Through an interesting turn of events, Conway Twitty picked up his fifth #1 country single “Fifteen Years Ago.” Raymond Smith was the one who wrote the song and first started writing country songs in his early teens. However, by 1969 he was managing a “beautiful music” radio station in the small town of Greeneville, Tennessee. He decided to return to writing when he attended a Jack Greene concert and he said as he remembered:
“I stood up on the hill, listening to Jack sing. Hearing that steel guitar moan and that pure-bred country, and thought ‘Gosh, that sounds good’ and that’s when I started working on ‘Fifteen Years Ago.’ Most of it was written the following day. I just got inspired by the good melody and the good storyline. Where all that came from, I don’t know.”
Smith paid for his own recording session and he released “Fifteen Years Ago” as a single on Sugar Hill records. His record performed well in a handful of markets, including Dallas, Philadelphia and Knoxville, Tennessee, where one of the nation’s premier country music stations, 50,000-watt WIVK-AM, played it.
When Conway Twitty performed at a Knoxville nightclub, one of WIVK’s disc jockeys approached him and suggested that he listen to Raymond’s recording of “Fifteen Years Ago,” a song which had failed to chart nationally. The disc jockey then offered to send a copy to Conway’s office. However, Conway insisted that they call the radio station right then and get somebody to bring it down there. Twitty later noted:
”Usually when you let something like that go, it never happens. I got the record that night at the club, found a record player and listened to it, and that’s all it took.”
Twitty was so impressed with “Fifteen Years Ago” that he called Smith at home later that night to tell him how much he liked the song and to ask for permission to record it. Smith didn’t really know what to make of this late-night phone call, but he gave the okay for Conway to record his song, which Twitty did a few weeks later at “Bradley’s Barn,” a state-of-the-art studio that legendary producer Owen Bradley had built twenty miles east of downtown Nashville, in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee. Smith attended the session. Twitty delivered the goods, as always, and “Fifteen Years Ago” topped Billboard’s “Hot Country Singles” chart on November 21, 1970.
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