For years, radio DJs and the country music industry have raved about the vocal similarities of country singer Jeff Bates and the late Conway Twitty. On November 11, 2014, Bates will finally satisfy those who have said it for years, when he releases ME AND CONWAY (Sony RED / Red River Entertainment), his tribute to the country legend.
“People always told me I sounded like Conway and though I never agreed, I always took it as a compliment,” explains Bates. “I think it’s because we were both from Mississippi, enunciated similarly and we both have that gravel sound in our voices. In 2002, when I met with Joe Galante and Renee Bell at RCA for the first time, I performed ‘Long Slow Kisses’ and ‘I Wanna Make You Cry’ for them and I learned that Renee had been Conway’s A&R rep at MCA and she had called the meeting to find out who the guy was that reminded her so much of her friend, Conway. I went to great lengths to explain that I really didn’t sound as much like him as she thought I did and if she would just A/B our voices side by side and listen she would hear huge differences. She just smiled her sweet Renee smile and said, ‘Honey, it’s not a bad thing at all. Yes, you sound like you but when you sing I hear Conway’s soul in your voice!”
It was a battle Bates would continue to fight at radio for years. He heard, “You sound like Conway Twitty” and even “You sound too much like Conway Twitty!” Finally he decided to let it go. “If people wanted to think that I sounded like him then so be it,” he says. “I could spend my life arguing about it or I could just continue to write songs and sing what I felt. Then about three years ago I decided I would ‘own it.'”
Bates decided to record a new album with six Conway songs and six others so that fans could hear the differences and similarities for themselves. On Me and Conway, Bates has included renditions of Conway Twitty classics, “Don’t Take It Away,” “Lost In The Feeling,” “I’d Love To Lay You Down” and “That’s My Job.”
Bates was honored beyond comparison when Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry member Loretta Lynn agreed to sing with him on her classic Conway duet, “After The Fire Is Gone.” Lynn, who has not recorded the song with anyone since the original version with Conway, agreed after she heard Bates sing the song at her Hurricane Mills Tennessee Ranch annual Conway Twitty Weekend. It’s been 43 years since the song was released in 1971 when it went to Number 1 on the charts for two consecutive weeks. Now, more than four decades later, the song will be heard again, introducing a new generation of fans to one of the greatest country music duets ever recorded.
Lynn says of Bates,
“He is one of the best singers I’ve ever heard in my life. I love him and Conway Twitty would have loved him!”
“Conway just always seemed to say the things I needed to say or wanted to say when I couldn’t find the words,” says Bates. “I would sing his songs in nightclubs and at shows throughout my career because those songs, his songs, meant something to me personally. I never met the man but he absolutely had a major impact on my career. I hope he would be proud of this tribute to him.”
Click READ MORE for the full Me and Conway Track Listing