Dependable," "The Best Friend A Song Ever Had,"
These are just a few
of the nicknames that
But the story of Conway begins back in a town in Mississippi named Friars Point.
Born September 1, 1933, Harold Lloyd Jenkins was influenced by music from an early age, starting with acts that would grace the small town on weekends. Harold was exposed to gospel and country music when he would visit these acts. Harold made his debut on radio at age 12 singing a song titled "Cry Baby Heart" on one of his relative's radio show. This was just a small taste of what was to come years later....
Harold was drafted into the army in 1953 and formed his own band overseas, which received critical accalim. They would perform in clubs overseas while in the service, but Harold decided to go solo when he returned to the States several years later. It was also this time that he first heard what the rest of the nation was falling in love with....music from Elvis Presley. Harold went to MGM to get a recording deal in rock music to join the ever-growing frenzy of rock and roll music. When he signed, he decided that "Harold Jenkins" wasn't a good name for a rock singer, so he pulled out a map and studied two areas he was familiar with and ended up choosing "Conway" and "Twitty."
His short tenure at MGM had several moderate rock hits such as "What Am I Living For" and "Lonely Blue Boy," but his big hit came as a flop. He release a single which wasn't getting very much air play, so a deejay in Cleveland began playing the flip side of the record. People in Cleveland started flipping as well. The flip side of the record was a song titled "It's Only Make Believe," a song he'd co-written with band member (at the time) Jack Nance. The song put Conway in the spotlight he'd been looking for, but rock music just wasn't what he wanted to do.
Harlan Howard, a long time friend of Conway and a popular songwriter, convinced the new star that he should switch to country music. Conway recorded a demo that ended up on Owen Bradley's desk. Bradley, legendary producer and head of MCA-Decca records at the time, heard the demo, and signed Conway to the label. Conway recorded a number of albums produced by Bradley that were moderately popular.
In 1969, Conway wrote a song that seemed to have no specific title, and he was reluctant to record it. Bradley suggested that he use the first line as the title. They recorded the song, but it just didn't seem right. Then Bradley suggested that Conway speak the first line of the song. Conway did so, and from that moment on, that first line became the opener of every show...."Hello Darlin'." The song became Conway's signature song.
Conway had several hits after that, including "Linda On My Mind," "You've Never Been This Far Before," and "Boogie Grass Band." in 1979, Conway began producing his own albums. The first hit that came from that was the wide-range "Don't Take It Away." He also came out with "I May Never Get To Heaven" and "Tight-Fittin' Jeans."
In 1982, Conway began a four-year stint with Elektra Records with the hit "The Clown." He also had the hits "The Rose," and "Somebody's Needin' Somebody." He broke a career record in 1985 with the No. 1 hit "Don't Call Him A Cowboy". COnway now had more No. 1 hits than anyone in the music business, including Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley! He returned to MCA Records in 1986 with the "comeback" hit "Julia." In 1985, Conway quit a 25-year smoking habit and developed a new and higher vocal range, which is best shown in the 1987 hit "She's Got A Single Thing On Her Mind."
Conway enjoyed several more hits such as "That's My Job," "House On Old Lonesome Road," and "Goodbye Time." In 1990, Conway broke another record with the smash hit "Crazy In Love," which stayed on the charts for five months. The star had now had hits in five straight decades. The song also became his first music video because he had always feared that videos destroyed an artist's mystique. He also enjoyed the hits "She's Got A Man On Her Mind," "Fit To Be Tied Down," "I Couldn't See Her Leavin'," and "Who Did They Think He Was," which became Conway's second video.
In 1993, Conway recorded what was to be his last album, titled, remarkablly, "Final Touches." He was on his way back home from a string of shows in Branson, Missouri, and has stopped in Springfield to fill up when he collapsed on the bus. He was taken to a nearby hospital, but died at 7:50am on June 5, 1993.
Earlier that year, Conway was part of a ground-breaking album title "Rhythm, Country, and Blues," and album of duets between country and R&B artists. He recorded a song with R&B star Sam Moore, the Tony Joe White hit "Rainy Night In Georgia," which became the first single from the album and Conway's third and last music video.
Although Conway Twitty's gone, his spirit will forever exist in his music, for as long as his music is being heard, his voice will never die.
©1998 Kyle Boreing.
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