjoy my home. For so many years, I was on the road. I was constantly working. My granddaughter lives with me. I miss my sisters. But I don’t miss traveling or being on the road.