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Dwight Twilley

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  • Born: Tulsa, OK
  • Years Active: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


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Though the Dwight Twilley Band only had one hit (Twilley had another on his own), Twilley and partner Phil Seymour created an enduring and highly memorable brand of power pop that blended Beatlesque pop and Sun rockabilly "slapback" echo. Only a fraction of the band's early output was made available at the time, but these records are highly revered by power pop aficionados.

According to the legend, Dwight Twilley met Phil Seymour in 1967 at a theater where they had gone to see the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night. After the film they immediately went to Twilley's house to start writing and recording. The two continued the partnership over the next several years, calling themselves Oister and recruiting another part-time member, Bill Pitcock IV, on lead guitar. After developing their sound in their homemade studio, "the Shop," they decided to take a stab at professional recording and headed out to Nashville, though they ended up stopping first at the legendary Sun Studios. Jerry Phillips (Sam's son) was impressed enough to team them up with former Sun artist Ray Harris, who introduced them to "the Sun sound," roughing up their Beatles-obsessed style a bit and creating a unique and endearing sound.

The two signed to Shelter Records in 1974. Their first single, "I'm on Fire," became a national hit in 1975, peaking at number 16, with relatively no promotion. During an appearance on American Bandstand, the band previewed what was to be the follow-up single, "Shark," an equally infectious, hit-worthy rocker. The success of the film Jaws caused the label to reject the single, however, to keep them from becoming perceived as a cash-in novelty act. This was just the beginning of bad luck that would plague the group from that point on. Their follow-up single and completed album went unreleased for 18 months due to label problems, and a second album recorded in England was left unreleased altogether, creating a myth around the band in some circles while the general public quickly lost interest. The belated follow-up single, "You Were So Warm," ended up failing due to distribution problems. Predictably, when the album Sincerely was finally released, it failed as well. Seymour and Twilley befriended the like-minded Tom Petty and contributed backing vocals on several tracks. Petty repaid the favor for their second album, Twilley Don't Mind, for Arista in 1977. Despite the once again unquestionably high quality of songs, the album stiffed as well. Seymour left the band the following year, pursuing a brief solo career before lymphoma cut his life short in 1993.

Twilley carried on as a solo act, releasing Twilley for Arista in 1979 and Scuba Divers for EMI America in 1982, and found success again with Jungle in 1984, when he scored his second hit with "Girls." Wild Dogs went unnoticed on its 1986 release by CBS Associated Records. In addition, Twilley recorded an album in 1980, Blueprint, that remains unreleased and contributed one track to the 1992 Wayne's World soundtrack, "Why You Want to Break My Heart." In 1993, DCC released The Great Lost Twilley Album, which collected a fraction of the "hundreds" of unreleased songs Twilley and Seymour recorded in the early, ill-fated days. Two newly recorded songs appeared on the best-of collection XXI (The Right Stuff) in 1996, and in 1999, Twilley released both another rarities collection, Between the Cracks, Vol. 1 (Not Lame Archives), and his first new album in 13 years, Tulsa (Copper). In 2001, Twilley released The Luck (Big Oak), an album he had actually completed in 1994. The seasonal EP Have a Twilley Christmas (DMI) appeared in 2004, followed by Twilley's ninth studio album, 47 Moons, in 2005.

In 2007 he signed to Gigatone Records and a deluge of Twilley releases followed, including reissues of Tulsa and 47 Moons (with bonus tracks), seven volumes of Rarities discs, and a compilation of tracks recorded after Twilley left CBS, Northridge to Tulsa. In 2009 he released an album of Beatles covers titled simply The Beatles and followed it with an album of originals in 2010 titled Green Blimp. After Twilley moved to the Varèse Sarabande label, his 11th album, Soundtrack, was issued in late 2011.


Dwight Twilley (born June 6, 1951) is an American pop/rock singer and songwriter, best known for the Top 20 hit singles "I'm on Fire" (1975) and "Girls" (1984). Twilley and Phil Seymour performed as the Dwight Twilley Band through 1978, and Twilley has performed as a solo act since then.

His latest album, Always, was released in November 2014 through Twilley's own label, Big Oak Records.

^ "Trends Of The New Wave". Billboard 90 (2). January 14, 1978. Retrieved May 14, 2015. 

The Dwight Twilley Band[edit]

Twilley and Phil Seymour met in Tulsa in 1967 at a theater where they had gone to see The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night, and soon began writing songs and recording together. They continued their partnership over the next several years under the name Oister. Twilley wrote all the songs and played guitar and piano, Seymour played drums and bass, and both sang leads and harmonies. Guitarist Bill Pitcock IV played lead guitar on most of their tracks.

Twilley was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He attended Edison High School and went to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College from 1971 to 1973. Twilley and Seymour eventually decided to leave Tulsa and try to be discovered at a recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee. By sheer chance, the first studio that they wandered into was Sun Studio, where they met, according to Twilley, "some guy named Phillips." After listening to a cassette of their folk/pop/country blend, Jerry Phillips (son of Sun founder Sam Phillips) referred them to the Tupelo, Mississippi studio of former Sun artist Ray Harris, whom both Twilley and Seymour credited for introducing them to rockabilly and adding a harder edge to their sound.

Ultimately, Twilley and Seymour went to Los Angeles to find a label, where they ironically signed with Shelter Records, a label co-owned by Denny Cordell and Tulsa's Leon Russell, in 1974. Cordell promptly changed the group's name from Oister to the Dwight Twilley Band, which set the seeds for future problems arising from Seymour's anonymity in the partnership.

Their first single, "I'm on Fire", reached #16 on the charts in 1975 with relatively little promotion, largely because the band was in England recording its first album, tentatively called Fire, with producer Robin Cable at Trident Studios. The photos used on the single's picture sleeve were low quality from a photo booth, even less professional than the band's first promo picture (right). The unexpected success of the self-produced "I'm On Fire" caused most of the English tracks to be relegated to a second album, thereafter known as The B Album. Leon Russell then permitted the band to record new tracks at his 40-track home studio, where one of the engineers was Roger Linn, who also contributed lead guitars and bass to some recordings.

During an appearance on American Bandstand, the band played what was to be its follow-up single, "Shark (in the Dark)", produced by Twilley, Seymour and Russell. The success of the film Jaws, however, caused Shelter to reject the single, apparently to keep the group from being perceived as a cash-in novelty act. The eventual follow-up single, "You Were So Warm" backed with "Sincerely", failed due to distribution problems; just after the single was released, Shelter Records collapsed in the midst of a lawsuit between Russell and Cordell. The Dwight Twilley Band's completed album went unreleased for 10 months due to Shelter's switch from MCA Records to ABC Records for distribution, and The B Album was left unreleased.

When the album Sincerely was finally released in 1976, it surprisingly failed as well, peaking at #138. During this time, Seymour and Twilley befriended label mate Tom Petty and contributed backing vocals on several of his tracks, creating a long-lasting friendship.

Shelter then switched distribution again to Arista Records. ABC elected to keep Petty and J. J. Cale, leaving Twilley alone on the Shelter/Arista label. Pitcock became a credited member of the Dwight Twilley Band during touring and recording of the second album. However, that album, Twilley Don't Mind, proved to be another commercial disappointment in 1977. Seymour left the band the following year, pursuing a solo career with some success until he developed what proved to be terminal cancer. He died of lymphoma in 1993, and Twilley still does not perform Dwight Twilley Band songs that featured lead vocals by Seymour.

The Dwight Twilley Band albums were reissued in CD form with bonus tracks by the audiophile DCC Compact Classics label in 1989 and 1990. In 1993, shortly before Phil Seymour's death, the Dwight Twilley Band released The Great Lost Twilley Album, which collected a fraction of the "hundreds" of early unreleased songs Twilley and Seymour had recorded for Shelter, including several songs from The B Album and Blueprint, as well as a few alternate versions of released songs. However, once again the Dwight Twilley Band fell victim to some label politics, as EMI bought the rights to Shelter just weeks after the release, and all three of the DCC Dwight Twilley Band albums went out of print again.

In 1997, The Right Stuff, a reissue label owned by EMI, reissued Sincerely and Twilley Don't Mind with somewhat different bonus tracks from the DCC versions. They both went out of print the following year, when EMI discontinued the label.

The Dwight Twilley Band albums Sincerely and Twilley Don't Mind were reissued in a two-disk compilations by Australia's Raven Records in 2007 with still different bonus tracks.

Finally, in 2009, a tape of the Dwight Twilley Band's October 1976 concert at the Agora Theatre and Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio, which had been recorded for broadcast on Cleveland radio station WMMS, was remastered and released as a live album entitled Live From Agora.

^ Jennifer Chancellor, "Dwight Twilley is making music his own way", Tulsa World, September 5, 2010.^ Mack, Adrian. "Dwight Twilley Interview". Nerve Magazine, June 2005. Retrieved 8-22-2007.^ Benjamin, Kent. "The Dwight Twilley Story." dwighttwilley.com. Retrieved 8-22-2007.

Solo years[edit]

After the demise of the Dwight Twilley Band, Twilley continued as a solo act, keeping Pitcock on lead guitar and adding Susan Cowsill on harmony vocals. This lineup released the album Twilley for Shelter/Arista in 1979, although the album's most successful song, "Darlin'", featured backing vocals by Seymour. His next album, Blueprint, co-produced by Jack Nitzsche, was rejected by Arista after the failure of the 1979 single "Somebody to Love" although it was assigned an Arista release number. Blueprint ultimately was never released, keeping Twilley out of circulation until his Shelter contract expired at the end of 1981.

He then moved to EMI America for Scuba Divers (1982), a combination of rejected Blueprint tracks and new material. His follow-up album, Jungle (1984), produced his second national hit single, "Girls", featuring a counterpoint vocal by Petty, which also reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Billboard Top Tracks chart. His follow-up single, "Little Bit of Love", reached #77. Twilley left EMI America at that point, which once again dissipated his momentum from the hit. Twilley's 1986 album Wild Dogs was recorded for Private I Records, a custom label run by independent radio promoter Joe Isgro that was distributed by Epic Records; however, when Isgro was implicated in a 1986 radio promotion scandal, Private I Records collapsed. Instead, the album was quietly released by Epic's CBS Associated label, where it went largely unnoticed, despite the appearance of the last Twilley/Seymour song, "Shooting Stars".

After the failure of Wild Dogs, Twilley found himself without a label (or a lead guitarist, as Bill Pitcock IV had quit). Twilley wrote a parenting book based on his long-distance relationship with his daughter Dionne, entitled Questions From Dad. He then ironically titled his next album, intended for release in 1994, The Luck. The irony did not help Twilley with record label executives, and Twilley was unable to secure distribution for it.

In 1996, EMI issued a 21-song Twilley "greatest hits" collection entitled XXI, which included two new songs (one of which had been on The Luck) on its The Right Stuff reissue label, followed by reissues of the two Dwight Twilley Band studio albums the next year. All three of these releases again went out of print in 1998, when EMI discontinued the label.

However, in 1998, Pitcock rejoined Twilley, and the rise of digital audio meant that placing a record on a major label became less of a priority. In 1999, Twilley released both another rarities collection, Between the Cracks, Vol. 1 (Not Lame Records), made up of songs not owned by Shelter, EMI or CBS, and his first new album in 13 years, Tulsa (Copper Records). In 2001, Twilley finally released The Luck (Big Oak Records), although with some changes to the version he had completed in 1994. he six-song seasonal EP Have a Twilley Christmas (Digital Musicworks International, "DMI") appeared in 2004, followed by two more albums on the same label, his ninth studio album, 47 Moons, in 2005 and his first live album, Live: All Access in 2006.

Tulsa was sold to DMI (now Digital Music Group, Incorporated, or DMGI) in 2004. Additionally, the first two Twilley solo albums Twilley and Scuba Divers are available in two-disk compilations by Australia's Raven Records. However, Jungle and Wild Dogs have never been released in CD format.

In November, 2007, Twilley's DMGI catalog was acquired by DMGI founder and CEO, Mitchell Koulouris, who moved the artist to his new label, Gigatone. A post-major label retrospective titled Northridge to Tulsa (Twilley lived in Northridge while recording The Luck) was the first to be released by Gigatone (in December 2007). In addition, a new release of 47 Moons with bonus tracks and a remastered edition of Tulsa were also released by Gigatone in December 2007. Finally, seven volumes of outtakes, demos and live recordings in a series titled Rarities was also released by Gigatone. In 2009, Twilley released albums covering some of his favorite songs by The Beatles and other artists. In 2010 he released the album Green Blimp.

In November 2014 Twilley released his "Always" album through Big Oak Records. The 12-song LP features an array of appearances from power-pop and rock'n'roll musicians like Ken Stringfellow, Timm Buechler and Mitch Easter.

^ Dwight Twilley, Liner notes to XXI, 1996. The notes to the song "Grey Buildings" also discuss the Northridge earthquake.^ Cite error: The named reference Chancellor was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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07.17.15 Off Broadway Saint Louis, MO US