On the Lighter Side: Remembering Conway Twitty

Joe Guilbeau

By any measure, the career of singer/songwriter/producer/entertain and recording artist Conway Twitty stands among the greatest in the history of popular music.

His 55 No. 1 singles are an astounding and singular accomplishments in the annuls of the recording industry. This led to more than 100 major awards and his induction in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Joe Guilbeau

Conway also entered a duet partnership with Loretta Lynn, the top female vocalist of the 1960s and ’70s. They became the most awarded male/female dui in history, recording songs like “After the Fire is Gone,” “Lead Me On” and “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man.”

He took a stage name that combined two cities – Conway Ark., and Twitty, Texas.

As an entertainer, he was a master of understatement and mystery whose peers nicknamed him “The High Priest of Country Music.”

With all this being said, you will never see his name on the page pages of encyclopedias. The reasons is that the elite who write encyclopedias do not like country music.  

But, the encyclopedia might have a long article on the aardvark, the famous ant-eating African mammal. OK … this is an opinion page, right?

Twitty respected his gifts by working them and by respecting everyone he touched. There is no tortured artist in this story, just the remarkably steady journey of a man who never drank, never used drugs, and simply worked hard at what he loved, a family he loved deeply and the tans who cared about him.

Despite much adoration, Twitty remained a genuine and unpretentious person. He regularly stayed hours after his shows, signing autographs, and one time missed the bus. At home, he drove an old Pacer station wagon and favored jogging suits and ballcaps. On occasions, people would stop and ask if he’d been told he resembled Conway Twitty.

“I’ve heard that,” he’d reply. “But I don’t see the resemblance.”

His early career as a rock-and-roll act took off with his first single topping the charts in 22 different countries and going on to sell 8 million copies. Despite making a name for himself as a rock-and-roller, Twitty always loved country music, so one night while playing a dance for sweaty teenagers, he put down his guitar, walked off the stage and embarked on one of the greatest country music careers in history.

In 1982, Twitty opened one of the largest tourist attractions in Tennessee. “Twitty City” was opened for his fans, thousands of whom who roamed the grounds year-round, taking in views that included his mansion and the home of his mother. The complex also included Conway Twitty Enterprises, a theatrical show of Conway’s life, beautifully landscaped grounds with water falls and a pavilion area.

His love of Christmas led to an annual light festival that included live reindeer, snow machines and millions of visitors. Twitty donated the proceeds from tours of the grounds to help the families of local police and firefighters.

Another event was a Christmas concert for kids that raised funds to help underprivileged children. He also built a ballfield for the local Little League program that still bears his name.

His voice even reached into outer space when “Hello, Darling,” was played around the world during the link between America’s orbiting astronauts and Russia’s cosmonauts in a gesture of international goodwill I was not able to find out of females were members of the Russian crew.

Conway Twitty was the greatest!