'CMT All-Time Top 40:' Conway Twitty

Country Stars Count Down Their Favorite Artists of All Time

Conway Twitty is the next in line for the CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist's Choice. The country music icon lands at No. 30 on the tally.

Between 1968 and 1991, Twitty sent 75 singles into the Top 10 of Billboard's country chart. He was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999, six years after his death.

"Conway had a way to say stuff, and country women loved to hear it," Luke Bryan says. "When you think about 'Hello Darlin,' it's probably the two most famous words in country music history. That's all he had to do. The lights could come on, and he'd say, 'Hello darlin',' and women passed out in the aisles.

"That was what it was all about. I mean, he was just an amazing voice with an amazing range. So many people have always said he's the best friend a song could ever have. Conway Twitty was an unbelievable song guy and just one of the most amazing voices ever in country music."

Jake Owen especially appreciates Twitty's soulful delivery.

"Conway Twitty, to me, is one of my heroes," Owen says. "I just loved the way he sold his songs. He was a singer, and he sang songs from a man's perspective to a woman -- you know, 'Hello Darlin'.' He just said things that guys would want to say to a woman. He never said anything that was soft or anything. He had like a song called 'Redneckin' Love Makin' Night.' The first line of that song was, 'Hey, baby, Conway here, 'bout to whisper something in your ear.'

"And that's awesome! I mean, if you can say that and really get away with that it ... it's why I love Conway Twitty. I love the way he would sing his songs and talk about tight-fittin' jeans and how he would love to lay you down. He was the Barry White of country music."

Joe Nichols adds, "I grew up listening to Conway Twitty because they played him so much on the radio. He's kinda one of the most-played guys that I can recall in my childhood. When I think of artists, I think of somebody that gives a piece of themselves along with their art so you kind of get to know them as a person in their work.

"Conway's one of those guys that when he sang a song and delivered a song, you just believed it. You heard it, and you thought you were in the story. You thought he was either talking to you or telling you a story about it. To me, that's what an artist is."

Dierks Bentley says Twitty's influence is still being felt among a new generation of artists.

"Conway Twitty is one of those guys," he says. "Honky-tonkers like me or Blake Shelton or John Rich love Conway Twitty. I mean, he's such a big influence. He's one of the Top 5 country singers of all time, probably. What made him great was his voice. He's one of those guys that didn't need to move around or have any gimmicks or gags. Everything was from (the neck) up. Just the way he held the microphone -- the way he sang, the emotion in his face -- was everything. The rest, you know, he didn't worry about."

Bentley continued, "I've seen him perform shows (by) watching old TNN footage or CMT shows where he's wearing baseball socks pulled all the way up and shorts and a huge hat -- you know, a trucker's hat -- and a tank top. He was not overly concerned at times about what he was wearing. But it didn't even matter because he had such a great voice and, you know, probably the first singer that really had that grit and gravel, to really explore that in his voice, and just get the ache out of that.

"Obviously, the song selection was, you know, pretty sexual stuff at the time! I mean, gosh, the content. ... I think back to a song like mine, 'Come a Little Closer,' that's definitely in the Conway vein. It's definitely a Conway-type song."

Charlie Daniels got to know Twitty personally when they toured together.

"When Conway first started out, when I'd first known about him, he was looked at as a rock artist, and his stuff was played on rock radio," Daniels remembers. "Of course, when he came to Nashville ... he was the epitome of what a country artist should be at the time he did it. He had a great band, he had great material and he just did a great job of singing. I don't think anybody ever did it better than Conway did."

Twitty achieved a No. 1 pop hit in 1958 with "It's Only Make Believe" Ten years later, he earned his first No. 1 country single with "Next in Line." He claimed a four-week chart-topper with the enduring "Hello Darlin'" in 1970. Twitty also wrote that classic song.

Other signature tunes include "You've Never Been This Far Before," "Linda on My Mind" and "I'd Just Love to Lay You Down." In the 1970s, he and duet partner Loretta Lynn charted five No. 1 singles -- "After the Fire Is Gone," "Lead Me On," "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man," "As Soon as I Hang Up the Phone" and "Feelins."

Tune in to CMT Hot 20 Countdown each Saturday at 11 a.m. ET/PT to check out the next artist on CMT All-Time Top 40: Artist's Choice.

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