Thursday, April 26, 2007

Did you know Conway Twitty was a rocker

Before he started singing country in the mid-60s, he was one of the biggest rock stars. He had chart hits between 1958 and 1960, plus other good releases outside that.
Conway tried out with Sun Records around 1956 but wasn't accepted. While there he wrote and recorded "Rockhouse", later done by Orbison on Sun, and by Buddy Knox on an LP. His real name was Harold Jenkins, which he changed in 1957. Then he recorded 3 or 4 singles on Mercury, which were not successful.
It started in 1958 on MGM records when he wrote his first big hit, It's Only Make Believe, a #1. Followups were The Story Of My Love (#28), Hey Little Lucy (#87), Mona Lisa (#29), Danny Boy (#10), Lonely Blue Boy (#6), What Am I Living For (#26), Is a Bluebird Blue (#35), C'est Si Bon (#22) in 1960.
He rocked up some of those old standards, to the extent that some radio stations rebelled against his "desecration" of a song like Danny Boy. Now "Lonely Blue Boy", not to be confused with Paul Anka's Lonely Boy, was an altered version of a song Elvis Presley sang for King Creole named "Danny" (not "Danny Boy"), which was not included in the movie or released until recently. This was one of Conway's slower sexy style rock songs, which he was good at, similar to Elvis on his "Elvis Is Back" album. That style was also shown in Make Me Know You're Mine, flip of Story Of My Love, and others.
In fact I'd say that while sexy Elvis was in the army 1958 to 1960, and ran out out of prerecorded hits mid-1959, Conway played the role of a replacement during that time.
Look at Conway's cover portraits of the time and you see that same curled-lip demeanor. Jack Scott was another similar singer at the time.
By the end of 1960 Conway ran out of big hits even tho his MGM recordings continued til 1963, with some good collectables in that period. He was then in the category of "whatever happened to ..?". In 1961 his record of "A Million Teardrops" was played where I lived and got noticed, but didn't make the charts nationally for whatever reason...the gods and dj's only know.
Pictured is his 1961 LP "The Conway Twitty Touch" with a great portrait. In 1963 he released an album "R&B '63" with great renditions of classic hits, including a good version of Shirley + Lee's "Let the Good Times Roll". But it wasn't being noticed.
So let's pay attention again and not forget. Let's get those reissues going, play them all on oldies radio, not just It's Only Make Believe, and keep Conway Twitty on the rock and roll pedestal he belongs on.

To hear a song sample press the title:
A Million Teardrops
Let the Good Times Roll
Make Me Know You're Mine
Lonely Blue Boy
Danny (Elvis)

Do you know you can download any of these photos by right-clicking on them.

Here is a good website (non-English) with descriptions and samples of his hit singles: