In the course of Conway Twitty’s career, he has proven his difference among the other greatest artists in the history of music. His triumph as a singer, songwriter, producer, recording artist and entertainer sets him to be the ultimate legend of all time. Conway’s accomplishments such as the 55 No.1 singles, sold out concerts and performances, numerous awards, and his story is undeniably one of a kind. He indeed was a people mover.
Conway has a different story among others; he was the guy who worked hard to achieve fame and luxury in life. Also, respect towards others, guided him to be prosperous, one reason why people accepted and embraced him wholeheartedly as a celebrity and as a person. Most interestingly, Conway’s story doesn’t include torment nor self-destruction, drinking nor drugs. Instead, he used the love of his family and the care of his supporters to step to the ladder of victory.
With this, to celebrate his works of art and to commemorate his silver death anniversary, let’s sense his existence, not physically, but through memory by his journey. A journey that once, impacted and pierced us in many ways. Indeed, Conway’s life journey from his younger days to his rise to fame, and to his last days is worth remembering.
The Younger Days of Conway Twitty…
Conway’s destiny was written in the stars. Even as a small boy, it was superficial that there was something exceptional about him. Born Harold Lloyd Jenkins on September 1, 1933, in Friars Point, Mississippi. His great-uncle named him after his favorite movie actor, Harold Lloyd. As a young boy, he was branded with a fondness for helping people around him. Truly a humble boy, at the age of four, he started playing the guitar and demonstrating a musical gift.
After his family moved to Helena, Arkansas, when Conway was 10-years-old; he first formed his band called the Philips Country Ramblers. At that time, his mother was the breadwinner of the family. Meanwhile, his father worked as a Mississippi, riverboat pilot. Conway at a very young age, worked as a carhop to support his brother and sister. He used his earnings to buy clothes and shoes for them.
Furthermore, Conway landed a career in a local radio station every Saturday morning. At the same time, he was also playing baseball is his passion. In fact, he was offered to play with the Philadelphia Phillies after high school. However, fate has intertwined, Conway was drafted by a bigger team which was the U.S Army. However, Conway never stopped his passion and his dreams. While stationed in Japan, Conway continued performing and joined the local army baseball team. His band named “Cimmarons” and he played at various clubs. In the mid of 1950’s, he was released from the army; this gave him the sudden popularity of a young Elvis Presley. This was when he heard an Elvis Presley song and started writing rock and roll pieces. Conway drew to Memphis to pursue his musical career.
How Did Conway Twitty Rise to Prominence?
While recording at Sun Studios, Conway began writing a piece that would land him a record deal with MGM. At that time, he was recording with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Moreover, his stage name was a combination of two cities. These are Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, Texas. Conway decided to change his name because it’s not memorable enough to remember. Conway then looked up at the map and spotted the two cities. He decided to change his Harold Lloyd Jenkins to Conway Twitty.
In 1958, Conway scored his very first No.1 single on the music charts entitled “It’s Only Make Believe.” The song was written between Conway and his drummer Jack Nance. The single took nearly one year to top the Billboard pop music in the United States and other parts of the world. Moreover, the single topped the charts in 22 parts of the world with an estimated sale of eight million copies. Soon after the skyrocket of his first hit, he became more and more popular, and many people have started to recognize his talent.
Conway’s rock and roll career took off when he decided to concentrate on producing country music sounds. Despite his massive success in the rock and roll world, Conway has always loved country music. In fact, his reverence for country music factored his decision to become a rock and roll performer.
The Movie Career of Conway Twitty…
On the other hand, Conway has penetrated a short-lived movie career in the limelight of television and movies. He appeared in the film such as “Sex Kittens Go To College” with Mamie Van Doren, “Platinum High School” with Mickey Rooney, and “College Confidential” with Steve Allen. Also, he has contributed a lot to the films as a songwriter of the movie soundtracks.
Furthermore, a play and a movie were created entitled “Bye Bye Birdie,” a story of a young rock and roll star. The play and film were written because of the idea that Conway would do the starring role. In fact, the lead character, Conrad Birdie, was shaped with Conway in mind. Unfortunately, Conway turned down the offer for the reason that Conway felt that movies and television were not for him. Instead, he dedicated his life to creating what his heart desires, his love of music.
How Conway Twitty Penetrated the Country Music Scheme
After eight years of performing rock and roll and in the dance clubs, Conway was struck by a sudden change. A change that made his career more powerful and made his life better. One night, on a stage in Summer’s Point, New Jersey, Conway glanced at a room full of people he didn’t know. He then realized, his time and days of providing music for sweaty teens or youngsters were over. Driven by motivation and the perspective of change, Conway embarked the most significant country career in history.
Owen Bradley signed Conway to MCA/Decca in 1965. With this, Conway released various singles. In 1968, he scored his very first No.1 country single which was “Next In Line.” He then began producing and recording undefeated singles and memorable songs.
The Story of “Hello Darlin”…
In 1970, Conway recorded his biggest single “Hello Darlin” which spent a total of four weeks on the country charts. It was documented that the song was one of the recognized songs of his career. The song became the theme song of the world. Also, it breached the barrier between America’s orbiting astronauts and Russia’s cosmonauts in a gesture of international goodwill.
Moreover, Conway has always had respect for women. Most of his biggest hits strike directly towards women. Many of his hits were controversial at that time. The most contentious song was his “Hello Darlin,” and the most inspiring situation was when he sang the song for a patient who had a heart attack. Back in the days, in a Californian performance, a woman refused to be taken to the hospital unless she hears “Hello Darlin.” A note was passed to the stage, and Conway performed the song earlier than planned for the woman to receive proper medical care.
With Loretta Lynn…
In 1971, he recorded and released his single “After The Fire Is Gone” along with the legendary Loretta Lynn. It was the beginning of their undisputed collaboration. Due to the success of their first single together, both decided to record more. Their songs included “Lead Me On,” “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” “As Soon As I Hang Up The Phone,” “Feelins’,” “I Still Believe In Waltzes,” “I Can’t Love You Enough,” and many more. Their duo has won several awards from different award-giving bodies, most notably was their four consecutive Country Music Association awards for Vocal Duo from 1972 to 1975.
Conway never became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, but he recorded the song “The Grandest Lady Of Them All” which was to honor the said organization. Despite the pure intention, many of the radio stations refused to play the song. Because of this, the song failed to reach top ten. Nevertheless, the single reached the top 20. Also, this made Conway change the motion of his career including his hairstyle. However, Conway was unaffected by the song. Instead, it made him more motivated. With this, he recorded more, gaining his 23 consecutive top 10 with 13 No.1 singles including “Don’t Take It Away,” “I May Never Get to Heaven,” “Happy Birthday Darlin’” and remakes of major pop hits such as “The Rose” and “Slow Hand.”
In 1985, “Don’t Call Him A Cowboy” became his 50th single to achieve No.1 ranking. He would have five more through 1990, giving him 55 No.1 hits all in all. So far, George Strait is the only country artists that bested Conway to produce the most of top charting hits on the country charts.
In his country music career, Conway topped a consecutive of a total of 55 No.1 singles on the country charts. Making him unvanquished, steadily the best of the bests, and gaining his title “High Priest of Country Music.” In 1993, before he died, he recorded his final album “Final Touches.”
The Awards and Recognitions Conway Twitty Received…
Conway proved that he didn’t only cater great songs to the music obsessives. Also, he moved people, and most of all inspire them. His awards and recognitions are the proofs of his pure talent and the changes he contributed not only to the music industry but to the people all over the world.
Here are the lists of his awards and recognition.
Academy of Country Music Awards
1971 Top Vocal Duo with Loretta Lynn
1974 Top Vocal Duo with Loretta Lynn
- Album of the Year with the song “Feelins’” with Loretta Lynn
- Top Male Vocalist
- Top Vocal Duo with Loretta Lynn
1976 Top Vocal Duo with Loretta Lynn
2008 Pioneer Award
Country Music Association Awards
1972 Vocal Duo of the Year with Loretta Lynn
1973 Vocal Duo of the Year with Loretta Lynn
1974 Vocal Duo of the Year with Loretta Lynn
1975 Vocal Duo of the Year with Loretta Lynn
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Inducted in 1999
Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame
Rockabilly Hall of Fame
1971 Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, “After the Fire Is Gone”, with Loretta Lynn
1999 Hall of Fame Award “Hello Darlin”
The Complete List of Conway Twitty’s 55 No.1 Singles…
In the course of Conway’s career, he has placed a total of 55 No.1 singles on the country charts specifically on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. A huge achievement for a country artist, knowing that there are many out there, but Conway is indeed one of a kind. And for all the Conway Twitty fans out there, here is the complete list of his 55 No.1 singles.
- “It’s Only Make Believe” 1958
- “Next In Line” 1968
- “Darling, You Know I Wouldn’t Lie” 1969
- “I Love You More Today” 1969
- “To See My Angel Cry” 1969
- “That’s When She Started To Stop Loving You” 1970
- “Hello Darlin” 1970
- “Fifteen Years Ago” 1970
- “After The Fire Is Gone” 1971 with Loretta Lynn
- “How Much More Can She Stand” 1971
- “I Wonder What She’ll Think About Me Leaving” 1971
- “Lead Me On” 1971 with Loretta Lynn
- “I Can’t See Me Without You” 1972
- “I Can’t Stop Loving You” 1972
- “Lost Her Love on Our Last Date” 1972
- “She Needs Someone To Hold Her When She Cries” 1972
- “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” 1973 with Loretta Lynn
- “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” 1973
- “Baby’s Gone” 1973
- “There’s a Honky Tonk Angel” 1974
- “As Soon As I Hang Up the Phone” 1974 with Loretta Lynn
- “I’m Not Through Loving You Yet” 1974
- “I See The Want To In Your Eyes” 1974
- “Linda On My Mind” 1975
- “Feelins” 1975 with Loretta Lynn
- “Don’t Cry, Joni” 1975 duet with daughter, Joni Jenkins
- “Touch The Hand” 1975
- “This Time I’ve Hurt Her More Than She Loves Me” 1976
- “After All The Good Is Gone” 1976
- “The Letter” 1976 with Loretta Lynn
- “The Games That Daddies Play” 1976
- “I Can’t Believe She Gives It All To Me” 1977
- “Play, Guitar Play” 1977
- “I’ve Already Loved You In My Mind” 1977
- “Don’t Take It Away” 1979
- “I May Never Get To Heaven” 1979
- “Happy Birthday Darlin” 1979
Conway Continued Placing No.1 Singles in 80’s to 90’s…
- “I’d Love To Lay You Down” 1980
- “Rest Your Love On Me” 1981
- “Tight Fittin’ Jeans” 1981
- “Red Neckin’ Love Makin’ Night” 1982
- “The Clown” 1982
- “Slow Hand” 1982
- “We Really Did But Now You Don’t” 1982
- “The Rose” 1983
- “Lost In The Feeling” 1983
- “Somebody’s Needin’ Somebody” 1984
- “I Don’t Know a Thing About Love” 1984
- “Ain’t She Somethin’ Else” 1985
- “Don’t Call Him a Cowboy” 1985
- “Desperado Love” 1986
- “Fallin’ For You For Years” 1987
- “Julia” 1987
- “She’s Got a Single Thing In Mind” 1989
- “Crazy In Love” 1990
The Twitty City…
Conway has always loved his supporters and fans. He owes his success to the people who braced and appreciated him all the way. And Conway knows how to give back. With this, he opened the largest tourist attraction in the state of Tennessee which was the Twitty City in 1982. Another proof of Conway’s deep love to his followers. The Twitty City featured the mansion of Conway, home of his mother and his four children. Also, the Twitty City included enterprises such as gift shop, a theatrical show of Conway’s life, and beautifully landscaped grounds and a pavilion area. It was one of the most popular tourist spots from 80’s to the early of 90’s. Unfortunately, it was shut down in 1994 when it was bought by the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
The Story of Conway Twitty’s Marriages…
Conway was married four times to three different women. First, he was married to Ellen Matthews. Their marriage lasted for a year from 1953 to 1954. Both got married because Ellen was pregnant with his son, Michael. Second, was to Temple “Mickey” Medley. They were married in 1956 and had three children: Kathy, Joni Lee, and Jimmy Twitty. Conway and Mickey got divorced in early 1970. But, they remarried by the end of the same year. In 1984, after 28 years of marriage, they divorced. Conway married his secretary, Dolores “Dee” Henry in 1987. They were married until Conway’s death.
The Time When Conway Twitty Met an Accident…
In 1981, Conway was exiting his tour bus when he slipped and fell; his head hit the step hard. John Hughey found him on the ground. After the accident, many people including his family members noticed a drastic change in his personality. According to his daughter Joni, Conway was out of his right state of mind for several months. Joni told the reporters that Conway once picked up a remote control and began talking into it, thinking it was a phone.
The Conway Twitty’s Death That Shocked The World…
On June 4, 1993, Conway collapsed while performing at the Jim Stanford Theatre in Branson, Missouri. He was immediately rushed to the hospital for medical care. He was rushed to the surgery but died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm on the morning of June 5, 1993. Conway died at the age of 59.
Conway was buried at Sumner Memorial Gardens in Gallatin, Tennessee, in a red granite vault, under the name “Harold L. Jenkins.” There are spaces reserved next to him for his wife and his son Michael.
Certainly, Conway Twitty is one of the country legend worth remembering. From his influential life story to the musical career we have witnessed. Also, his songs will always remain in our hearts, as they influence us so significantly.
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