Sunday, September 1, 2013
"...His First Hit Was 'It's Only Make Believe'....In This Case, Though, There's No Make Believe Involved...."
Harold Jenkins was born eighty years ago today.
And sometime in the late 1950's, Harold decided that his name didn't have the zip and zing that would be required to make it household, so, as urban legend goes, he looked at a road map and borrowed the names of two towns, one in Arkansas, one in Texas.
Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome....
55 #1 pop and country hits later, a record that lasted until 2006, the name that Harold Jenkins chose to become synonymous with country music is exactly that.
Synonymous with country music.
Lifelong fans of the Nashville persuasion need no listing of Conway's accomplishments.
And those who may not be aware need only take a look at Wikipedia and/or You Tube for a wealth of material.
So, no discography forthcoming in this piece.
Just two sharings.
The first, a song that Conway recorded late in his career, a personal favorite not, to my knowledge, released as a single.
The songwriter in me just appreciated the cleverness of the idea and the style that Conway brought to the interpretation.
And, as a fun value added, the song, recorded almost thirty years ago, features a splendidly arranged and executed back up vocal performance by a young guy who was just getting started, himself, on the path to some fame and fortune on Music Row with a voice that today's country music fans recognize almost immediately.
The second sharing....
In the early 1980's, working as a staff writer for a Nashville publishing house, I had the good fortune to work with Conway's daughter Kathy on an album that she was recording.
As a result, we spent some time at Kathy's home in the family compound known as Twitty City.
One early 80's summer day, we were all pool lounging, listening to our own demos on a boom box, when who should appear to say hello but the patriarch of the family.
Conway was cordial and courteous, offering us all brief hellos as he grabbed a hot dog from the grill and prepared to make his exit.
The sound of the demo playing at the moment caught his ear and, quizzically, inquired "who wrote this stuff?"
Determined to find the fine line between credit taking and boasting, I replied, "I did."
He continued listening for a few seconds, alternately paying what looked like equal attention to the beat and the bun, then turned back to me and with a soft smile, said,
"Why aren't you rich?"
Clearly eager to come off cool, but unable to totally avoid expressing my ingrained personality traits, I replied,
"Cause you haven't cut an album of my songs, yet."
Conway gave a little chuckle, took another bite and wished us a pleasant, summer afternoon.
He never did cut an album of my songs.
But he did end up cutting one of them.
And while you have to do some digging to find it, as I did in the search for the video included below, I've never been shy about putting it right up there at the top of the resume of those things I was fortunate enough to accomplish during the songwriting years.
It was never a single.
And never a hit.
But considering that the guy who considered it worth recording was the guy who had chosen, at least, 55 other songs that became number one hits, I counted, and count, that as a major check mark on the list of cool things that have happened in this writer's adventure.
Conway passed away young, just 59.
But, as the old saying goes, the music lives on.
And, in this case, the music living on was written by a guy who was fortunate enough to be at the right pool next to the right grill at the moment Mr. Jenkins got a craving for a hot dog.
Happy birthday, Harold.
And, thanks again, Conway.