For Dee Henry Jenkins, widow of country music superstar Conway Twitty, there is some irony in Twitty's election yesterday to the Country Music Hall of Fame along with Dolly Parton and Johnny Bond.
Despite huge success as a country recording artist, Twitty never won a Country Music Association award for his solo work from the Country Music Association, Jenkins said.
He once told an interviewer he was "the Susan Lucci of country music," a perennial also-ran like the soap opera actress who finally won her first award this year.
"When she won, after 19 nominations, I thought maybe this would be Conway's year," Jenkins said yesterday.
Twitty did win four CMA awards, from 1972-75, as a duet partner with Loretta Lynn.
"I don't think he ever thought he'd make it into the Hall of Fame," Jenkins said. "Out of more than 20 nominations, he has never won a CMA award on his own, so this is a first."
Twitty, Parton and Bond, a pioneer of cowboy and country music, will be inducted Sept. 22, during the 33rd annual CMA Awards at the Grand Ole Opry House. This morning, government officials, Country Music Hall of Fame staffers and country music artists were to celebrate ground-breaking for a new $37 million downtown facility. The new hall of fame is expected to be open in two years.
"I thought I'd have to be as old as Roy Acuff or as ugly as Willie Nelson to get in the Hall of Fame. (Just Kidding Willie!)," Parton said in a prepared statement.
"The only thing that I can think of that's more exciting than being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame is that I'm still alive and kicking and able to enjoy it," she added. "I am very honored and very thrilled."
The new hall of fame members were announced yesterday during a news conference at International Country Music Fan Fair, held at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds.
Bond's daughter, Sherry Bond, is a Nashville resident. "I think he would have been overwhelmed by this honor," she said. "He would have been very humbled. He was a very modest man, and he would have been speechless and very, very moved by it."
Parton, 53, hails from Sevierville. Her career encompasses both country and pop music, and includes work in TV and film. Her most recent recorded release is Trio II, a collaboration with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt.
By the time she was 10, Parton was appearing on TV in Knoxville, and in 1967 she joined Porter Wagoner as his duet partner in the recording studio and on his syndicated TV show.
Parton's solo career began to flourish in the early '70s. She scored her first No. 1 hit with "Joshua," a song she wrote, and followed with a string of strong hits, including "Coat of Many Colors" and "My Tennessee Mountain Home," drawn from her Appalachian heritage.
In 1974 Parton scored a No. 1 hit with "I Will Always Love You," an original composition inspired by her departure from Wagoner's organization. The song went to No. 1 twice more on the country charts: in a newer version by Parton and as a duet with Vince Gill. Whitney Houston's recording of the song stayed at the top of Billboard's pop singles chart for 14 weeks.
Parton had her first pop hit in 1977 with "Here You Come Again." She reached the top of the pop chart with "9 to 5," the theme song from the movie in which she made her film debut.
She was the CMA's female vocalist of the year in 1975 and '76 and entertainer of the year in 1978.
Some of the proceeds from Parton's Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge go to the Dollywood Foundation, a program for funding educational programs in Sevier County.
Twitty, born Harold Lloyd Jenkins in 1933 and raised in Helena, Ark., enjoyed success as a pop singer, with songs such as "It's Only Make Believe" and "Lonely Blue Boy," before returning to country when he signed with Decca in 1965.
He scored his first Top 10 country hit, "The Image of Me," in 1968. During his career, Twitty had more No. 1 country hits than any artist in country music history. His sensuous, groaning singing style was perfectly matched to songs such as "Hello Darlin'," "I See the Want To in Your Eyes," "Linda on My Mind," "I've Already Loved You in My Mind" and "I'd Love to Lay You Down."
His CMA awards came for his work with Lynn on hits such as "After the Fire Is Gone" and "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man."
A champion of promising songwriters and a good writer himself, Twitty earned a reputation as "the best friend a song ever had." He died June 6, 1993, en route from Branson, Mo., to Nashville for Fan Fair.
Bond, elected in the category of artists whose careers achieved prominence before 1950, grew up in south-central Oklahoma. He played with Jimmy Wakely and Scotty Harrell as the Bell Boys, in Oklahoma City, before moving in 1939 to Hollywood, where the trio appeared in a Roy Rogers film and landed a spot on Gene Autry's "Melody Ranch" radio show.
Bond partnered with Autry as a comic sidekick and guitarist, and he appeared in films with Autry, Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and Tex Ritter.
Bond's hits as a recording artist include "Hot Rod Lincoln" and 'Ten Little Bottles." He also was a prolific songwriter, with credits including "I Wonder Where You Are Tonight," "Tomorrow Never Comes" and "Cimarron."
He owned Red River Songs, a music publishing company, and partnered with Tex Ritter in Vidor Publishing.
Bond was host and script writer for "Town Hall Party," a popular country music TV show in Southern California, in the '50s and early '60s, and he did the same on Autry's "Melody Ranch" from 1964-70. Before his death in 1978, Bond wrote his autobiography and chronicled the life of his friend and colleague Tex Ritter.
Bond's recordings were collected last year in a 17-track CD, The Very Best of Johnny Bond.
"He wrote from his heart and did not really write commercially," his daughter said. "He felt he needed to be true to his soul and realized that might not be marketable. He told other writers, 'Do as I say and not as I do.'"