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Fast Facts:Real Name:
Harold Lloyd Jenkins
Sept. 1, 1933
Friar's Point, MS
June 5, 1993
"It's Only Make Believe"
Other notable hits: "Lonely Blue Boy" (rock, 1960)
"Next in Line" (1968)
"To See My Angel Cry" (1969)
"Hello, Darlin'" (1970)
"After the Fire is Gone" (Grammy-winning duet with Loretta Lynn, 1971)
"She Needs Someone to Hold Her (When She Cries)" (1972)
22 CMA Award nominations
Conway Twitty began playing the guitar at the age of five. After his family moved to Helena, Arkansas, when he was a teenager, he formed his first band, a country-blues group called The Phillips County Ramblers. In between playing a weekly radio show on station KFFA, Jenkins contemplated a career in pro baseball, nearly signing with the Philadelphia Phillies before being drafted to serve in the Korean War during the early 1950s.
After his discharge in 1956 Jenkins auditioned unsuccessfully for Sun Records producer Sam Phillips. Undaunted, he hooked up with an agent who suggested he find himself a snappier stage name. Jenkins dug out a map and spotted Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, Texas, and Conway Twitty was born.
Though he would go on to become one of the most popular country performers of all time, it was as a pop singer that Conway first made his mark as an entertainer. In 1958 he recorded the single "It's Only Make Believe," which went on to become the biggest hit of his career. He continued to record pop ballads through the mid-960s before turning to country. During his teen heartthrob years Twitty also tried his hand at acting, appearing in three forgettable teenage B-moves in the 1950s: Sex Kittens Go to College, Platinum High School and College Confidential.
Twitty's first country hit was "Next in Line," in 1968. He received a Gold record award for his album, Hello, Darlin', in 1970. In the 1970s Twitty dominated country charts thanks to a series of successful duets with Loretta Lynn. The duo made their Grand Ole Opry debut in February 1971. Their most successful singles included "After the Fire is Gone," "Lead Me On," "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man," "As Soon As I Hang Up the Phone" and "Feelin's." Together the two recorded three Gold albums: We Only Make Believe in 1971, Lead Me On in 1972 and The Very Best of Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn in 1979.
The pair was awarded a 1971 Grammy award for Best Performance by a Country Duo or Group and, that same year, the first of four consecutive Country Music Association awards for their duet work, though a fantastic accomplishment, he had plenty more in store.
Twitty's work with Lynn did much to establish his credibility as a country artist and paved the way for a seemingly endless string of solo hits. Among his most popular 1970s singles were "I Can't Stop Loving You" (1972), "She Needs Someone to Hold Her (When She Cries)" (1973), "Linda on my Mind," "Touch the Hand" and "This Time I've Hurt Her More than She Loves Me" (all 1973), "The Games That Daddies Play" (1976) "Play, Guitar, Play" (1977), "Don't Take It Away" and "Happy Birthday, Darlin'" (both 1979). He also scored a Gold record award for the album You've Never Been This Far Before (1973) and for his two greatest hits collections, Volume 1 (1972) and Volume 2 (1976).
Between 1968 and 1977 Twitty cut 30 successive Number One singles, a feat unmatched by any country artist to date, and enough to fill the Number Ones album he cut in 1982 two times over. He was honored with 22 Country Music Association award nominations (but the only CMA awards he won were for his duets with Lynn), and was voted a "living legend" in the 1988 Music City News Awards. He spent his entire career recording for Decca/MCA, except for a brief period in the mid-80s when he moved to Warner Bros./Elektra. He was back with MCA by 1987, though, and continued recording right up until his death. His final album, Final Touches was released posthumously in late 1993.
Conway Twitty, a life-long workaholic, will also be remembered as a shrewd businessman. He owned a music promotion company, a minor league baseball team called the Nashville Sounds, and substantial real estate including Twitty City, his Nashville theme park. Ironically, at the time of his death in 1993, he was in the process of divesting himself of his various holdings in order to devote more time to songwriting and enjoying the fruits of his many years' labor. He suffered an abdominal aneurysm and died on his way home to Nashville from a concert in Branson.
Among the many honors Twitty received during his lifetime was the honorary title of chief of the Chocktaw nation. The Chocktaws gave Twitty the Indian name "Hatako-Chtokchito-A-Yakni-Toloa," which means "Great Man of Country Music."