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Biographical Material for

Harold Lloyd "Conway Twitty" Jenkins


Studio Photo

"Harold Lloyd Jenkins, 1 September 1933, Friars Point, Mississippi, USA, d. 5 June 1993, Springfield, Missouri, USA. His father, a riverboat pilot, named him after a silent-film comedian and gave him a guitar when he was five years old. The family moved to Helena, Arkansas, and Twitty's schoolboy friends - Jack Nance, Joe E. Lewis and John Hughey - have since played in his professional bands. In 1946, he recorded a demo, 'Cry Baby Heart', at a local radio station, although he was convinced that his real calling was to be a preacher. He was drafted into the US Army in 1954 and worked the Far East service bases with a country band, the Cimarrons. He hoped for a baseball career, but when he returned to the USA in 1956 and heard Elvis Presley's 'Mystery Train', he opted for a career in music. Like Presley, he was signed by Sam Phillips to Sun Records, although his only significant contribution was writing 'Rockhouse', a minor US hit for Roy Orbison. His various Sun demos are included, along with later recordings for Mercury Records and MGM Records, in the eight-album, Bear Family Records set, Conway Twitty - The Rock 'n' Roll Years.
In 1957, while touring with a rockabilly package, Twitty and his manager stuck pins in a map and the pairing of a town in Arkansas with another in Texas led to 'Conway Twitty', a name as memorable as Elvis Presley.
Twitty's US Top 10 recording of 'Lonely Blue Boy', a song that had been left out of Elvis Presley's film King Creole, led to him naming his band the Lonely Blue Boys, although they subsequently became the Twitty Birds.... He appeared in such unremarkable movies as 'Platinum High School' and 'Sex Kittens Go To College', which also featured Brigitte Bardot's sister.... He began recording his own country records for producer Owen Bradley and US Decca Records in Nashville, saying, 'After nine years in rock 'n' roll, I had been cheated and hurt enough to sing country and mean it.' In March 1966 Twitty appeared in the US country charts for the first time with 'Guess My Eyes Were Bigger Than My Heart'. His first US country number 1 was with 'Next In Line' in 1968 and this was followed by 'I Love You More Today' and 'To See An Angel Cry'.
Twitty became the most consistent country chartmaker of all time.... He has recorded several successful duet albums with Loretta Lynn, and also recorded with Dean Martin and his own daughter, Joni Lee.... His son, who began recording as Conway Twitty Jnr., changed his name to Mike Twitty, while another daughter, Kathy Twitty, had minor country hits.... Through the 70s, Twitty expanded into property, banking and fast food, although his Twittyburgers came to a greasy end. His wife Mickey, whom he married and divorced twice, published 'What's Cooking At Twitty City?', in 1985, and his tacky museum and theme park, Twitty City, was put up for sale. Despite new successes, the focal point of his stage act was still 'It's Only Make Believe', right up until his death in June 1993. His tally of country chart-toppers stands at 41, matched only by Alabama. Twitty was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame And Museum in 1999."

Biographical Content from "The Encyclopedia of Popular Music" by Colin Larkin.

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"During his lifetime, Conway Twitty had more #1 country records than any artist in history, his stardom having endured through five decades of changing fashions. He was also one of country music’s most diverse stylists and a major songwriting talent; eleven of his #1 hits were self-penned."

Biographical Content from The Country Music Hall of Fame.

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"Twitty was born Harold Lloyd Jenkins, the son of a Mississippi ferryboat captain. Taught guitar by his grandfather and a neighborhood blues singer, Twitty went on KFFA radio in Helena, Arkansas, at age twelve. A talented baseball player, he was scouted by the Philadelphia Phillies, then drafted into the armed services during the Korean War. Upon his discharge, he heard the music of Elvis Presley and headed to Sun Records in Memphis. The sides he recorded for Sun were imitative of Presley and were not issued, but labelmate Roy Orbison’s recording of Twitty’s song 'Rockhouse' was released.
Twitty then signed with Mercury as a rockabilly performer. At this point he changed his name, combining the names of Conway, Arkansas, and Twitty, Texas, to create his new moniker....
Twitty wrote country songs throughout this period and yearned to return to that genre as a performer. Songwriter Harlan Howard was supportive, taking Twitty’s 'Walk Me to the Door' to Columbia country star Ray Price, and urging Decca’s Owen Bradley to sign Twitty in 1965. At first country DJs were skeptical of the former pop star. But in 1968 he finally broke into the country Top Ten with 'The Image of Me....'
Twitty’s concert performances became like religious revivals, with fervent female followers, leading Jerry Clower to dub him 'The High Priest of Country Music.' Holding to a dramatic, minimalist style, Twitty did not speak on stage, do interviews, attend music-business parties, appear on TV shows, or perform encores....
Twitty died suddenly of a stomach aneurysm en route from a show in Branson, Missouri, to Nashville’s 1993 Fan Fair celebration.
In the years since Twitty’s death, his widow Dee Henry Jenkins has kept his legacy alive, though she also became embroiled in a bitter, prolonged court battle with other members of Twitty’s family for control of his estate."

Biographical content adapted by Robert K. Oermann from the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s Encyclopedia of Country Music, published by Oxford University Press.

Harold Lloyd "Conway Twitty" Jenkins
is buried in Sumner Memorial Park, Gallatin, Tennessee.

 

Gravesite photos credited to Randy McCoy.

You are listening to "Just the Thought of Losing You"
by Harold Lloyd "Conway Twitty" Jenkins