By Morgan Bryce
Last week, two donations made to the City of Smiths Station’s soon-to-be-opened Jones Store Museum confirmed a longtime theory that legendary country singer Conway Twitty once resided in the area.
The first, a program from Smiths Station High School’s 1951 Junior-Senior Banquet, lists Harold Jenkins (Twitty’s real-life name) as in charge of the event’s invocation.
Eighteen years old at the time, evidence of Twitty’s brief residence in Smiths Station is further confirmed in the second donation, according to Mayor Bubba Copeland.
In an undated photo, Twitty is pictured visiting longtime Smiths Station resident Mattie Carden, whom he lived with for an unknown length of time in the early 1950s. Her house, located on Lee Road 222, is still standing.
Copeland said he is excited about these discoveries and believes that they should provide citizens with an increased level of civic pride and appreciation for the city’s past.
“It’s been a lifelong project of mine to have concrete evidence that he in fact did live in Smiths Station, and as of this week, we can now say that (Twitty) lived several years here in his early and late teens. It’s an exciting discovery, and we will definitely honor him in some way,” Copeland said.
Nearly eight years after leading the prayer at a school banquet, Twitty was doing the same on the top-40 charts with his breakout single, “It’s Only Make Believe.” A song on the B-side of a two-track record, it became a number-one hit in the United States and 21 other countries.
In 1965, Twitty switched musical paths and began to create hit songs that would later become pieces of country lore, including “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” “Lead Me On” and “Hello Darlin’.”
During a 1993 performance at the Jim Stafford Theatre in Branson, Missouri, Twitty collapsed on stage and was taken to a nearby hospital. There, he was rushed into surgery but succumbed to an abdominal aortic aneurysm and passed away at 59 years old.
Twitty’s musical accomplishments were recognized with inductions into the Country Music and Rockabilly halls of fame.
For more information or updates on the opening of the Jones Store Museum, visit the the City of Smiths Station’s Facebook page or www.smithsstational.gov.