Conway Twitty (1933–1993)
aka: Harold Lloyd Jenkins
A member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Conway Twitty has sold over 50 million records. Twitty had anywhere from forty-one to fifty-three No. 1 singles on the country and rock charts, depending upon the industry source used. He recorded 110 albums.
Harold Lloyd Jenkins was born on September 1, 1933, in Friars Point, Mississippi, and was named after the famous silent film actor, Harold Lloyd. Jenkins had an older brother and sister. He was given his first guitar at age four. The family moved to Helena (Phillips County)—now Helena-West Helena—when Jenkins was ten, and soon thereafter, he formed his first band, the Phillips County Ramblers. His father worked off and on as a Mississippi riverboat captain, though his mother was the real breadwinner. Jenkins worked as a carhop and later had a weekly radio show. Jenkins also played baseball and was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies after high school; he was also drafted by the military.
While stationed in Japan, Jenkins played baseball and performed with a band called the Cimmarons. After the war, Jenkins went to Memphis, Tennessee, and recorded at Sun Studios. At this point, he took the stage name of Conway Twitty, combining the names of two cities—Conway (Faulkner County) and Twitty, Texas. Twitty garnered a record deal with MGM that led to his first No. 1 hit in 1958, a rock and roll song titled “It’s Only Make Believe.”
Twitty also had a short-lived career in film, appearing in such films as Sex Kittens Go to College (1960) alongside Mamie Van Doren and Platinum High School (1960) with Mickey Rooney.
Though Twitty was very successful as a rock and roll performer, he preferred country music and eventually switched genres. In 1965, Twitty signed to MCA and released several singles. In 1968, “Next in Line” became his first No. 1 country single. Twitty went on to perform duets with Loretta Lynn. In 1971, they recorded After the Fire Is Gone and went on to release several hit records.
In 1982, Twitty opened Twitty City, a tourist attraction located in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Dedicated to Twitty’s work, the park included views of his mansion and the homes of his family members. Another enterprise, a fast-food restaurant named Twitty Burger, went bankrupt.
Twitty was married three times. His first marriage, to Ellen Matthews, began in 1953 and ended a year later in divorce in 1954. His second wife was Temple Maxine Jaco. They were married in 1955 and divorced in 1985. They had three children. Twitty married his third wife, Dolores Virginia Henry, in 1987.
Twitty became ill while performing a show in Branson, Missouri, and died on June 5, 1993, from an abdominal aneurysm. He was survived by his wife and four adult children. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999.
For additional information:
Cross, Wilbur, and Michael Kosser. The Conway Twitty Story. New York: Doubleday, 1986.
Conway Twitty. http://www.conwaytwitty.com/ (accessed February 6, 2013).
“Conway Twitty.” Country Music Hall of Fame. http://countrymusichalloffame.org/full-list-of-inductees/view/conway-twitty (accessed February 6, 2013).
“Conway Twitty.” Country Music Television. http://www.cmt.com/artists/az/twitty_conway/bio.jhtml (accessed February 6, 2013).
“Conway Twitty.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0878617/#actor1950 (accessed February 6, 2013).
C. L. Bledsoe
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