Conway Twitty (Harold Lloyd Jenkins)

Conway Twitty

Conway Twitty

The career of singer, songwriter, producer, entertainer and recording artist Conway Twitty stands among the greatest in the history of popular music. His 55 No. 1 singles are an astounding and singular accomplishment in the annals of the recording industry. Those hits drove sales of more than 50 million records, powering literally thousands of live performances for tens of millions of fans, and led to more than 100 major awards. Numbers, however, don’t tell the most important part of the story.  Conway Twitty was a natural athlete, a natural singer, a naturally caring and charismatic person who never took his abilities for granted. There is no grand comeback from the brink of self-destruction. Just the remarkably steady journey of a man who never drank, never used drugs, but simply worked hard at what he loved, a family he loved deeply and the fans that cared for him.

Born Harold Lloyd Jenkins on September 1, 1933 in rural Friars Point, Mississippi, the boy had uncommon abilities and a penchant for helping those around him. Given his first guitar, a Sears & Roebuck acoustic, at the age of four, Harold demonstrated a musical gift. He formed his first band, the Phillips County Ramblers when he was 10 after the family had moved to Helena, Arkansas. His mother was the breadwinner and his father found spotty work as a Mississippi riverboat pilot. Harold obtained employment as a carhop and used his earnings to buy clothes and shoes for his brother and sister. He landed a weekly radio show, and in his other passion, baseball, developed his skills to the point of playing semi-pro and being offered a contract by the Philadelphia Phillies after high school.  Jenkins figured his destiny was decided when he was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies.  Fate intervened, however, when he was drafted by a much bigger team — the U.S. Army. While stationed in Japan, he kept both his dreams alive by forming a band and playing on the local Army baseball team.  The band was called the “Cimmarons” and played at different clubs. After his release from the army it was the mid 1950s and the sudden popularity of a young man named Elvis Presley drew a still very young Harold Jenkins to Memphis.  While recording at Sun Studios with Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, Jenkins began developing a sound that would lead to a record deal with MGM. He also took a stage name, contracting the names of two cities — Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, Texas. In 1958, Conway Twitty scored his first No. 1 hit titled “It’s Only Make Believe.”  His career as a rock-n-roll act took off, with the single topping the chart in 22 different countries and going on to sell eight million copies. Despite making a name for himself as a rock n roller, Twitty had always loved country music.  Twitty also enjoyed a short-lived movie career, appearing in films like Sex Kittens Go To College (with Mamie Van Doren), Platinum High School (Mickey Rooney), and College Confidential (Steve Allen) and writing the title and  sound track songs for the films. A play and movie was created titled “Bye Bye Birdie” which was a story about a young rock-n-roll star. It was written with the idea that Conway would do the starring role.  Conway did a lot of soul searching and decided that theatre and the movies were not for him, so he turned down the offer and remained focused on his true love of music.  After eight years of playing sock hops and dance clubs, Twitty heard the ticking of an internal clock that seemed to guide all the major decisions in his life. One night on a stage in Summer’s Point, New Jersey, Twitty looked out at a room full of people he didn’t know. With a wife and three kids at home, he realized his days of providing background music for sweaty teens were over. Twitty put down his guitar, walked off the stage and embarked on one of the greatest country careers in history.  Signed by legendary producer Owen Bradley to MCA/Decca in 1965, Twitty released several singles before 1968’s “Next In Line” became his first country No. 1. And thus began a run unmatched in music history. Twitty reeled off 50 consecutive No. 1 hits. Twitty was regarded by Nashville’s songwriters as “the best friend a song ever had.  He was one of Music Row’s best songwriters in his own right, writing 19 of his No. 1s and earning Grammy nominations for compositions including his signature song “Hello Darlin’.”  Twitty’s tunes are the mile markers for three decades of country music: “Hello Darlin’,” “Goodbye Time,” “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” “Linda On My Mind,” “I’d Love To Lay You Down,” “Tight Fittin’ Jeans,” “That’s My Job.” Conway also entered into a duet partnership with the top female vocalist of that time, Loretta Lynn.  They became the most awarded male/female duet in history recording with songs like “After The Fire Is Gone,” “Lead Me On,” and “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man.  He avoided onstage banter in favor of a tightly woven journey through his beloved hit songs.  “I’m often asked why ,” Conway said,  Why don’t I talk at my concerts.  My answer is always the same. I do talk, but the communication is through my music” Conway said. His voice even reached into outer space when “Hello Darlin” was played around the world during the link up between America’s orbiting astronauts and Russia’s cosmonauts in a gesture of international good will.  In 1982, Conway opened one of the largest tourist attractions in the state of Tennessee.  Twitty City, located north of Nashville in Hendersonville, was a true testament to his deep love and appreciation for his fans.  It was shut down in 1994 following a year-long tribute show called Final Touches, when fans and peers in the music business dropped by. The complex was auctioned off and bought by the Trinity Broadcasting Network for its religious programs.   And though his pairing with Loretta Lynn was one of the most celebrated duets in history, he never complained that the Country Music Association never recognized him with an award for his accomplishments as a solo artist. “Each one of my fans is enough of an award for me,” he’d say.  In 36 years of touring, he never missed a show.  If there’s an unfortunate addendum to Twitty’s story, it is that his place in the history of country music has largely been overlooked. Although never a member of the Grand Ole Opry, he was inducted into both the Country Music (1999) and Rockabilly Halls of Fame.  However, a legal battle over his estate kept his sons and daughters from endeavoring to tell his story for almost 14 years. Until now.  Throughout his life, Conway would tell people, “If you do what you love and you’re able to take care of the people you love, it doesn’t matter what you do. You’re a successful man.  ” Undoubtedly, that is the legacy that would have meant the most to Harold “Conway Twitty” Jenkins. Which makes the rest of his story — the accomplishments and accolades — that much sweeter.  In June 1993, Twitty became ill while performing at the Jim Stafford Theatre in Branson, Missouri, and was in pain while he was on his tour bus. He died in Springfield, Missouri, at Cox South Hospital, from an abdominal aortic aneurysm, aged 59, two months before the release of what would be his final studio album, Final Touches. Four months after Twitty’s death,George Jones included a cover of “Hello Darlin’” on his album High-Tech Redneck.

 

 

 

More Images

  • conway twitty moseleum -

  • Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.56.54 AM -

  • Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.51.19 AM -

  • Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.48.20 AM -

  • Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 3.07.52 PM -

  • Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 3.04.16 PM -

  • Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 2.59.39 PM -

  • Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 1.40.24 PM -

  • conway twitty loretta-008 -

  • conwayheadshot-004 -

  • conway twittyfamily8x10_12 -

  • Photo of Conway Twitty - UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970:  Photo of Conway Twitty  Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

  • conwayhouse_xmas_pics_2007_020 -

  • conwaytwittycityxmas1 -

  • conwaytwittyfamilyrestuarnt -

  • conwaytwittyfamilystd_31 -

  • conwaytwittyliveperform8x10_6 -

Born

  • September, 01, 1933
  • Friars Point, Mississippi

Died

  • June, 05, 1993
  • Springfield, Missouri

Cause of Death

  • Ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm

Cemetery

  • Sumner Memorial Gardens
  • Gallatin, Tennessee

Other

  • Mosuleum

12904 profile views