Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe" stands as a testament to the enduring power of the American beat, capturing the essence of 1950s rock n' roll with its compelling rhythm and heartfelt lyrics. Crafted by drummer Jack Nance and the then relatively unknown Twitty during a tour across Ontario, Canada, in 1958, this song marked a pivotal moment in Twitty's career, becoming his first chart-topping hit. Watch this live performance from 1990 of the classic above!
The song's driving beat, characterized by a steady rhythm and a touch of rockabilly flair, provides the perfect backdrop for Twitty's emotive vocals. The lyrics, exploring themes of unrequited love and yearning, resonate with listeners, and the soulful delivery by Twitty adds depth and authenticity to the narrative.
Released as the B-side to "I'll Try" by MGM Records on July 14, 1958, "It's Only Make Believe" initially took a backseat. However, fate had other plans. A DJ in Columbus, Ohio, recognized the potential of the B-side, and soon it gained nationwide popularity. The song reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard chart on November 10, 1958, securing its place as a classic American hit.
"It's Only Make Believe" has left an indelible mark on music history, evidenced by numerous covers by artists such as Billy Fury, Child, and Ronnie McDowell. Notably, Glen Campbell achieved a top 10 hit with the song in 1970. Twitty's original recording, featuring the Jordanaires on backing vocals and iconic musicians like Floyd Cramer and Grady Martin, remains the definitive version.
"It's Only Make Believe" not only catapulted Conway Twitty to stardom but also became a quintessential representation of the American beat in the late 1950s. Its enduring popularity and continued influence on artists across genres reaffirm its status as a timeless masterpiece in the tapestry of American music history.