“Don’t Cry Joni” is probably the best collaboration Conway Twitty ever did. He recorded it with no other than his then sixteen-year-old daughter Joni Lee.
The song was released as a single in 1975, and it peaked at No. 63 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was one of just two non-Loretta Lynn duets in which Twitty had major success.
The Song’s Unexpected Ending
Written by Conway Twitty himself, “Don’t Cry Joni” is a song that tells the tale of a fifteen-year-old girl who developed a crush on a twenty-two-year-old Jimmy living next door. Joni was begging for Jimmy to wait for her so that they may someday get married.
“Jimmy, please say you’ll wait for me. I’ll grow up someday you’ll see. Savin’ all my kisses just for you. Signed with love forever true,” Joni begs, to which Jimmy answered,” Joni, Joni, please don’t cry. You’ll forget me by and by. You’re just fifteen, I’m twenty-two. Joni, I just can’t wait for you.”
Joni was brought to tears with this realization. Later in the song, Jimmy moved away and tried to find the woman of his dreams, but Joni’s words were etched into his mind. Five years passed, and Jimmy realized that Joni, although seven years younger than him, may be the girl he was looking for all along.
Jimmy decided to go back to his hometown and looked for Joni to ask her to marry him – only to realize his own heartbreak: Joni has married Jimmy’s best friend, John.
Joni Lee’s Short-Lived Career That Started with “Don’t Cry Joni”
All of Conway Twitty’s kids dabbled in country music careers at one point. But after his two other children — Kathy (aka “Jessica James”) and Mike (aka “Charlie Tango”) — found difficulty making headway in country music and failed to achieve notable success, Twitty was really hesitant to let young Joni Lee try her hand at it, too.
But the sixteen-year-old Twitty wanted, after years of resistance, to become an entertainer. So her father decided that allowing her to duet with him on the song he had written years earlier might provide some encouragement.
Twitty then asked Joni to join him in the recording studio and cut a rough demo that he would later have someone else re-do. And it was the song “Don’t Cry Joni.”
“I had no idea I was going to be on the actual record,” Joni recalled to Billboard. “Dad kind of tricked me. He told me he was going to take my voice off of the track and replace it with a professional singer.”
Not too much time went by, and the song became an incredible hit record for Twitty. He finally revealed to his daughter that he’d left her on the track, and they had earned themselves a chart-topper!
“I was going to college up in Virginia and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this. We have a hit record.’ I had no idea that my voice was still on the record. Being a kid, I started calling the radio stations asking them to play that new song by Conway Twitty and his daughter.”
From 1975 to 1978, Joni Lee was able to release five separate singles and one studio album. Her biggest hit was “I’m Sorry Charlie” that peaked at No. 16 on the US Country chart. Even though her public career in country music wasn’t as long as we all would have loved, she is still making sure that the world still recognizes real classic country music. Joni Lee is working as the president of Conway Twitty United, LP, and has continued to promote Conway’s legacy and artistry in various ways.
You can watch Conway Twitty and Joni Lee’s stunning duet of Don’t Cry Joni.