Dwight Twilley, the Tulsa-born singer-songwriter who - along with his bandmate Phil Seymour - helped to define the concept of power pop for the masses, died on October 18 at the age of 72.
Twilley, who hit #16 with his debut single, "I'm on Fire" in 1975, "peacefully departed this world, surrounded by the love of his life, Jan, and close friends," per a statement released to Variety by his wife, the aforementioned Jan.
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 6, 1951, first met his future bandmate Phil Seymour in 1967 after attending a screening of The Beatles' first film, A Hard Day's Night. The musical sensibilities shared by the twosome quickly led them into a songwriting collaboration, one which initially began under the moniker Oister...and, yes, we did spell that correctly. Within this musical framework, Twilley wrote all the songs and played guitar and piano, Seymour played drums and bass, and both sang leads and harmonies, with Bill Pitcock IV later joining them on lead guitar.
There wasn't much of anywhere for Oister to go without leaving Tulsa, so Twilley and Seymour headed to Memphis, Tennessee, where they promptly crossed paths with Jerry Phillips, son of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, who steered them toward producer Ray Harris. By 1974, they were off to Los Angeles, where they signed to Shelter Records, co-owned by Leon Russell and Denny Cordell, and it was Cordell who had them change their name to The Dwight Twilley Band, a decision which cause problems with Seymour not too far down the road.
If The Dwight Twilley Band didn't qualify as an overnight sensation, they came pretty darned close, with their first single, "I'm on Fire," finding fast success on the Billboard Hot 100. The song, which was recorded in a single night at The Church Studio in Tulsa, led to the band making an appearance on American Bandstand, but the follow-up single, "You Were So Warm," got caught up in the shuffle of a battle between the founders of Shelter Records, and for the same reason, there was a delay in the release of the band's debut album, Sincerely, one which led to the LP underperforming and putting the kibosh on any momentum they might've achieved with "I'm on Fire."
Alas, The Dwight Twilley Band's 1977 sophomore effort, Twilley Don't Mind, made even less of a commercial impact than its predecessor, but it did feature the cult classic single "Looking for the Magic," which featured guitar work from Twilley's then-labelmate, Tom Petty. When Twilley and his band made an appearance on the short-lived Saturday morning series, Wacko, Petty was present to play his part and, one presumes, offer some moral support.
In the wake of Twilley Don't Mind, Seymour opted out of The Dwight Twilley Band in favor of a solo career, which in turned more or less forced Twilley to do the same. Although his first few albums as a solo artist failed to make much headway in terms of sales, the tide turned slightly with the release of 1984's Jungle, which spawned the hit song - and high-rotation video - "Girls." The single matched the success of "I'm on Fire," also climbing to #16 on the Hot 100. In addition, "Little Bit of Love" proved to be a minor hit, topping out at #77.
Also on Jungle was a track called "Why You Wanna Break My Heart," a song which had enough commercial potential that it found its way onto the soundtrack for the 1984 film Body Rock. Although the song didn't turn into much as a result of its inclusion on that soundtrack, it found a new life via another soundtrack almost a decade later, when it was recorded by Tia Carrera and featured prominently in Wayne's World.
Although Twilley would find no further major-label success from this point onward, it would likely surprise the casual fan to find out just how many albums he released over the course of his career, including a number of rarities collections that provided a more detailed look into his work as a songwriter and musician. His final studio album was 2014's Always,