By Greg Nikkel
The classic country sounds of Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn will be brought to life by the grandchildren of the legendary performers, Tre Twitty and Tayla Lynn, with a concert set for Weyburn on Sunday, Jan. 21, at the Cugnet Centre, starting at 7:30 p.m.
For Tre, this tour is a special one as it marks 25 years since his grandfather passed away while he was on tour.
“We want to honour him and his music, and try to keep the name out there. Conway was one of the most under-rated and under-appreciated artists of all time,” said Tre in an interview from Nashville. “If you look at his career and the number of hits he had, it’s unparalleled.”
Both performers were highly successful in their own right, and when they sang as a duet they expanded their fan-base as people loved the music the pair produced in their career.
As a duet, they made 10 albums together and put out 12 singles, five of which charted as No. 1 on the country hit list.
Tre said he was very young when his grandfather passed away, but he remembered him being a workaholic and was on tour much of the time.
“I got to see him when he was around. He did everything for his family. He just wanted to make sure his family was provided for. It wasn’t the typical grandfather-grandson type of relationship, but the love was still there,” said Tre.
Of the show that he and Tayla will be performing, Tre said, “It’s an honour to perform this music. It’s not about me at all. I’m just a vessel and people can come and see a part of him in me.”
He said when he talks to fans after the show, often times they will share favourite memories or photographs of his grandfather, such as when they saw him perform, or talk about which songs were their favourites.
“Conway and Loretta were a very special thing. They had an immense love for each other. It wasn’t romantic love, they just loved each other as people. It was a really special thing, and you can hear the love in her voice when she talks about him,” said Tre, noting that Loretta was present at the same hospital when Conway was brought in after he collapsed on stage in June of 1993. She happened to be in the hospital for a procedure, and was with him when he died.
“It was meant to be that she was there,” said Tre. “That’s the kind of special thing about this show. Tayla and I have a similar kind of vibe as our grandparents when we’re singing on stage or interacting with each other. It’s the same power and passion that they had.”
Asked what his personal favourite songs were from his grandfather, Tre said he particularly liked his earliest songs, which were actually rock-and-roll. “I do a couple of those. He’s such an iconic country singer, but his earliest songs were rock-and-roll.”
His earliest songs, like “Lonely Blue Boy” or “It’s Only Make Believe” (which topped the charts in 1958) were influential on early rock-and-roll, and Tre noted that groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones listened to his songs in Britain as those band members were growing up, and many people today aren’t aware of that.
Tayla is also looking forward to doing this show, with the difference that her grandmother (who she calls “Meemaw”) is still alive, and she has a good relationship with her.
“I have been doing a tribute to Meemaw for three years now, and Tre and I have been doing this show for a little while, but we’ve never been to Canada with it,” said Tayla from Nashville. “She is so gracious in letting me do her songs. She’s so proud of me.”
She noted her grandmother and Conway were the best of friends, and said it’s a tremendous honour to not only do her songs, but to perform the duets with Tre.
“It just doesn’t seem like it’s been that long,” she said. “Tre is such an amazing performer and sounds so much like his grandfather. Meemaw is so hyped up that we’re doing this.”
Asked if she’s shared memories of singing with Conway, Tayla said she talks about him all the time, and commented Tre is a good man just like his grandfather.
“Our show is rooted in their music, and we tell stories about them. It’s all about them,” she said. “I spend a lot of time with Meemaw, and she and I are very close.”
Tayla noted one story she heard Tre tell is that her Meemaw had a poster of Conway before she ever met him, but Tayla said she didn’t believe it. Later when she was chatting with her grandmother, Loretta talked about this, having Conway’s poster before she ever met him, and Tayla laughed, amazed that it was a true story.
“Every story that Tre tells is true, and I think it’s just so neat to see grandma from another perspective,” said Tayla.
Asked for her favourite song from the catalogue of Conway and Loretta duets, she said her personal favourite is one they don’t perform yet called “Feelin’s”, and her favourite solo by Loretta is “Here I Am Again”.
“I’m a big Loretta fan. I really love all of her songs. I grew up on the road with her so I know them all, and as an adult, my first music job was with her,” said Tayla, adding that her grandmother had a stroke in May, so she hasn’t been as active singing lately.
Both Tre and Tayla will sing about 10 solo songs each and then will perform a number of duets from Conway and Loretta’s library, and will ask the audience for any favourites they would like to be performed.
For Tayla, one of her favourite parts of the show is talking to the fans afterward about her Meemaw or about the music. “I’m a people person, and I love stories about Meemaw.”
Tickets for the show are available in advance from Music Craft, or will be for sale at the door.
By Greg Nikkel