Who was Conway Twitty?
Harold Lloyd Jenkins, popularly known as Conway Twitty, was an American country music singer. He was fairly famous for his works in the rock, rock and roll, pop, and R&B genres as well. The country music singer was best known to his fans for his evergreen duets with the legendary country music singer Loretta Lynn with whom he won a total of five Academy of Country Music awards and four Country Music Association awards. Conway produced some of the most iconic country music songs with Loretta Lynn, with twelve of their duets making it to the Billboard’s hot country singles chart. His popular tracks include ‘After the Fire is Gone’, ‘As Soon as I Hang Up the Phone’, ‘Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man’, ‘Feelins’, ‘Hello Darlin’, ‘It's Only Make Believe’, ‘Crazy in Love’, and ‘Desperado Love’. He is considered among the greatest country singers of all time with approximately 50 singles on the country and rock charts. Despite all the professional success he enjoyed, his personal life was a tumultuous one; he had been married four times and divorced thrice. The life of this highly talented singer came to an abrupt end in 1993 due to an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Childhood & Early Life
Conway Twitty was born as Harold Lloyd Jenkins in Friars Point, Mississippi, on September 1, 1933, to Floyd Jenkins and Velma. He was named after the famous ‘silent movie’ actor, Harold Lloyd, by his great-uncle.
At the age of ten, Jenkins moved to Helena, Arkansas, with his family where he formed his first singing group named ‘Phillips County Ramblers’.
At the age of twelve, he had his own local radio show on every Saturday morning. He also started playing baseball as a teenager. He got an opportunity to play for the ‘Philadelphia Phillies’ after he completed his high school; however, he was drafted into the United States Army where he formed a group ‘Cimmerons’ and performed for his fellow soldiers.
After listening to Elvis Presley’s famous track ‘Mystery Train’, Jenkins decided to write songs and went to Sun Studios in Memphis to work with Sam Phillips.
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Prior to embarking on a musical career, Jenkins realized that his original name was not an attractive one for the show business. There are various theories as to how he adopted the stage name of Conway Twitty. Fred Bronson once told in an interview with ‘The Billboard Book of Number One Hits’ that Jenkins was looking at a road map when the names of two cities, Conway in Arkansas and Twitty in Texas, caught his eye and he decided to adopt the combination as his stage name.
According to another account, Jenkins met a man named W. Conway Twitty Jr. through his manager in a New York City restaurant and adopted the name as it had “a certain flair” which could be very marketable for him in the show business. Neither of the stories was verified by Jenkins himself.
In the late 1950s, Conway Twitty signed with MGM Records and with them he released his track ‘It's Only Make Believe’ which went on to occupy the top spot on the Billboard pop music charts in the United States as well as in 21 other countries. Since Twitty’s voice sounded similar to that of the legendary singer Elvis Presley, people initially believed that it was indeed Elvis who was using the pseudonym for his latest releases.
During the mid-1960s, Conway began to focus more on country music and literally changed his career with that one decision. The ensuing years saw records after records being released by him.
His hugely popular partnership with the legendary country music singer Loretta Lynn boosted the career graph of both the singers. The duo released 11 studio albums together, many of them becoming super hits.
The iconic pairing of Conway Twitty and Lynn led to the creation of some of the most popular songs in the history of country music. Their biggest hits include ‘After the Fire Is Gone’, ‘Lead Me On’, ‘Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man’, ‘As Soon As I Hang Up the Phone’, ‘Feelins’, ‘I Still Believe in Waltzes’, and ‘I Can't Love You Enough’. Twelve of the tracks they released made it to the top 10 on the Billboard's hot country singles chart.
Conway Twitty is regarded as one of the greatest country singers of all time and his contribution to the rock and roll genre is also impressive. His single ‘It's Only Make Believe’ became one of his greatest songs, reaching the top spot on the Billboard pop music charts in the United States. It also reached the No.1 position in several other countries. The song was written by him and drummer Jack Nance.
The golden years of his career were marked by his collaboration with Loretta Lynn. Twelve of their duet singles made it to the top ten on Billboard's hot country singles chart. These tracks include ‘After the Fire is Gone’, ‘Lead Me On’, ‘Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man’, ‘As Soon as I Hang Up the Phone’, and ‘Feelins.’
Awards & Achievements
Conway Twitty won the prestigious ‘Academy of Country Music’ award a record seven times, five of them with Loretta Lynn. His solo wins include the Top Male Vocalist award in 1975 and the 2008 Pioneer Award.
Between 1972 and 1975, he won the Country Music Association award four times with Loretta Lynn.
In 1971, he won the Grammy award for ‘Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal’ along with Lynn. Later in 1999, he was inducted into the Hall of fame at the Grammy’s.
He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame.
Conway Twitty was married four times in his life, to three different women. His first marriage was with Ellen Matthews in 1953. The couple got married because Ellen was pregnant with Conway’s child but unfortunately the marriage didn’t last long and ended in a divorce a year later.
He then married Temple Medley in 1955 and the couple had three children together. The couple divorced in 1970 and remarried soon after. The marriage finally ended in another divorce in 1985. He later married Dolores Virginia Henry in 1987 and remained married to her until his death.
While performing at the Jim Stafford Theatre in Branson, Missouri on June 4, 1993, Conway became seriously ill and collapsed. He was rushed to the hospital but died the next morning due to an abdominal aortic aneurysm. His mortal body was buried at the Sumner Memorial Gardens in Gallatin, Tennessee, under his original name of Harold L. Jenkins.