The View from Nashville: On the Record with Country Music's Greatest Starsby Ralph Emery, Patsi B. Cox
Ralph Emery has always had the best seat in the house for watching country music grow from its rural American roots into a multinational billion -- dollar business. As country music's foremost radio and television host, Ralph has the inside track on a world many have written about but few actually understand. Included in The View from Nashville: The fight over… See more details below
Ralph Emery has always had the best seat in the house for watching country music grow from its rural American roots into a multinational billion -- dollar business. As country music's foremost radio and television host, Ralph has the inside track on a world many have written about but few actually understand. Included in The View from Nashville: The fight over Conway Twitty's estate: the real story. The night Loretta Lynn threatened to "whup" a British music critic all across England for calling Conway Twitty "fat and fortyish." One of Colonel Tom Parker's rare interviews, including his best advice for music managers. How Brooks & Dunn kick-started the country dance craze. The story behind the Roy Orbison/Mick Jagger feud. Loretta's secret admirer: Buck Owens confesses. The day Vince Gill faced armed robbers on the golf course! Travis Tritt's Immutable Law of Honky Tonk -- or, How to Bust Up a Barroom Brawl. Ray Charles's country roots When Burt Reynolds begged Tammy Wynette to take Hillary Clinton's telephone call. Johnny Horton's message from beyond the grave.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.74(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.92(d)
Read an Excerpt
Conway, are you all right?" Dee Jenkins called through the door of the bathroom. There was no answer.
"Conway?" she called again. With a tight feeling in her stomach, Dee pushed the door open. There, sprawled on the floor, lay one of country music's most legendary stars, her husband, Conway Twitty.
It was 6:42 PM. on Friday, June 4, 1993. The two had been in Branson, Missouri, where Conway was playing a series of matinees at Jim Stafford's Theater. Just before an intense afternoon show, Conway packed up the car and drove to his bus. Since his schedule called for a hundred dates in Branson that year, Conway had brought his favorite vehicle to drive, a 1980 Pacer station wagon. It wasn't what anybody would call a "star vehicle" at first glance, but Conway loved it and drove it everywhere. He loved that car so much, in fact, that he'd just had a coat of classic car paint applied and replaced the vinyl seats with leather. He unpacked the Pacer and loaded up the bus for the trip back to Nashville.
Shortly after they were on the road, Conway turned to Dee and said he was experiencing an odd sensation in his side.
"I feel a kind of pressure," he said. "I just don't know how to explain the feeling to you."
"Well, I'm going to get the driver to stop," Dee said. "Let's go into Springfield and get it checked."
"No, it's not that bad," Conway answered. His lack of concern worried Dee, since earlier that day, before his show, he'd mentioned having a slight feeling of discomfort. It didn't stop him from performing, though. With Conway, almost nothing stopped him from fulfilling a concert date.
Dee usually kept the bus stocked with food, butthis particular run had been a long one and the refrigerator was bare. When it was time for dinner, they stopped at a food mart so the band and crew could eat. Conway didn't feel hungry, so he and Dee stayed behind. He hadn't complained, but Dee knew he wasn't feeling well. When he went into the bathroom and didn't come back out for some time, she became concerned and called in to him. Conway didn't answer. She opened the door and screamed for help.
The band and crew scrambled back on the bus, and called 911. By the time the ambulance and paramedic team arrived, Conway was conscious and trying to reassure Dee. Cox Medical Center in Springfield, Missouri, was alerted that Conway Twitty was being rushed to their emergency room.
Dee felt more confident after the emergency room doctor finished his examination, because he said Conway appeared to have a textbook case of kidney stones. Several years earlier, Conway had suffered problems with kidney crystals that caused him to cancel several shows. He could be in for a painful night, but he would be all right. The ER personnel continued routine procedure. Conway's blood was checked for allergies, then he was wheeled into X-ray to be injected with the dye that could confirm the preliminary diagnosis.
Conway insisted Dee accompany him to X-ray, and once there, her confidence was short-lived. The doctor soon gave her terrifying news: Conway had an abdominal aortic aneurysm and had already lost a dangerously large amount of blood. Dee's first reaction was disbelief. Conway had recently undergone an extensive physical for a new life insurance policy and been pronounced fine. And although he was taking blood pressure medicine, it was down to just a half a pill a day. Conway had developed high blood pressure ten years earlier and since that time he had taken pains to stay in shape. He was watching what he ate, working out and walking. His weight was down to 168 pounds, the least he'd weighed in years. Their strategy seemed to be working, because until the episode on the bus, Conway appeared to be in excellent health.
Frantically, she attempted to locate their family doctor in Nashville so he could consult with the Springfield doctors. Failing that, there was nothing she could do but wait. When they wheeled Conway into emergency surgery, one of the band members began phoning Conway's children to alert them.
Dee knew how dangerous this condition could be. Aneurysms form when pressure from the blood flow causes a weak artery wall to distend. If that distention bursts, the condition becomes life-threatening in minutes. And she realized that in Conway's case, the condition was probably genetic, since a few years earlier Conway's brother Howard had been diagnosed with the same condition. "Don't even sneeze," his doctors had told Howard as they rushed him to surgery. Dee also knew that her husband had that day performed his usual intense, hard-hitting show, a show that obviously would strain his abdomen.
Ironically, Conway's friend and duet partner, Loretta Lynn, was also at the Springfield hospital, where her husband, Mooney, was a patient. Loretta was sitting with Mooney when a local newscast reported that Conway Twitty was undergoing emergency surgery at Cox Medical Center. She sat up straight in her chair, wondering if she'd fallen asleep and dreamed such a thing. Just then the hospital chaplain walked in and confirmed the news.
Loretta stumbled out of Mooney's room to find Dee. Loretta's nerves were already on edge from a sleepless bedside vigil with Mooney. She stayed with Dee until Conway was out of surgery, then finally went back to Mooney's room to try and sleep. Loretta remembers a chaplain rushing into Mooney's room to tell her that Conway was gone.
"I'd always heard that the spirit stays right there above the body for a while," Loretta says. "So when I went back to intensive care, I stood beside Conway's body and tried to talk him back down. I said, 'Conway, don't you die on me! You know you don't want to go!' I cut such a shine they had to take me out of the room."
"I was lucky she was there because Loretta is the strongest woman I know," Dee later acknowledged.
Subsequent events proved to me that Dee Jenkins is herself an unusually strong woman. Her husband didn't make it through the surgery, and June 5, 1993, the final day of my friend Conway Twitty's life, marked the beginning of a nightmare for his widow.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >