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Interview: Conway Twitty’s Daughter Joni Talks Re-discovering Dad’s Music

Joni Twitty interview
Reg Burkett, Getty Images

Conway Twitty‘s fans received a gift of sorts in early October: brand-new, never-before-released recordings from the late, great country singer. His daughter Joni — a musician in her own right — recently spoke with The Boot about the process of discovering the recordings and prepping them for release.

It all started when Country Rewind Records’ Tom Gramuglia contacted Joni Twitty. He had purchased the master recordings of several artists, Twitty recalls, and discovered among them a set of 1973 recordings from Conway Twitty and his band the Twitty Birds: 14 songs, recorded for the United States military.

“They would do these little shows where they would go into the studio, record songs, and then they would take the songs and edit in little interviews clips in between each song and send it out in 15-minute increments to the radio stations,” Joni Twitty explains. “Dad’s portion was actually for what they called the Navy Hoedown show.”

Conway Twitty was one of many celebrities — including Loretta Lynn, George Jones and Dolly Parton — involved, though the recordings were never released commercially. Gramuglia wanted to get the music into fans’ hands, though, and Joni Twitty and her husband, prolific Nashville backup vocalist John Wesley Ryles (who performed with Twitty), were totally on board.

“This is exactly how they sounded live, you know, back in the day. And I can remember going to many of those concerts. My brothers and sister and I all had the same feeling when we heard it,” Twitty shares. “Every one of those people that played on the album are gone now. To hear them all together again, I mean, gosh, it was very emotional.”

To add to the original tracks, Twitty gathered together “some of our dear friends, who were some of the top studio players in Nashville.” They completed the project at Ricky Skaggs‘ studio in Hendersonville, Tenn., with Ryles adding background vocals as well.

Conway Twitty Timeless
Country Rewind

“We knew [these musicians] would treat it with the love and respect that we were treating it,” Twitty explains. Twitty herself had worked with her father at various points throughout his career, and she says she inherited his gift of a “natural ear” for music and had earned his confidence as a producer.

“I didn’t have any doubts about myself; I just wanted to make sure I met the same expectations,” she says with a laugh, “but I knew Dad would be proud.

“Dad’s delivery on vocals — the way he never threw a word away — he was so emotional with the way he delivered a song,” Twitty notes, adding that she and her crew were cautious to not overproduce or muddy the original magic of the recordings. “Every lyric, he meant every word, and people could feel it.”

The feedback Twitty has received about Timeless, she says, has been “total praise.”

“It sounds like it was recorded yesterday; it doesn’t sound like a 42-year-old recording,” she admits. “It’s unbelievable how fresh and up to date it sounds. It’s perfect.”

Timeless is currently available on the website ConwayTwitty.com.

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