Have you been taking your state-approved gullibility pills? Let’s take a test to see how effective your dosage is …
The High Priest of Country Music
This was the sobriquet of a performer who had fifty-five #1 singles in his career, of whom Wikipedia says that he:
… was an American country music singer. He also had success in the rock and roll, rock, R&B, and pop genres. … Although never a member of the Grand Ole Opry, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
You know who I mean. Let’s bring him out now. Ladies and gentleman, Mr. Harold Lloyd Jenkins!
Perhaps you know him better by his stage name, Conway Twitty.
Wikipedia says that he was born September 1, 1933 and died at age 59 on June 5, 1993. Moving along …
So you’re born Harold Jenkins and you want a career in country music. You obviously have to pick a stage name for yourself, since a name like Harold Jenkins (Hal Jenkins?) is totally out of place among names like Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Monroe, George Jones, Bob Wills, and the like.
So how do you go about picking that stage name? Again, Wikipedia:
Accounts vary of how Jenkins acquired the stage name of Conway Twitty. Allegedly, in 1957, Jenkins decided that his real name was not memorable enough and sought a better show business name. In The Billboard Book of Number One Hits Fred Bronson states that the singer was looking at a road map when he spotted Conway, Arkansas, and Twitty, Texas, and chose the name Conway Twitty.
Well, that’s interesting. Conway, AR and Twitty, TX. What do we know about these two places?
Conway, AR is a suburb of Little Rock. On a road map it would stick out about as much as Oak Park would on a map of Illinois. And what about Twitty?
Twitty is an unincorporated community in Wheeler County, Texas, United States. It was named after an early settler Asa Twitty.
Twitty, Texas is too small to have much of a Wikipedia entry. You have to go to the website of the Texas State Historical Association to find more information:
TWITTY, TEXAS. Twitty is on U.S. Highway 83 six miles north of Shamrock in Wheeler County. It was named for Asa Twitty, an early settler and store owner. A post office was opened in 1912, and by 1925 two stores and a cotton gin had been established, and oil had been discovered. The population was then estimated at twenty-five. In 1930 the town had a population of 100, the gin, three stores, a church, and a rural school. Since the 1930s high school students have been bused to Shamrock. Although Twitty reported only one business in 1980, its population had remained fairly stable with an estimate of 116. In 1990 the population was sixty. The population dropped to twelve in 2000.
I don’t know how cartography works in your state, but in mine a town this small doesn’t make it on the map. You would need a county-by-county road atlas to find a place this tiny.
But let’s just stipulate to the notion that Harold Lloyd Jenkins had his mitts on a road map of Texas so detailed that it marked Twitty. Would the same road map also have enough of central Arkansas to also show Conway? I have never seen such a road map myself. You could paper a whole wall of your living room with one.
Wikipedia offers a second version of how Harold Lloyd Jenkins found his stage name:
Another account says that Jenkins met a Richmond, Virginia, man named W. Conway Twitty Jr. through Jenkins’ manager in a New York City restaurant. The manager served in the U.S. Army with the real Conway Twitty. Later, the manager suggested to Jenkins that he take the name as his stage name because it had a ring to it. In the mid-1960s, W. Conway Twitty recorded the song “What’s in a Name but Trouble”, lamenting the loss of his name to Jenkins.
That’s a completely different story!
So let’s think about this for a minute. How can two stories have arisen for the same name? If Jenkins appropriated the name from a real person, why invent the roadmap tale? And vice versa. But what if … the original story about the map is so patently false that the handlers realized that a better story was needed? That makes sense. But what is this “ring to it” in the name Conway Twitty? Doesn’t set my toe to tappin’, as a Texan friend of mine used to say.
But the strangeness does not stop there. And that leads me to the moment that was the origination of this series of posts. I was playing the radio while driving when a song came on that I enjoy.
Being a geek, I enjoy learning everything I can about the things I like. And so I did some Googling and found out that this song is from the Broadway musical Bye Bye Birdie. Cool. So who’s the “Birdie” of Bye Bye Birdie? Back to Wikipedia’s entry on Conway Twitty:
The fictional character “Conrad Birdie” in the musical and movie Bye Bye Birdie is said to be a composite of Twitty and Elvis Presley. The part was originally named Conway Twitty, until the writers learned that Twitty was a real pop star who was willing to sue them.
Wait a second! So the writers of the musical came up with the name “Conway Twitty” on their own—not knowing that there was a real entertainer by this name—but then changed the name to “Conrad Birdie” to avoid a lawsuit?!? And how did they arrive at such an improbable name? And for someone so close in real life to their fictional character that there might be confusion and legal issues?
Before we go any further, let me pause for any foreign readers and explain a couple of things about English. Conway is not at all common as a forename. In fact, I have never met a Conway in all my born years. And then this information from the The Internet Surname Database:
Twitty is an uncommon surname in the United States. When the United States Census was taken in 2010, there were about 2,947 individuals with the last name “Twitty,” ranking it number 10,809 for all surnames. Historically, the name has been most prevalent in the Southeast. However, it is especially popular in the District of Columbia. Twitty is least common in the western states.
I would be curious to see a Venn diagram from 1957 showing the intersection of the two sets of all the people with the first name Conway and all the people with the last name Twitty.
A final note about English slang. The verb con is from the noun con which is short for confidence game, per Merriam-Webster: “a dishonest trick that is done to get someone’s money.” The verb twit is defined as “to subject to ridicule or reproach.” In comments under Kevin’s recent article about Jennifer Connelly, there was some speculation that the name CONnelly held a reference to her persona as being a deception. Well, if you parse the stage name of Harold Lloyd Jenkins in the same way, you find a WAY for a CON (a trick) that TWITs (ridicules) the unsuspecting.
So here’s the question: how many different people, on their own, can come up with the same unlikely (nay, outlandish) name? Are your meds wearing off a little, too?
The King of Rock and Roll
But let’s not blow by another detail too quickly. Wikipedia tells us that the musical Bye Bye Birdie has a main character written to be a “composite” of Conway Twitty and Elvis Presley. But how do you write a composite character when you are unaware of the very existence of one of your sources? If you buy the story, I suppose you could say that, once they became aware of the “real” Conway Twitty, thereafter they decided to rewrite the musical to make the Elvis Presley-type character to also include Conway Twitty elements. That would be an odd choice for a scriptwriter: “Here, I’ll punch up this larger-than-life character by including plot points about a person that even I, as a music-industry insider, was not previously aware of.”
So maybe what they meant is that the play was originally conceived to be about Elvis Presley. From Wikipedia’s page for the musical:
Originally titled Let’s Go Steady, Bye Bye Birdie is set in 1958. The story was inspired by the phenomenon of popular singer Elvis Presley and his draft notice into the Army in 1957.
However, the Bio on ConwayTwitty.com claimed quite the opposite:
A play and movie was created titled “Bye Bye Birdie” which was a story about a young rock-n-roll star. It was written with the idea that Conway would do the starring role. The lead character’s name, Conrad Birdie, was created specifically with Conway in mind. Conway did a lot of soul searching and decided that theatre and the movies were not for him, so he turned down the offer and remained focused on his true love of music.
Wait! Is this show about Elvis or Twitty or both? Let me see a summary of the plot:
The year is 1958, and the much-adored rock-and-roll idol — Conrad Birdie — has been drafted into the US army. His songwriter and agent, Albert, and Albert’s secretary and some-time girlfirend, Rosie, hatch a plan for a farewell performance to take place on The Ed Sullivan Show, which they hope will help sell Birdie’s new song “One Last Kiss,” and ultimately save Almaelou records from going under. To cap off the performance, Birdie will actually give ‘one last kiss’ to Kim MacAfee, an avid member of the Conrad Birdie fan club from Sweet Apple, Ohio.
When Albert and Rosie head to Sweet Apple to prepare for Birdie’s arrival, things start to unravel. Kim’s father is starstruck at the thought of being on The Ed Sullivan Show with his daughter, and Kim’s new steady, Hugo gets jealous at the thought of Kim kissing Conrad on national television.
Well, that sounds like a show about Elvis Presley, whose drafting into the Army in 1958 was a media circus. Harold Jenkins didn’t have to interrupt a career due to being drafted, did he?
Oops. Yup. He did:
He received an offer to play with the Philadelphia Phillies after high school, but he was drafted into the United States Army. He served in the Far East and organized a group called the Cimmerons to entertain his fellow soldiers.
One of the side effects of when the gullibility pills wear off is that the itch of curiosity can set in bad. That’s I why I asked myself: what other parallels exist between Elvis Presley and Conway Twitty?
First, look at their faces from early in their careers:
- Pompadour? Check.
- Bad-boy sneer? Check.
- Corn-pone good looks? Check.
This is not a claim for Bokanovsky Brats. But the list goes on …
- Commercial success across many musical genres? Check.
- Large mansion that became a mecca for fans? Check.
- Sudden, unexpected death in middle age? Check.
One was anointed a King and the other a High Priest. So the idea of writing a play with a main character who is a composite of Elvis Presley and Conway Twitty is not so far-fetched after all. They are practically the same person, at the proper level of abstraction. Indeed, early on some people thought they were, per Wikipedia:
When “It’s Only Make Believe” was first released, because of vocal similarities, many listeners assumed that the song was actually recorded by Elvis Presley, using “Conway Twitty” as a pseudonym.
The vocal similarities are remarkable. Both men were baritones with a distinctive growl in their low register, but they both performed songs that carried them into the tenor range.
What’s going on here? The character Conrad Birdie from the musical is less a composite and more like an identical triplet. (Again, I suspect no genetic connection.)
Otohelminthiasis: Not Art But Science
Time to lay my cards on the table with this series of essays. I think that Conway Twitty was one of those “projects,” and here’s why.
First, a premise: Twitty’s doppelganger, Elvis Presley, was a project. I won’t make the case here. That has been done well enough elsewhere.
Second, my reasons for finding red flags on Twitty:
- His birth year of 1933. (Sure, someone had to be born that year; but this date shows up way too frequently with people in the cabal.)
- The strange and incompatible stories around Twitty’s stage name.
- His actual name. He was named (by his great-uncle, per Wikipedia) after the silent movie actor Harold Lloyd, and our own Kevin S. has shown that Lloyd was deep in the Masonic muck.
- I am invoking the Zal Rule twice over …
First, we find have the musical/movie Bye Bye Birdie, which highlights Conway Twitty, albeit less obviously than Elvis Presley.
Second, Conway Twitty has been reintroduced to a whole new generation of Americans through the show Family Guy. (I don’t have to make the case that Family Guy is a tool of the Powers, do I? I think we can stipulate to that. OK, one clue—Seth MacFarlane was one of the celebrities who missed his flight on 9/11. Case closed.)
Part of the Family Guy formula is the cutaway gag, when the show breaks away from the plot for a short, absurd non sequitur joke. Several times in the series, characters introduce Conway Twitty in order to draw attention away from some mischief.
You don’t get away with repeatedly using (abusing, one might even say in this case) a dead person’s face and name unless you have some sort of legal title to the persona. No ordinary family would suffer the indignity to their loved one.
Of course, if Elvis was a project and Twitty was a project, I don’t think they were separate projects. The folks who run this shite show aren’t that uncoordinated. I think it was all part of a single project involving performers who are very, very similar in all but one respect.
Nowadays we see a lot of parallel projects, and it is perhaps possible that some kind of DNA manipulation makes it possible to work with even more identical subjects. But that case has been made repeatedly here at POM, and if you are reading this, you have seen that evidence. However, I am guessing that parallel projects were going on for quite a while before this. And I don’t think the hidden handlers minded waving these things right under our noses. Coming back around to Bobby Darin, whom I mentioned in the first installment, take a look at this video if you would like to see another possible instance of parallel projects.
(By the way, the Zal Rule applies to Darin, too.)
What would be the reason for these parallel projects? Here’s my hunch … and it’s just a hunch, since I can’t advance evidence to prove any of it.
How do you do science? You run experiments.
How do you run an experiment? You run parallel trials on your subject, changing only a single variable, so that you can correlate different outcomes precisely.
To me, the Elvis Presley/Conway Twitty personas look like an experiment. They are essentially identical entertainers.
What is the variable? Hard for me to say, since I do not know the body of work of either man well. Just not my cup of tea, that whole rockabilly sound. Maybe Presley’s performances were more upbeat in tempo. Maybe Twitty’s performances were more downbeat in subject matter. Perhaps one of our commenters can say something more knowledgeably.
Or maybe … the variable was in the personal life offstage of the singer (which, let’s face it, is more public than private—or at least the storyline that we are given). Conway Twitty came off as Mr. Nice Guy (despite being married four times). Elvis was the drug user, pelvis-gyrator, underage-girl chaser, weight-gainer, and on-the-toilet die-er. Elvis was the bad boy and Twitty was the good twin. Now let’s wind ‘em up and see who sells more records! (Yeah, that would be Elvis. And maybe that explains all the publicity nowadays around the bad behavior of rock stars and country singers. Their personal lives are really part of the show now as never before: think Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, …)
In my first installment, on earworms, I showed that one can analyze the earwormy tunes and pick out certain elements make them to be so. But I suspect we are privy only to the post facto analysis. I suspect that the hidden controllers of the entertainment industry knew a lot of these things a couple of generations ago, and they just keep refining and perfecting their techniques for getting music stuck inside our heads.
But how would anyone know for sure what kind of melodies and rhythms and tempos were effective for that purpose … except by running experiments? Hence the parallel projects. I am not saying that every singer or actor is a project. But it is curious to me that in the Top Ten list of earwormy tunes from Part 1, Lady Gaga’s name shows up three times. And if anyone here doesn’t believe that Lady Gaga is a project, he’s on the wrong website! (And I wonder if Amy Winehouse wasn’t the parallel project to Gaga)
It must be that experiments are going on around us all the time, testing variables in styles and looks and attitudes, then gauging their impact on our mood, spending habits, sexual proclivities, etc. This has to be the big Why behind the promoted entertainers: not simply to put a certain style or message out there. That could be done with lyrics and scripts alone.
No, I think the promoted entertainers are market research, plain and simple. I don’t know how this thought makes you feel. But it makes me feel conned. And twitted.
Has anyone got a pill that I could take for that?