With Elvis in the U.S. Army in 1958, Conway Twitty was the closest we had to the real thing. Conway’s rockabilly sound made him one of the most successful rock ballad singers in the late Fifties. It is rumoured that he took his name from small towns in Arkansas and Texas. His real name was Harold Lloyd Jenkins. It was my feeling from talking to Conway that he was not too pleased with the new handle at first.
Conway and his group had worked in Memphis in 1956 and had cut demo tapes for Sam Phillips‘ Sun Record Company label. Sam obviously was not looking for another Elvis sound-alike and did not sign him. In 1957 Mercury Records released his first single “I Need Your Lovin”. It sounded very much like Elvis and was a regional hit. Conway’s first big national hit was 1958’s “It’s Only Make Believe” on MGM Records, followed by 1959’s “Mona Lisa”, “Danny Boy” and “Lonely Blue Boy”.
With the demise of my “Portland Bandstand” TV show in 1959 I decided to supplement my income by getting back into the booking business and bringing some first rate talent to the city. One of the first acts that we booked into Portland’s Division Street Corral was Conway Twitty. This was to be my first experience with Conway but we worked together a few more times in the 60’s. This photo was taken at Conway’s appearance at Sight & Sound record store in West Vancouver’s Park Royal shopping centre in 1962.
When C-FUN brought Conway to Vancouver that year, he toured Vancouver Island as part of our arrangement. I will never forget having to take him out on deck during the BC Ferries trip to the Island. The winter months can be stormy and this particular winter was no exception. The ferry tossed back and forth and I could see Conway getting green around the gills. I took him outside on deck where the cold wind soon brought him around!
Conway Twitty ruled the Country charts from the late 60’s to the late 80’s with 50 consecutive #1 hits. He sold more than 50 million records. On June 4, 1993, Conway collapsed on his tour bus. He was rushed to a hospital, but died in surgery. He was only 59 years old. Conway Twitty was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1999.
A true Southern gentleman who made his mark on pop, rock and country music. Lots more Conway at conwaytwitty.com