Harold Lloyd Jenkins, more popularly known as country music artist Conway Twitty, was born on September 1, 1933. He first started playing the guitar at age 5. At the age of 10 he had formed his first band named The Phillips Country Ramblers.
He would spend his teen years playing numerous honky -tonks and dives throughout his native state of Mississippi. He was a jock as well. While thinking over an offer to play for the Philadelphia Phillies (your rockin’ writer’s “homeboys”), Twitty was drafted and fought in the Korean War.
After being discharged from the Army in 1956 he turned his back on pro sports and set his sites on a career in music. It was at this point that he allegedly chose his stage name—Conway Twitty—thanks to the help of two locations he found on a map (Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, Texas).
Twitty’s first hit came in 1958. It was a rockabilly song titled “It’s Only Make Believe”. It sold a million copies. It was actually more pop than country and Twitty attempted to no avail to repeat this success with several pop ballads in the following years. His heartthrob period did manage to garner him work in a few teenage B movies including the film Sex Kittens go to College.
He went back to his country roots in the mid-1960s. His heartfelt, sincere signature sound would result in 30 successive number one hits from 1968 through 1977 including “Next In Line”, “I Love You More Today”, “Hello Darlin’”, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, “I See the Want To in Your Eyes” and “I’ve Already Loved You in My Mind”. He once held the record for the most number one singles of any act with 40 number 1Billboard country hits (until 2006 when George Strait broke the record in 2006).
Twitty also owned his own theme park named Twitty City. He kept his interest is sports alive by purchasing a minor league baseball team—the Nashville Sounds. During his life he would be referred to by different names—Harold, Conway and “The Best Friend A Song Ever Had”. Perhaps the best title he ever had was Hatako-Chtokchito-A-Yakni-Toloa which was his moniker as an honorary chief of the Choctaw Indian Nation. Roughly translated it means “Great Man of Music”.
On June 5, 1993, after a concert in Branson, Missouri, Twitty became ill on his tour bus. He died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm in Springfield, Missouri, at Cox Hospital, on the way home to Nashville a mere two months prior to the release of what would become his final studio release Final Touches. He was 59.
While Twitty was never a member of the Grand Ole Opry he had been inducted into both the Rockabilly and Country Music Halls of Fame. He also scored a string of Country Music Association awards for duets with Loretta Lynn. He was interred at Sunrise memorial Park in Gallatin, Tennessee. Those wishing to visit the site enter the park and drive to the mausoleums. Twitty’s tomb is inscribed with only his birth name. It is in the bottom row and on the left side of the building furthest to the right.
His accomplishments, awards, music and inclusion in various pop culture references have ensured that he will be long remembered in the end.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.