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Threefer: Dwight Twilley Band

Power pop legend Dwight Twilley, best known for the Top 20 hit single “I’m on Fire,” passed away on October 18. Twilley reportedly suffered a stroke while driving near his native Tulsa, Oklahoma home, fatally losing control of his vehicle. He was 72.

Twilley teamed with fellow Oklahoman Phil Seymour as the Dwight Twilley Band in the 1970s. They met in Tulsa in 1967 at a screening of A Hard Day’s Night, and were so inspired by The Beatles that they immediately began writing songs at Twilley’s house. A trip to Memphis’s Sun Studios in the early ‘70s led to a meeting with rockabilly musician Ray Harris, then vice president and producer for Hi Records. Harris was impressed by the duo and produced some demos for them at his studio in Tupelo, Mississippi. During this period, Twilley and Seymour were exposed to pre-Beatles rock ‘n’ roll and the trademark “slapback” echo of Sun Records. This proved to be a major influence on their melodic yet gritty pop-rock.

In 1974, Twilley and Seymour drove to Los Angeles, eventually signing with Leon Russell’s Shelter Records. Their debut single, “I’m on Fire,” hit radio in the spring of ‘75, and it was so infectious that it made the top 20 without any promotion. A follow-up single, “Shark (In the Dark),” was also recorded, but got shelved by a label exec who feared the group would be seen as a novelty act trying to cash in on the new box office smash Jaws. Unfortunately, it would be a year after “I’m on Fire” hit before the group’s debut album, Sincerely, was released, and they never recovered from the loss in momentum, finally disbanding in 1978.

Twilley and Seymour each launched solo careers post-Dwight Twilley Band. Twilley’s solo peak was the single “Girls,” which shot to #16 in 1984. Seymour’s 1981 single “Precious to Me” made our 1981 one-hit wonders list. Phil Seymour tragically passed from complications of lymphoma in 1993 at the age of 41.

The Dwight Twilley Band left behind two near-perfect power pop albums, 1976’s Sincerely and 1977’s Twilley Don’t Mind. I highly recommend the 2007 CD compilation from Australia’s Raven Records, which includes the two albums and four bonus tracks on one disc.

Here are three great nuggets from The Dwight Twilley Band.

“I’m on Fire”

Songwriter: Dwight Twilley
Released: 1975
Charts: #16 on the Hot 100

No power pop playlist is complete without this classic.

“You Were So Warm”

Songwriter: Dwight Twilley
Released: 1976
Charts: Did not chart

Lovely harmonies warm the soul on this single that should’ve been a hit.

“Looking for the Magic”

Songwriter: Dwight Twilley
Released: 1977
Charts: Did not chart

Labelmate Tom Petty played guitar on this track, which decades later featured in the 2011 horror flick You’re Next.

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