Columnist pays tribute to old friend who shared his love of country music
I dedicate this column to Pete Michelle, one of my best friends.
We were once neighbors and had been friends for over 50 years. He’s the most knowledgeable country music fan I know.
We share a passion for music. Pete plays the guitar and sings. His guitar is dripping with country.
We both love Martin guitars. I play guitar too, but not at the same level as Pete. I call him “Conway Twitty”, and he calls me “Merle Haggard” (big shoes over there).
Conway was a simple man. Although he died very young, he achieved legendary status which led to over 1,000 major awards, which was an incredible achievement.
His 55 No. 1 singles are an outstanding achievement in the annals of the recording industry. These hits have generated sales of over 50 million records, fueling thousands of live performances for millions of fans.
I have had the privilege of attending three or four of these shows.
Like I said before, Conway was a simple man. The stage had no flashing colored lights, no smoke blankets, no painfully loud music. Conway leaned over the microphone and sang “Hello Darlin ‘, It’s Nice to See You”.
The women, young and old, were exploding and screaming, but there was no violence. The shows I attended might have 30,000 people, and you would see maybe 10 or 12 security guards. The reason is that country music fans have come to listen to country music. I am tactful here.
Even as a small child, it was evident that there was something special about Conway, who was born Harold Lloyd Jenkins on September 1, 1933, in rural Friars Point, Mississippi, on the banks of the river. Mississippi, as we are.
The boy had unusual abilities and a penchant for helping others.
When he received his first guitar – a Sears Roebuck Silvertone Acoustic – at the age of 4, Twitty showed a musical gift.
My first guitar was also a Silvertone. Around this time, millions of people learned to play guitar on a Silvertone.
Twitty’s other passion was baseball. He developed his skills to the point that the Philadelphia Phillies offered him a contract after graduating from high school.
Twitty thought his fate was decided when the Phillies drafted him. Fate intervened, however, when he was recruited by a much larger team – the US military.
In one of her performances, a woman in the audience suffered a heart attack. She refused the insistence of the paramedics who asked her to accompany them to the hospital.
She said she wouldn’t leave until she heard “Hello, Darlin ‘.”
A note was transmitted to the stage and Conway performed the song earlier than expected so his fan could receive proper medical attention.
So take care of yourself, Pete. Best wishes to you and your family, and thank you for being my friend. God protects you.