This is without a doubt: Conway Twitty is a legend in the genre. And just like his fellow legendary country artists Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and Charley Pride, his legacy is kept alive by his children. He has four of them: Michael Twitty, Joni Lee, Kathy Twitty, and Jimmy Twitty.
Four “I Dos” and Three Women
Conway Twitty was first married to Ellen Matthews in 1953, after they found out Matthews was pregnant with their son, Michael. A year later, they decided to go their separate ways. In 1956, Twitty said “I do” to Temple “Mickey” Medley, his second wife and longest marriage, and it was a rollercoaster. The couple had three children, divorced in early 1970, and remarried by the end of the same year. But after 28 years, they called it quits.
Three years later, the singer married his secretary, Delores “Dee” Henry. She became his widow after his death in 1993. They did not have any children.
Now, let’s finally meet Conway Twitty’s kids.
Conway Twitty son Michael Twitty pic.twitter.com/iK17xH4eJI— Travis Keith Arnold (@TravisKeithArn1) August 4, 2019
The first of Conway Twitty’s two sons, Michael Twitty, also known by his artist name Charlie Tango, was born on November 25 in Helena, Arkansas. While his parents didn’t end up together, he grew up close to his dad, whom he lovingly called his Papaw. One of his earliest memories of them spending time together was riding a paddle-wheel ferry boat down the Mississippi with his dad as the captain.
And then, by the young age of 8, music became his life – unsurprisingly, turning out to be an absolute copy of the legendary singer. He knew how to work his crowd like it was a casual conversation with friends, changing planned song lists by instinctively knowing what they would enjoy the most. From top 40 country songs to old-time rock and roll, classics, and even down to his father’s massive repertoire of hits, he was unafraid to take them on.
He had his first tour in 1972 with his father and Loretta Lynn. He learned a lot from the process, but at some point, he pulled away to develop his own style. He successfully did so with back-to-back successful shows, including his critically-acclaimed “Memories of Conway Show.”
But he’s not only an artist; he is also a dad to a son named Tre. And it looks like music is in the blood, as Tre also pursued music. A rockabilly, rock-n-roll, and country singer, he has made his own name in the industry and as one-half of the duo with Loretta Lynn’s granddaughter, Tayla Lynn. The two couldn’t have made their parents and their grandparents any prouder for keeping the family’s musical legacy alive.
In fact, last July 2022, the two made their Opry debut.
Joni Lee Jenkins
Conway Twitty’s daughter Joni Lee (now Joni Lee Ryles), also known by her artist name Joni Penn, was born on July 2, 1957. And among the four, her name is the most prominent.
When she was 16, she duetted with her father for his 1975 track “Don’t Cry, Joni” from his album The High Priest of Country Music. The duet was a major hit, and it was one of two songs that he didn’t duet with Loretta Lynn that achieved such success. (The other one was his guest shot with Ronnie McDowell’s 1988 cover of his original “It’s Only Make Believe.”) It started earning popularity by the end of the year, peaking at number 4. It even entered the Billboard Hot 100.
Joni Lee also dropped her own album in 1976 under MCA Records, with her single “I’m Sorry Charlie” becoming her most successful track. But it was her 2009 production, “Conway Twitty: The Man, The Music, The Legend, The Musical,” inspired by “Always… Patsy Cline,” that she really made her mark. It was the realization of her vision, which all of her siblings participated in.
She married country music artist John Wesley Ryles, and together, they co-produced the update of Conway Twitty’s 14-track album in 1973 with his band, the Twitty Birds. It was made for the US Armed Forces and broadcast on country radio stations nationwide, but the recordings were never really released. And so, they revamped it in 2017 for his fans.
Her husband sang the background vocals for all the recordings, which, according to Joni, perfectly blended with her dad’s voice. Her sister Kathy’s husband, Tony Durante, played acoustic guitar in two tracks. And finally, Kathy came up with the title of the album: Timeless.
Kathy, also known by her artist name Jessica James/Jesseca James, also followed in her father’s footsteps. Aside from covering her dad’s hit songs like her siblings, she was also once a part of the group called The Next Generation with fellow daughters of legendary country names – Loretta Lynn’s daughter Peggy, George Jones, and Tammy Wynette’s daughter Georgette, and Johnny Cash’s daughter, Cindy Cash.
She isn’t in the spotlight anymore but still makes public appearances. In 2011, she visited the Golden Corral restaurant to talk with music students of Terry Strange. Then, in 2020, she attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Conway Twitty Lane in Drakes Creek Park in Hendersonville along with her siblings.
She is married to Tony Durante. Durante has a degree in music and also played with orchestras back in the day.
Conway Twitty’s son, Jimmy, is the youngest and most elusive of all his children. He does participate in events involving his father, just like Joni Lee’s musical production and the ribbon cutting ceremony organized by Hendersonville city officials for the Conway Twitty Lane.
Conway Twitty’s children have definitely worked on their parts to keep the legacy of their father alive and burning.
conway twitty, Jimmy Twitty, Joni Lee Jenkins, Kathy Twitty, Michael Twitty