With a voice as deep as his pompadour was high, Conway Twitty scored 55 Number One country hits by 1990, with his biggest, “Hello Darlin’,” released 50 years ago on March 23rd, 1970. Its spoken introduction — delivered in a come-hither tone by Twitty — remains one of the most iconic opening lines in country music. Penned in 1960 by the Mississippi native born Harold Lloyd Jenkins, the song was relegated to the storage bin at the time because he had no outlets for his country material. But after signing to Decca Records’ country division by the end of the decade, Twitty played “Hello Darlin’” for producer Owen Bradley, who suggested he speak the two words rather than sing them. He did, and the sensual intro marks the only time the title phrase is actually heard in Twitty’s hit.
Conway Twitty died in 1993 at 59 years old, but his memory would be routinely resurrected in one of the oddest places for a country-music legend: the notoriously off-kilter (and off-color) FOX animated series Family Guy. Beginning in March 2007, in an episode in which Peter Griffin smokes weed with President Bill Clinton, a pig farmer introduces a clip of Twitty singing his 1978 hit “Your Love Had Taken Me That High.” Another Twitty entry, “You’ve Never Been This Far Before,” appears later in the same episode, introduced by Alexander Graham Bell.
In November 2007, “Hello Darlin’” made its Family Guy debut, as part of an episode called Peter’s Daughter. When the episode’s titular subject, Meg Griffin, is jilted at the altar after a pregnancy scare, her dad apologizes to her for his role in trying to force the marriage. Concerned for the wedding guests, Peter says, “The problem now is these people are expecting a show.” Turning to face the camera, he breaks the fourth wall and addresses viewers with, “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Conway Twitty!”
A couple of years later, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane explained that he wasn’t even in the room when the writers first decided to incorporate Twitty clips into the series — and let them play out for a uncomfortably long time. But his explanation as to why Twitty was the perfect choice for such an unorthodox running gag isn’t likely to win over many of the Country Music Hall of Fame member’s most ardent fans.
“He’s just the most astonishingly uncharismatic performer in the history of the business,” MacFarlane said on a 2009 episode of Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show, hosted by the actor-comedian.
Although he remains one of country music’s most popular and beloved entertainers, Twitty’s legacy did suffer another blow in 2007 when George Strait’s 56th Number One country song topped the chart, bumping Twitty and his 55 Number Ones into second place.
And Twitty continues to pop up on Family Guy. As recently as earlier this month, he was referenced in a scene in which Peter, on his deathbed, sees a vision of the country singer. “Conway Twitty is here and he’s pissed! Oh wait, he’s wearing the Darth Vader helmet,” he says, alluding to another Twitty cameo in Family Guy‘s Star Wars parody. “Nevermind he’s cool with it.”