CONWAY TWITTY

This week the Museum adds an exhibit dedicated to another of Mississippi’s native sons . . . Conway Twitty.  Born Harold Lloyd Jenkins on September 1, 1933, in Friars Point, Mississippi, he was an American musician and singer. He had success in the country, rock, R&B, and pop genres. 

Conway Twitty Exhibit

He was named by his great uncle, after his favorite silent movie actor, Harold Lloyd. The Jenkins family moved to Helena, Arkansas when Harold was ten years old. In Helena, Harold formed his first singing group, the Phillips County Ramblers.Two years later, Harold had his own local radio show every Saturday morning. He also played baseball, his second passion. He received an offer to play with the Philadelphia Phillies after high school (Smiths Station High School), but he was drafted into the US Army. He served in the Far East and organized a group called The Cimmerons to entertain fellow GIs.

Accounts of how Harold Jenkins acquired his stage name of Conway Twitty vary. Allegedly, in 1957, Jenkins decided that his real name wasn't marketable and sought a better show business name. In The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Fred Bronson states that the singer was looking at a road map when he spotted Conway, Arkansas, and Twitty, Texas, and chose the name Conway Twitty.

In 1958 using his new stage name, Conway Twitty's fortunes improved while he was with MGM Records, and an Ohio radio station had an inspiration, refraining from playing "I'll Try", instead playing the B-side, "It's Only Make Believe", a song written by Twitty and drummer Jack Nance.  The record took nearly one year to reach and stay at the top spot on the Billboard pop music charts in the US, as well as No. 1 in 21 other countries, becoming the first of nine top 40 hits for Twitty. 

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 DJ's refusing to play them because he was known as a rock 'n' roll singer. However, he finally broke free with his first top five country hit, "The Image of Me.”  In 1970, Twitty recorded and released his biggest country hit, "Hello Darlin'", which spent four weeks at the top of the country chart and is one of Twitty's most recognized songs. 

From 1971 to 1976, Twitty received a string of Country Music Association awards for duets with Loretta Lynn. Although never a member of the Grand Ole Opry, he was inducted into both the Country Music and Rockabilly Halls of Fame.

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 on June 5, 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. (~ Wikipedia)

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