When people discuss legendary song catalogs in country music, often the names of George Jones, Merle Haggard, or Willie Nelson are usually cited for their greatness. But, for some reason, the career of Conway Twitty seems to get overlooked. He died in 1993, while still releasing chart singles, so he never enjoyed the renaissance period of later years that the afore-mentioned artists did.
But, song for song, Twitty’s career matches up with anybody’s. And, unlike many of his contemporaries, he was very adept with the art of musical transition. A Conway Twitty record from 1980 sounded very different from one from 1965, and the singer continued to evolve until the recording of his final album, 1993’s Final Touches. Plus, what other male country singer has rocked the perm as Twitty did in 1979? So, with that tip to his hairstyle, let’s look back at twenty of the most essential Conway Twitty songs in a career that, while lengthy, was cut short way too soon.
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20. Conway Twitty – “Julia”
In the spring of 1987, Twitty returned to the MCA Records roster with a song that as contemporary as anything anyone else was recording at the time. Twitty took Don Cook and John Jarvis’s lyrics of longing all the way to the runner-up slot on the charts, with help from Vince Gill — who sang harmony on the bulk of Twitty’s later hits.
19. Conway Twitty – “The Games That Daddies Play”
Twitty was still writing the bulk of his singles when this brilliantly-written song made it all the way to number one in 1976. The lyrical content — about a youngster being raised by a single mom who longed for a paternal connection — definitely made an impact with the female demographic.
18. Conway Twitty – “Lost In The Feeling”
One of the most interesting aspects of Twitty’s career was the way that he was known for bucking the current trend. In the 1980s, when the format was taking on a more cross-over sound, he released this traditional-flavored number which got plenty of couples on the dance floor in the summer of 1983. Helping add flavor to the song was the reigning Male Vocalist of the Year from the CMA, Ricky Skaggs.
17. Conway Twitty – “Rest Your Love On Me”
People seem to think that pop covers by country artists is a new trend. But, Conway Twitty released a cover of one of the Bee Gees songs in the spring of 1981 — and it became the latest in a long line of Conway Twitty songs to top the charts. It wasn’t the last time he would cover a classic. He also tipped the hat to Bob Seger, The Eagles, Lionel Richie, and the Pointer Sisters during his heyday. More on that last one later.
16. Conway Twitty – “Somebody’s Needin’ Somebody”
In 1984, as the singer neared his twentieth anniversary as a country artist, he notched yet another number one hit with this decidedly modern-sounding take on heartbreak.
15. Conway Twitty – “Slow Hand”
In anyone else’s hands, the decision to cover a recent hit from the Pointer Sisters might have been career suicide for a country artist. But, in Twitty’s hands, the song underwent a change in sound — adapting the slick sound of the original to a song that bordered on Southern Erotica. That statement might make the average fan chuckle today, but the women in Conway’s crowds were smiling when they heard this one — for an altogether different reason.
14. Conway Twitty – “Hello Darlin’”
Yes, we know it was his signature song. Yes, we realize it was a classic. The only thing is — in a career that featured a staggering 75 top ten hits, there were a few other songs that were just as good. It sounds unthinkable now, but Twitty wrote the song with him singing the opening line. Owen Bradley, his producer from 1965-79, knew better. He suggested the spoken intro, and the rest was history!
13. Conway Twitty – “It’s Only Make Believe”
In 1958, everyone was being influenced by the music of Elvis Presley. Conway Twitty was no different. The Mississippi native earned his very first hit single with a song that borrowed from Presley’s style, winning over rock and roll fans in the process.
12. Conway Twitty – “That’s My Job”
When Twitty returned to MCA in 1987, label head and producer Jimmy Bowen instructed him to find a few songs for each album that he might not have recorded before. This perennial Fathers’ Day classic earned him one one of his most endearing hits, and also gave a first hit to songwriter Gary Burr.
11. Conway Twitty – “After All The Good Is Gone”
In 1976, Twitty revisited his Sun Records roots with a performance that sounded like it came straight from the 1950s. It came out at a time where nearly every Conway Twitty song topped the charts, so it sometimes gets ignored in terms of overall importance. But, there’s no arguing the passion and grit that Twitty instilled in the song, making it a classic.
10. Conway Twitty – “I Don’t Know A Thing About Love (The Moon Song)”
One of Conway’s earliest champions in Nashville was veteran songwriter Harlan Howard. For whatever reason, it took about two decades before Twitty released a Howard song as a single — and the result was one of country’s top moments of 1984.
9. Conway Twitty – “I See The Want To In Your Eyes”
Conway was a big fan of Gary Stewart’s recording of this song, and recorded his own version. The suggestive nature of the song was not the first nor the last time Twitty turned heads with a lyric, but the song definitely made an impact. A Twitty performance of the song found its’ way into an episode of Family Guy in March of 2009.
8. Conway Twitty – “Darling, You Know I Wouldn’t Lie”
A 1968 hit that just narrowly missed becoming his second number one hit, the song connected with voters from the Country Music Association, who nominated the composition for Song of the Year at their annual awards show in 1969 — one of only two Twitty songs to earn that honor. Interestingly enough, he never won a solo award from the CMA, but was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999.
7. Conway Twitty – “I’ve Already Loved You In My Mind”
Twitty was the master at letting the imagination run wild during his songs — he never filmed a video for one of his singles until 1990. This barroom classic is often ranked as a fan favorite. It also was the favorite Twitty song of the late Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalist Lewis Grizzard, who professed his love of the song in one of his columns.
6. Conway Twitty – “You’ve Never Been This Far Before”
Some radio stations banned this Conway Twitty song from their playlists, even taking knives and cutting a groove through the actual album cut. The reason, they cited, was the lyrics, which referenced “trembling fingers touching forbidden places.” Sounds tame by today’s standards, but this was 1973. In interviews, Twitty defended his song all the way through his career. The attention earned him his biggest hit on the Hot 100 after switching to country, hitting No. 22.
5. Conway Twitty – “I’d Love To Lay You Down”
Paul Harvey dubbed this 1980 hit as “Porno Country” during a speech at the Country Radio Seminar. Just like with his other more risque numbers, the fans didn’t blink twice. His first number one hit of the decade was one of a pair of hits from his Heart and Soul album.
4. Conway Twitty – “The Image Of Me”
By 1968, Twitty had been recording country for a few years, with only one Top 20 hit to show for his switch in musical formats. Still, Decca’s Owen Bradley never wavered in his confidence about signing the singer, and that faith was rewarded with his first top 10 hit, showing that the singer had exactly what it took to hit big in the country market. One of the strong points of his more traditional sounding hits.
3. Conway Twitty – “Don’t Take It Away”
After nearly fifteen years with Bradley, the singer switched producers in the fall of 1979. He also updated his look — henceforth the famous perm — and his sound. This R&B styled number featured one of the most riveting vocal performances of his career, proving that he was on the right musical track.
2. Conway Twitty – “She’s Got A Single Thing In Mind”
1989 will forever be known as the year that artists such as Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and Alan Jackson each registered their first hits. But, lost in that activity was the fact that Conway Twitty was still singing as great as ever — at the age of 55. The singer had kicked a longtime smoking habit in the 1980s, and was taking vocal lessons to keep his range intact. All of that is on prominent display on this stunning hit from the summer of that year which proved that — more so than any veteran artist at the time — nobody was as good at the art of evolving career-wise than Conway Twitty. That’s still a true statement all of these years later.
1. Conway Twitty – “Linda On My Mind”
A little bit of mystery surrounds this hit from the winter of 1975. Who exactly was “Linda,” and was she someone that the singer was emotionally torn over? Twitty never said, but it doesn’t matter. The song works then — and now. His vocals were as sharp and as pristine as ever, and the harmonies applied to this classic by Carol Lee Cooper and L.E. White were nothing short of remarkable — whoever and whatever “Linda” was.