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Conway Twitty

Conway Twitty

Conway Twitty in one of his final promo shots, 1993
Background information
Birth name Harold Lloyd Jenkins
Born September 1, 1933(1933-09-01)
Origin (born) Friars Point, Mississippi, (raised) Helena, Arkansas, USA
Died June 5, 1993 (aged59)
Genre(s) Country
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instrument(s) Vocals, Guitar
Years active 1955 – 1993
Label(s) MCA, Elektra, MGM, Decca
Associated acts Loretta Lynn

Conway Twitty (born Harold Lloyd Jenkins, September 1, 1933 – June 5, 1993) was one of the United States' most successful country music artists during the 20th century. Most commonly thought of as a country music singer, he also enjoyed success in early Rock and Roll, R "


Early life

Conway Twitty was born Harold Lloyd Jenkins on September 1, 1933 in Friars Point, Mississippi.

Jenkins was named by his great uncle after his favorite silent movie actor, Harold Lloyd. The Jenkins family moved to Helena, Arkansas (now known as Helena-West Helena, Arkansas) when Jenkins was 10 years of age, and it was in Helena that Jenkins put together his first singing group, the Phillips County Ramblers.[citation needed]

Two years later, he had his own local radio show every Saturday morning. Jenkins also practiced his second passion, baseball. He received an offer to play with the Philadelphia Phillies after high school, but he was drafted into the Army, which effectively put an end to that dream.[citation needed]

Inspired by Elvis

After his discharge from the Army, Jenkins again pursued a music career. After hearing Elvis Presley's song, "Mystery Train", he began writing rock 'n' roll material. As a matter of course, he headed for the Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee and worked with Sam Phillips, owner and founder of Sun Studios, to get the "right" sound.[citation needed]

Source of stage name

Jenkins felt that his real name wasn't marketable, and he changed his show business name in 1957. (Harold Lloyd Jenkins remained his legal name.) Looking at a road map, he spotted Conway, Arkansas, and Twitty, Texas. Thus, he went with the professional name of "Conway Twitty".[citation needed]

Alternatively, Jenkins met a Richmond, VA, man named W. Conway Twitty Jr. through Jenkins' manager in a New York City restaurant. The manager served in the army with the real Conway Twitty. Later, the manager suggested to Jenkins that he take the name as his stage name because it had a ring to it. The Richmond Conway Twitty subsequently recorded the song, "What's in a Name But Trouble," in the mid-1960s, lamenting the loss of his name to Jenkins.

There are also rumors that the country artist had lovers in Conway, Arkansas, as well as Twitty, Texas. His stage name was a constant reminder of their love while he was away.

First successes

"It's Only Make Believe" was recorded in 1958 and became the first of nine Top 40 hits for Twitty,only making it to number 2 selling eight million copies. The song was written between sets by Conway and drummer Jack Nance when they were in Hamilton, Ontario playing at the Flamingo Lounge.

Rock successes

Twitty's fortunes changed in 1958, while he was with MGM Records. An Ohio radio station did not play "I'll Try", an MGM single that went basically nowhere in terms of sales, radio play, and jukebox play, instead playing the "B side" of the single. The B side was a song called "It's Only Make Believe". It was popular in Ohio, and gradually became popular throughout the country, as well.

For a brief period in Twitty's music career, some believed that he was Elvis Presley recording under a different name. This was largely the case with "It's Only Make Believe." The record took nearly one year in all to reach and stay at the top spot of the charts. The song went on to sell over 8 million records and to No. 1 on the Billboard pop music charts in the U.S. as well as No. 1 in 21 different nations.

Twitty would go on to enjoy rock-n-roll success with a song like "Danny Boy" (Pop No. 10) and "Lonely Blue Boy" (Pop No. 6). "Lonely Blue Boy" was originally titled "Danny" and was recorded by Presley for the film King Creole. It was not used in the film soundtrack.[citation needed]

Career in country music

Conway Twitty always wanted to record country music and — beginning in 1965 — he did just that. His first few country albums were met with some country DJs refusing to play them because he was well known as a rock-n-roll singer. However, he finally broke free with his first top five country hit, "The Image of Me," in July 1968, ensued by his first number one country song, "Next In Line," in November 1968.

In 1970, Conway recorded and released his biggest hit ever, "Hello Darlin'" (which spent four weeks at the top of the country chart).

In 1971 he released his first hit duet with Loretta Lynn, "After the Fire Is Gone". It was a success, and many more followed, including "Lead Me On" (1971), "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man" (1973), "As Soon As I Hang Up the Phone" (1974), "Feelins" (1975), "I Still Believe in Waltzes", "I Can't Love You Enough" and many others. Together, Conway and Loretta (as they were known in their act), won four consecutive Country Music Association awards for vocal duo (1972-75).

In 1973, Twitty released "You've Never Been This Far Before", which was not only #1 in country for three weeks that September but also reached #22 on the pop charts. Some disc jockeys refused to play the song because of its suggestive lyrics.

In 1993, shortly before he died, he recorded a new album, Final Touches. Since his death, his son Michael and grandson Tre have been carrying on the legacy of Twitty's music.

Twitty's most recent chart appearance on the country charts was a duet with Anita Cochran, "I Want to Hear a Cheating Song" (2004). Twitty's voice was electronically created based on one of his hits from the 1980s.

Appearances in other media

On October, 2004 "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man" (sung by Conway Twitty < Loretta Lynn) appeared on the popular videogame Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, playing on fictional country music station K-ROSE.

On Family Guy episodes "Bill and Peter's Bogus Journey", "Peter's Daughter" and "The Juice Is Loose" clips of Conway Twitty performing on Hee Haw were shown, as part of the show's traditional use of non sequitur humor. In each instance, the clip is introduced by a character saying "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Conway Twitty." In the episode "The Juice Is Loose", unlike other shows featuring Conway, the entire song was played, and the entire band was shown at the start and finish. According to DVD commentary, series creator Seth MacFarlane has noted that these are his favorite non sequitur gags in the entire series.


While Twitty has been known to cover songs – most notably "Slow Hand" which was a major pop hit for the Pointer Sisters – his own songs have not been covered that often.[citation needed] However, four notable covers include George Jones' rendition of "Hello Darlin", Blake Shelton's "Goodbye Time", The Misfits version of "It's Only Make Believe" and Elvis Presley's version of "There's A Honky Tonk Angel". In addition, Kenny Chesney's version of "I'd Love to Lay You Down" was sung and received some success, mostly in the concert realm.

Private life


Twitty married three times. After his death, his widow, Dee Henry Jenkins, and his four grown children from the previous marriages, Michael, Joni, Kathy and Jimmy Jenkins engaged in a public dispute over the estate. His will had not been updated to account for the third marriage, but Tennessee law reserves one third of any estate to the widow. After years of probate, their father's final wishes finally saw the light in the courtroom when the 4 children received the rights to his music, name and image. The rest of the estate went to a public auction and much of the property and memorabilia was held because the widow refused to accept the appraised value so therefore she demanded that everything be sold so she could get a higher amount.

In 2008, controversy again erupted in the family when the four remaining children sued Sony/ATV Music Publishing over an agreement that Twitty and his family signed in 1990. The suit alleges that the terms of the agreement were not fully understood by the children, although they were all adults at the time. It seeks to recover copyrights and royalty revenue that the document assigned to the company.

There is now a musical play about Conway's life titled, Conway Twitty, The Man, The Music, The Legend. It is a journey through the life of Conway Twitty from his early roots,to becoming a rock-n-roll teen idol to a country music legend. The story is told through the eyes of his children with two actress/singers who portray Joni and Kathy Twitty but represent all four children.

Twitty City

Twitty lived for many years in Hendersonville, Tennessee, just north of Nashville, where he built a country music entertainment complex called Twitty City. Its lavish displays of Christmas lights were a famous local sight. It has since been sold to the Trinity Broadcasting Network and converted to a Christian music venue in 1994. Conway Twitty and Twitty City were once featured on "Lifestyles of the Rich and the Famous" with host Robin Leach. The broadcast included an interview with Conway Twitty.


Conway Twitty became ill while performing in Branson, Missouri, and was in pain while he was on the tour bus. He died in Springfield, Missouri, at Cox South Hospital from an abdominal aortic aneurysm.


Twitty's success in country music was a key factor in his winning a case in U.S. Tax Court. The IRS denied Twitty's attempt to deduct from his taxes, as an "ordinary and necessary" business expense payments he had made in order to repay investors in a defunct fast-food chain called "Twitty Burger." The chain went under in 1971. The general rule is that the payment of someone else's debts is not deductible. Twitty alleged that his primary motive was "protecting his personal business reputation." The court opinion contained testimony from Twitty about his bond with country music fans.

Source: Harold L. Jenkins (a/k/a Howard Twitty) v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 1983-667.


Twitty never won a solo CMA award. By the end of his tenure at MCA in 1981, he had accumulated 32 No. 1 hits, while another 15 had reached the Top 5. He moved to Warner Bros. Records in 1982, where he had another 11 No. 1 hits. By 1987, Twitty was back at MCA where he continued to score top 10 hits until 1991.

Conway Twitty was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999 and his pioneering contribution has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, as well.

In 2003, Twitty was ranked #8 in CMT's 40 Greatest Men of Country Music.

1998: Hall of Fame Award
1971: Best Country Performance by a Duo

Twitty was posthumously inducted into the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame in Ferriday, Louisiana. Another Delta inductee, Allen "Puddler" Harris, originally from Franklin Parish, was part of the Twitty Band for ten years and became its production manager.


Main article: Conway Twitty discography

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