*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant at the University Archives and Special Collections.
In our new blog series, Guess Who Performed in Evansville, the focus is on renowned musicians and bands who performed concerts in our great city! Our first musician is best known for his country music and produced forty number one hits. Need more clues? UASC has you covered with three clues:
- His best-known song is “Hello Darlin’”, released in 1970.
- He performed alongside Loretta Lynn and won 5 music awards from their duet career.
- The FOX animated series, Family Guy, played cutaway clips of this artist in some of their episodes.
The musician is Conway Twitty.
Conway Twitty was born Harold Jenkins in Friars Points, Mississippi on September 1, 1933. As a child, he learned how to play the guitar by his grandfather and from there, his music career would begin. Along with his musical abilities, he was known for his baseball skills, even scouted to play baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies; however, he was drafted to serve in the Korean War. During his time in Korea, he continued to listen to music and wanted to pursue a music career. After the war, he signed with Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, change his name to Conway Twitty and the rest would be history.
His song, “It’s Only Make Believe”, was released in 1958. It was a hit on the charts and was incredibly popular. In the early 1960’s, his career began to wane down. He realized he needed to change his act from pop music to country ballads and country love songs. That move proved to be successful and his career skyrocketed. By the 1970’s, he and fellow county music superstar, Loretta Lynn, formed a duet, and was a successful collaboration. Twitty and Lynn won numerous Grammys and Country Music Association’s (CMA) awards for best vocal duos. He was inducted into numerous halls of fames; however, he was never inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. The Grand Ole Opry is in Nashville, Tennessee and is best known for promoting country music. The Opry air their programs on the radio and television: their radio program is the longest-running radio program in US history. Twitty continued producing multiple #1 hits in his solo career and continued to perform until his death in 1993, at the age of 59, after having a stomach aneurysm.
Conway Twitter made a concert stop to Evansville back on March 25, 1977, at the height of his career. He performed at Roberts Stadium. According the Evansville Press newspaper (“Entertainment”, 1977), Twitty did not perform only that night. His duet partner, Loretta Lynn, was at the concert as well and performed alongside Twitty in front of 6,100 fans. Twitty even did an Elvis impression (Uh-huh-huh!) much to the crowd’s enjoyment.
For more information, the Greg Smith collection at the University Archives and Special Collections at the David L. Rice Library at the University of Southern Indiana has over 1,500 photographs of Evansville history available online. Take a moment to explore his photographs of athletic events, local businesses, and many more. Stay tuned for our next addition of Guess Who Performed in Evansville.
Betts, S. L. (2020, March 23). Why Conway Twitter is the butt of ‘Family Guy’ jokes. Rolling Stones. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-country/conway-twitty-hello-darlin-song-971680/
Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (2019, August 28). Conway Twitty. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Conway-Twitty
Entertainment. (1977, March 26). The Evansville Press. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2UTtWle
Oermann, R. K. (n.d.). Conway Twitty. https://countrymusichalloffame.org/artist/conway-twitty/