MIAMI – The legendary Country duo Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn's talented grandchildren are following in their rhinestoned footsteps in many ways.
The duo of Tre Twitty, and Tayla Lynn are bringing the music of Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn to the stage, and the two have formed a friendship much like their famous grandparents.
Tre and Tayla will be performing together at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday Nov. 17 at the Coleman Theatre in Miami.
Fans of Conway and Loretta will enjoy the stories Tre and Tayla tell about their grandparents and hearing them sing favorite hits.
Only 16 in when his grandfather Conway died in in 1993, Tre Twitty remembers the Country music superstar as hardworking and on tour for much of his life. One of his fondest memories Tre has of Conway is a surprise-shopping spree with his grandfather and a cousin.
“He bought us all these toys, and PlayStations for our birthdays and we went back to the house and he had a cake for us,” Tre said. “That was the first time he'd ever done that, and that I can remember him being like a grandpa and taking that personal time. I think he was coming to a point, he was 59 when he passed away, and he had realized he had spent so much time away from his family for the past 35 years, that he was saying this is what's important, not just music, but spending time with your grandkids.”
Tayla Lynn affectionately calls her grandmother, Loretta Lynn, “Memaw” and the two share a close relationship.
“She's so cuddly and concerned about how everybody else is doing. Is everybody fed, is the band fed, are our husbands fed, does everybody have enough food. Is everybody warm enough? She's very nurturing,” Tayla said. “My favorite memories with her have been and are created in the back of her bus after shows. When she's done with a show she doesn't have the show on her mind. It's done regardless if the show is good, bad, whatever it is, the show's done. So, we get to debrief and then we eat together.”
Taya’s father, Loretta's son Ernie toured with his mother, and Tayla spent much of her childhood on tour.
“I started singing when I was really little and my Mom embraced that part of me, my parents were divorced and whenever I would go see my Dad and my Grandmother it would always be on the road, and what little girl doesn't want to be that, be in those big dresses, and be able to do that. Memaw just embraced that with me, supported me, taught me, showed me what to do. Now I'm singing her songs and I’m so full of gratitude for that love. She's just so giving and gracious.”
After her father passed away Tayla then lived with Loretta. She now lives on part of Loretta Lynn’s famous Tennessee ranch.
“I was a teenager when I started touring with her for almost two years. Then again when I was somewhere around 25 and was with her for eight years. The night before she had her stroke we were getting on the bus to go with her. If she goes back out I'll still go with her some. She's recovered from the stroke obviously and then she broke her hip like nine months later. She's recovered from that, then she got sick a couple weeks ago. She's good now. She's so strong and a fighter. She's 86, and she acts like she's 40. I think if her creative drive ever goes away her fire's going to be out, and I think she's going to burn it right until the end. She loves the artistry of it all from songwriting, performance, the people, I mean, it's just what she's done for over 60 years.”
Tre said his grandfather’s path to a musical career started in church.
“His first passion and ambition in life as a kid was to be a preacher. He loved to go down to the local African American churches in Mississippi and listen to the preacher and listen to the beautiful gospel music, so that really inspired him as a kid,” Tre said. “When Conway, 'Poppy', was coming up Rock N' Roll hadn't even been invented... but he was a great singer. He could sing Country, he could sing Rock and Roll, he could sing Pop and Gospel and Blues. I think him and Elvis are comparable in their singing. They could sing anything.”
Although Conway Twitty had 50 hit singles, and huge success in rock, R&B, gospel and pop as well as Country music receiving numerous top music awards in his lifetime, Tre says his grandfather's legacy is not as recognized or lauded as other music stars of the era.
“I hear from kids, younger in their 20s, they all love Conway Twitty for some reason when they discover his music. I think artists like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and George Jones, you hear or read about them so much, and Conway's like this unknown, kind of mysterious, mythical figure that passed away 25 years ago. He has an amazing body of work that doesn't really get talked about. “Tre said. “It's different for me than Tayla, Poppy's been gone 25 years and for me it's like my duty, or I've got a real passion for making sure people don't forget about him. I feel like he's overlooked a lot. There's no movie about Conway's life, there's no book, no documentary about Conway.”
Tre said his favorite song of Conway's to sing is lesser known than most.
“I'm kind of a Rock N' Roll guy at heart, and I really love his Rock n Roll era stuff. I think it's really overlooked and not given enough credit. I love that part of his career and my favorite song is a song called 'Lonely Blue Boy.' It was his second biggest Rock hit behind 'It's Only Make Believe,'” he said.
Tayla said she has a favorite song of Loretta’s “I don't sing it, but my favorite song of hers is ' Here I am Again’ It's a great song; I need to start singing it. It reminds me after my grandfather died her singing that song with tears streaming down her face, me in the wings with tears running down my face, all of her fans crying with her, and just that grieving of my grandfather. It was just beautiful how she was grieving so openly with everybody, and that's where she needed to be, with her fans who loved her. She didn't want to sit home. She got right back out there. She was healed from them.”
Conway's and Loretta's deep friendship is as almost as legendary as the music the duo made together.
“We tell stories about each one individually, then we tell stories about them together. Conway and Loretta are like peanut butter and jelly, when you think of one you think of the other,” Tre said. “Loretta will watch the show on Facebook live sometimes, and she'll laugh because she remembers all these stories about them. That's the heart of the show - Conway and Loretta, they actually loved each other. They were best friends and respected each other. Loretta still loves to talk about Poppy. Her husband, Mooney, loved Poppy too.”
Conway and Loretta's music resonated and created a real and honest voice never heard before taking the music world by storm one song at a time, and their friendship could be seen in their stage performances and heard in their duets.
“When I was growing up I swore she was married to my grandfather, but she was marred to Conway too,” Tayla said laughing. “I never thought of Conway not being some form of a boyfriend to her, because of the songs and the album covers. As I've gotten older, and now that Tre and I have become a duo, just her love for him it's so big and real. She brings up memories of him all the time now, and she says that they went through everything together. When he had something to complain about or be joyful about he'd share it with her, and same with her. My God, she loved him and she always tells me that Tre has Conway's heart, which is my favorite thing to hear her say.”
Tre said when Conway died Loretta was at his side.
“It's not really a known fact, but Loretta was with him holding his hand when he passed away,” Tre said.
Tre and Tayla say they feel their grandparent’s music drew them together and their shared values may have been the enduring strength of the legends' friendship and their differences played off each other as well.
“Touring with Tayla this last year I kind of get it now, because her and I have that same kind of bond, where we're just best buds,” Tre said. “ I always joke that I'm Dean Martin, she's Jerry Lewis. I'm the straight man and she's the crazy person.”
The show at the Coleman will be feature duets and the singers' greatest hits and stories of Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn.
“We come out together and the first song we do is 'Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,' I'll tell some inside stories about his songs, and about Conway as a granddad and a dad, and a lot of things that you don't know about them or that is not public knowledge. It's more of a celebration, Tayla and I, we're not impersonators, we don't dress up like them, that's not what it is,” Tre said with a laugh “I have a beard. We're their grandkids and we're giving you our perspective. I'm so proud to be his grandson. People just love Conway and Loretta.”
“We respect them so much we would never try to be them, but we do try to make them proud, and so us to be able to sing their songs and for people to show up, we want to play it for their fans and introduce it to their kids. It's so fun, we always have a great time,” Tayla said. “Memaw loves it, she's so helpful. She's been more interested now in what I'm doing then she ever has, and that's saying a lot, because she's always supported me. It's like a musical in a way, and Tre's such an eloquent storyteller. He tells stories that really paint a picture, and I am all about my relationship with her, telling stories, talking. You get to hear how loving and wonderful Memaw is as a grandmother and you get to hear her music from me.”
Tickets for the show are $27. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Coleman Theatre at 103 N. Main St. in downtown Miami, OK, call us at 918-540-2425 or go online at www.colemantheatre.org/events.