Before “The Image of Me” became a hit

“The Image of Me” is a classic tale of dissolution and regret, but with a twist. Instead of bemoaning his lost innocence, the narrator rues the way he corrupted the love of his life, a “simple, old-fashioned” girl he remade in his own hard-drinking, fast-living image.

Conway Twitty can thank songwriter Wayne Kemp for his first three bona fide country successes. Kemp, a struggling artist, went to visit Twitty at his home in Oklahoma City, where both lived at the time. Close to bankruptcy, Kemp offered to sell Twitty a song titled “The Image Of Me” for $500 in an effort to scrape up some quick cash and keep his electricity on. Twitty agreed that it was a hit, but insisted that Kemp retain his publishing rights. Conway loaned him the $500 and promised that if Wayne’s own recording of the song proved unsuccessful, then he’d cut it.

Wayne Kemp. Photo from i.ytimg.com

After three months its release, Kemp’s record had yet to chart, so Conway took the song into the studio. Legendary producer Owen Bradley helmed the session backed by guitar ace Grady Martin, Lew Houston on steel, David Briggs on piano along with backup vocalists The Jordanaires. Joe E. Lewis provided the high harmonies during the chorus, adding extra sparkle to the record. It broke into Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart on March 23, 1968, and went on to become Twitty’s first Top Five country hit. You can’t argue with success, and Twitty returned to Kemp for his next two follow-up singles: “Next In Line” followed by “Darling You Know I Wouldn’t Lie” which peaked at #2 in early 1969.

Twitty’s legacy

When people discuss legendary song catalogs in country music, often the names of George Jones, Merle Haggard, or Willie Nelson are usually cited for their greatness. But, for some reason, the career of Conway Twitty seems to get overlooked. He died in 1993, while still releasing chart singles, so he never enjoyed the renaissance period of later years that the afore-mentioned artists did.

But, song for song, Twitty’s career matches up with anybody’s. And, unlike many of his contemporaries, he was very adept with the art of musical transition. A Conway Twitty record from 1980 sounded very different from one from 1965, and the singer continued to evolve until the recording of his final album, 1993’s Final Touches. Plus, what other male country singer has rocked the perm as Twitty did in 1979?

So, with that tip to his hairstyle, let’s take some reminiscence to that kind of music that only Conway can display. Here’s “The Image of Me” by Conway Twitty. Feel the chill as you listen, fella.