By Thomas Conner
© Chicago Sun-Times
A documentary is in the works about Dwight Twilley, and in addition to featuring songs from the pop-rocker's four-decade career (including his pair of No. 16 hits, "I'm on Fire" in 1975 and "Girls" in 1984) the film features several new autobiographical songs Twilley wrote and recorded for the occasion.
But you know how film projects go — slowly. With no wrap date in sight for the film, Twilley went ahead and released the songs last year as "Soundtrack."
"This film doesn't seem to be speeding down the track, that's for sure," Twilley says. "I have no control over it. All I was in charge of was making this album. I did my job."
This is what Twilley does: cranks out album after album of remarkably consistent, solid power-pop.
He had his heyday — on Leon Russell's Shelter Records in the 1970s (with the Dwight Twilley Band that included the late Phil Seymour), recording hits with Tom Petty in the '80s — but after the 1994 earthquake in Los Angeles, Twilley packed up what was left and returned home to Tulsa, Okla. Ever since, he's been living in a midtown home with a converted garage studio. He's got nothing to do but make records, all day every day.
First came, appropriately, "Tulsa" (1999), then "The Luck" (2001), "47 Moons" (2004), "Have a Twilley Christmas" (2005), a live album, another best-of, an album of Beatles covers, then "Green Blimp."
"We almost always have a track going," Twilley says. "The best song is always the new one. We're about seven tracks into the new album now. The new one is 'Everybody's Crazy.' ... We were floundering in L.A. The labels didn't give a sh— about me. But then 'Wayne's World' happened [Twilley's 'Why You Wanna Break My Heart' was on the soundtrack] and we were able to come back to Oklahoma, buy a house and build a studio. In a way, the whole journey culminated in 'Soundtrack.' Now we're just making more records, all the time."
Twilley admits the post-"Soundtrack" work is slow going after the 2010 loss of Bill Pitcock IV, Twilley's longtime guitarist (and one of the most underappreciated ever).
"It's a drag," Twilley says. "Bill and I worked so closely, especially these last few years. We were still recording 'Soundtrack' when he died. It was strange in the middle of this autobiographical album to lose Bill, who'd been there from the start. And we lost [Twilley Band drummer] Jerry Naifeh a few months before. I'm the remaining Twilley Band guy, and I guess I'll still be holding the flag form my wheelchair."
A few guests have joined in on the new songs. Roger Linn (who played those great backwards guitars on "Sincerely") contributed to one track, 20/20's Ron Flynt on another.
Meanwhile, Twilley's been trotting out to a few rare one-off gigs.
"We took our pretty hot little new band to Atlanta," Twilley says of last month's Mess Around Festival, "and played to this kind of punkish audience, really young kids. They were singing the lyrics to every one of the songs. The sang all the lyrics to 'T.V.' Then, we were practically run out of town for not playing 'Looking for the Magic.' We just didn't have it worked up, but they were screaming for it at the end. It's a weird phenomenon with that song. We're rehearsing it. We'd better play it in Chicago."
HOZAC BLACKOUT FEST 2013
Featuring Dwight Twilley
with Pezband, GAMES, and the Sueves
• 8 p.m. May 19
• Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western
• Tickets: $25.00; (773) 276-3600; emptybottle.com
By Thomas Conner
© Chicago Sun-Times
Writing about these power-pop gods, it demands two posts each time. You need one for the guys — and they're almost always guys — who actually know who you're writing about. That's usually, let's see, you, you and definitely the guy in the back with the jean jacket and Chuck Taylors. Then you need one for everyone else, the one where I try in vain to inform without proselytizing and wind up practically berating you, dear reader, for not having discovered this genius before, you slacker.
Rock is littered with underappreciated pros, from Shoes and the Spongetones to Jason Falkner and Brendan Benson, and power pop is its landfill. Dwight Twilley is a name you might even have heard of, once upon a time. Try his biggest hit, 1975's "I'm on Fire" ("and you ain't, you ain't, you ain't got no lover!"). Or his next one, 1984's "Girls," with Tom Petty singing backup. Album after album of this stuff continued well into the '90s, beautifully crafted post-Beatles guitar pop with the consistent affectation of a rockabilly slapback on the vocals.
Twilley 2010 sees the arrival of the "Green Blimp," another dozen tracks Abbey Road-meets-Sun Records rock. (Sun's Sam Phillips was the first to give Twilley a break.) By now, he's got his formula down.
"It doesn't take me much time to write songs anymore," Twilley said in a recent interview from his Tulsa, Okla., home and studio. "Once I have the idea, it's a done deal. It can be done usually in a day. I get the body of the song in about 15 minutes. Then it's a matter of walking by it every once in a while, changing a lyric, teetering with the arrangement. ... We just have gotten better and better at what we're doing, more comfortable with the studio."
That's Big Oak Studio, a converted garage behind his midtown Tulsa home. The "we" included Twilley's wife and recording partner, Jan, plus original Dwight Twilley Band guitarist Bill Pitcock IV and, on this album, guests Susan Cowsill and Rocky Burnette.
The "Green Blimp" title track is very "Yellow Submarine," a dreamy, childlike tale about a fantastic dirigible domicile. "It's kind of a hats off to 'Yellow Submarine,' sure," Twilley said. "It's a fictional kind of thing, a kind of shelter" — Twilley's band started out on Leon Russell's Shelter Records — "a warm and fuzzy thing about floating above the clouds where everything's peaceful. The album itself ends up having that theme, a kind of anti-war theme, an anti-violence message. The 'Green Blimp' lyrics go, 'All the fighting beneath us / if we're lucky won't reach us.' It's about drifting through the clouds and not worrying about being robbed or hit by a bomb. A lot of the songs carry that same message. It just happened that way. It's been on my mind. It's not like I'm a protest singer but, for the love of God, we've got two wars going on. Yesterday on the TV they said 350 kids were killed in one day. That's a lot of kids. I don't feel comfortable talking about that. I'm not a political-type person. But I can say, hey, we could all be a little less violent."
"Green Blimp," Twilley's first studio disc since 2005's "47 Moons," includes real rockers ("Speed of Light," "Stop"), breathy acoustic ballads ("Let It Rain"), some swampy boogie ("Witches in the Sky"), all of it clocking in just under four minutes. The production might sound dated, but Twilley's consistency over the years is as much an advantage in his music. And he's as forward-looking in his business model as he is in his lyrics. "Green Blimp" is available as a free download at dwighttwilley.com and in as-needed batches of CDs. His Facebook page keeps the faithful informed and raises funds for the recordings.
Of which there are plenty more on the way. "I don't want to be one of those guys who retires. I want to make records. I've got a new one and another one almost done," he said. That includes music for an upcoming film about him, a documentary being filmed by Youngblood Productions. "I have no control over the film," Twilley said. "Every now and then, they come by and do an interview. I saw the proposal, and I heard them talking about hiring someone to score the thing with music that sounded like mine. That didn't sit well with me at all. I perked up, said why don't I do the music for you? It's the only thing I have control over. The soundtrack will be done and out before the film ever surfaces.
"And it's different, it's interesting. I'm doing stuff on a biographical slant. I'm thinking about the things I did with [late music writing partner Phil] Seymour, how we got started. It's a damn good excuse to make another record. There's one song called 'Tulsa Town,' another called 'Bus Ticket.' That one tells the story of how Phil and I, these dumb little kids, just drove through Memphis with our little cassette, looking for a record company, and some guy named Sam Phillips listened to it, and we had no idea who he was or what Sun Records was. He was just this guy who sent us a bus ticket to come back and record."
Dwight Twilley, 'Live: All Access'
By Thomas Conner
© Chicago Sun-Times
"Live: All Access"
(Digital Music Group)
The liner notes to Dwight Twilley's first live record include a mention of who provided the limos. This is hilarious for two reasons. First, it tells you everything you need to know about how Mr. Twilley remains a legend in his own mind. Second, I spent several years covering Twilley in his hometown of Tulsa, Okla., and the idea that anyone rode in a limo to The Venue, the plain-Jane club where this rollicking show was recorded last year, is akin to a tuxedoed prom stud helping his date out of a stretch Hummer for dinner at Chili's.
But that's the uncompromising beauty of Twilley. Relocated back to what fellow hometowners Hanson dubbed the "Middle of Nowhere," Twilley's regal air has never waned. He had just two Top 20 hits, ferpetesake — 1975's "I'm on Fire" and 1984's "Girls" — and I'm willing to bet you can't hum either of them. More's the pity, frankly, because (a) they're killer rock singles, especially the first, and (b) Twilley's defiant (stubborn?) maintenance of his Rock Star stance is a thrilling anachronism in an age in which the reports of rock's death are not greatly exaggerated. His voice is finally showing signs of wear here, but he charges hard through a criminally overlooked catalog of rockabilly-fueled rockers and McCartney-dreamy ballads. It's a helluva show, kids, swinging from the boogie of his own "10,000 American Scuba Divers Dancin' " to Larry Williams' chugging 1958 classic "Slow Down."
Rock on, brother D., and tell the driver to keep the champagne cold.
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
There's so much to do before leaving home to tour the nation in a rock 'n' roll band.
"I gotta bet batteries, strings, a foot pedal. There's hotel rooms to square away. Orders from the web site have to go out. A magazine wants a photo to go with an interview I just did. And who's gonna feed the turtles?"
This is an exasperated but excited Dwight Twilley. The Tulsa-based rocker hits the road this weekend — after a Saturday night appearance at Uncle Buddy's Roadshow in Claremore — for the first time in 15 years — since touring with Greg Khin.
Not only is he returning to the road — to support last year's CD release, "The Luck" — but he's heading out as the Dwight Twilley Band. The group heads through the Midwest before planning East and West coast legs.
Why is he touring again after all this time? It's business.
"We got roasted on 'The Luck,' " he said this week. "It's the first record on a label I own (Big Oak Recordings), we had a really good record to release, and we get it out there two weeks before 9-11. We'd done lots of prep work for it, but after that we were all just a bunch of zombies. So this tour is us going out to wave the flag and say, 'Hey, remember this record we put out?' "
The slimmed-down Dwight Twilley Band for this jaunt includes original guitarist Bill Pitcock IV, early drummer Jerry Naifeh and longtime bassist (and Nashville Rebel) Dave White.
The origin of the smaller ensemble has its roots in the recording sessions for Twilley's '99 "Tulsa" album.
"We've been doing the big show for so long, with the double drummers and everything, but there was a point during 'Tulsa' when just me and Jerry and Pitcock, no bassist, were goofing around and tracking it, and everyone looked at each other and thought it was pretty cool," he said. "So we thought we'd do the stripped-down thing for the tour — get rid of the bells and whistles and just leave the train."
The band is also rehearsing what Twilley called "the unthinkable" — a cover. He would not, however, tell us what song it is.
"I was thinking about Leon (Russell) doing that Rolling Stones song ('Jumpin' Jack Flash'), how he took a really standard song and really made it a Leon original. We've taken a standard like that and made it totally Twilley. I don't think I want to tell you what it is. I don't think it'll even be that noticeable. It'll probably sound like another Twilley song. Carl Perkins wrote it, as far as I know.
"I once did 'Money.' It's the only cover I ever recorded — the B-side to 'Somebody to Love.' It got massive airplay for a while, back in '79, and we loved playing it in the set because, for a while, people actually threw money onstage during the song. I remember Pitcock playing a solo that he couldn't tear his hands away from, and he was keeping this 20-dollar bill on his shoe. Some people threw checks — and they were good."
Twilley had Top 10 hits in '75 with "I'm on Fire" and '84 with "Girls." He was voted Artist of the Year at the first Spot Music Awards in '99.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
When Dwight Twilley released "Tulsa" in 1999 — his first
album of new material in more than a decade, his ninth in a
quarter-century — the CD garnered high critical praise (and
won him two Spot Music Awards), particularly in Europe
where critics and fans snatched up the disc indignantly,
practically scolding Twilley for being absent from
music-making all those years.
Little did they know — he was absent from the
record-store shelves but not from studios.
In the early '90s, before moving back to Tulsa from Los
Angeles, Twilley — who scored Top 20 hits with "I'm on Fire"
in 1975 and "Girls" in 1984 — recorded an album of new
material and called it "The Luck." Ironically, the album had
no luck at all. Producer Richie Podolor wasn't happy with
the offers he received for the album from record labels,
and the tapes wound up shelved, written off and eventually
Now "The Luck" is seeing daylight due to a sequence of
happy windfalls — the critical success of "Tulsa," the
formation of his own record company (the Big Oak Recording
Group, named for the most prominent feature in Twilley's
midtown Tulsa front lawn), and the addition of the Dwight
Twilley Band to the eligibility list for the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame. "The Luck" will be released internationally on
"It's been very frustrating to have these songs
collecting dust," Twilley said in a recent interview. "I
think it's a really serious studio record."
Some of the tracks from "The Luck" have shaken off that
dust in the last couple of years, appearing on the Twilley
rarities collection "Between the Cracks, Vol. 1." The title
track was re-recorded for "Tulsa," "because I think it's a
good song and I thought it would never come out," Twilley
Fortunately, Twilley's brand of rock 'n' roll — rootsy in
the tradition of a meaty, Sun Records backbeat and classic
in the sense of the purest pop classicism a la the Beatles --
is so timeless that "The Luck" still sounds as fresh as the
day it was recorded. Even the song with Tom Petty's backing
vocals — from tapes that are much older.
"Petty's on another album of mine and he probably doesn't
even know it," Twilley chuckles. "When he came in to do
'Girls' with me (in 1984), we also cut a song called
'Forget About It Baby.' I discovered those tapes while I
was working on 'The Luck' and — since I never let a good
song go — decided to redo some of the drums. I always loved
the song but I hated what the producers did to it. Then we
redid the bass, and then this and then that. Now the only
thing remaining from the original sessions are my and Tom's
Twilley's first outing to promote the "new" album
is a doozy: on Sept. 28, he's headlining the Serie-B pop
festival in Calahorra, Spain. Other acts on the eclectic
pop-rock bill include Mudhoney, Bevis Frond, Cotton Mather
and Death Cab for Cutie.
The new band assembled for the show includes Dave White
and Bill Padgett (the Nashville Rebels behind local
rockabilly stud Brian Parton), Jerry Naifeh (original
percussionist for the Dwight Twilley Band), guitarist Tom
Hanford and bassist Sean Standing Bear. Despite the
European success of Twilley's band and solo efforts in the
past, this will be his first-ever European performance.
"We recorded over there, but we never played live,"
Twilley said. "Clive (Davis, former head of Arista Records)
had this policy not to play his acts there. And last year,
we did this press tour across the continent behind `Tulsa,'
and the first question out of every journalist's mouth was,
'When are you coming?'"
That media tour opened Twilley's eyes to the differences
between American and European music markets — as well as the rebirth of his
own popularity there. One music-industry representative in
England floored Twilley by informing him that he had named
his son after him, James for James Paul McCartney and
Dwight for Dwight Twilley.
"Sitting down personally with the press over there, it
apparent that there's still a deep appreciation for the pop
song there," Twilley said. "When I was a kid in the music
business, the philosophy was, 'I'll give 'em the record
they can't refuse.' That's all disappeared here in America.
The song is no longer the focal point. It's the packaging.
The song won't save you here anymore. The business has
gotten too big. There are great bands writing
great songs over there, and they're getting by on those
songs. And, I mean,
they're still talking about great acts like Paul Revere and
the Raiders. Who over here still knows who they were?"
One American honor has edged within reach, though. This
year, the Dwight Twilley Band — the original mid-'70s
lineup, which included the late Phil Seymour, a local pop
talent of equal stature — has become eligible for induction
into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"There's no letter or announcement for that kind of
thing. You just suddenly
appear on the magic list. All of a sudden we were getting
tons of e-mails from people saying, 'Congratulations!' and
we had no idea what we'd done," Twilley said. "I figured no
one would remember me. I'm honored to just be on the list."
Other new eligibles include Bruce Springsteen, the Sex
Pistols and Blondie.
"Some people campaign for that, you know. They write
letters and take
out ads and really push to get inducted," Twilley said, then
paused. "I'm a little too busy for that."
After the jaunt to Spain, Twilley said he hopes to begin
recording a proper follow-up to "Tulsa." The album won Best
National Album and Twilley won Artist of the Year at the
first Spot Music Awards.
Mystery man: The debut of Doug Wylie
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
The Mystery Band has managed to live up to its name
Rumors are rabid about the band's club gig this weekend:
just who is this Doug Wylie, the Mystery Band's new
Is it really Dwight Twilley, or just some Twilley
The Mystery Band certainly has a history with Twilley.
Drummer Jerry Naifeh played drums and percussion on several
of Twilley's pivotal early records, including the 1975 hit
"I'm on Fire." Naifeh and Mystery Band guitarist Bingo Sloan
played on Twilley's latest album, "Tulsa." Longtime Twilley
guitarist, Bill Pitcock IV, was also once a member of the
The other current members are not enigmas to local music
fans: Barry Henderson, guitars and keyboards, from the
"Mazeppa" show's Bo Velvet and the Desert Snakes; and Rick
Berryman, bass, who fans might remember from the Push.
Twilley himself has performed with the Mystery Band. In
1990, the band lost two of its members — Chris Campbell and
Jim "Tank" Parmley — in an auto accident. Twilley and his
longtime songwriting partner Phil Seymour played with the
band in the interim. In fact, it was the last time the two
local icons performed together on stage before Seymour's
death from cancer in '93.
Now the Mystery Band is back in action, and this week
they're adding the shadowy Wylie. The band claims he looks
like Twilley and sounds like Twilley but that he's really
just a hot new talent they discovered in Okfuskee.
The band's new single, "Come Together," has received
airplay on KMOD this week. It's a sharp pop song, but that
voice sounds an awful lot like Twilley.
Twilley is cagey when you broach the subject.
"He apparently does all my favorite old rock 'n' roll
songs. He thinks songwriting is stupid. He's doing `Good
Golly Miss Molly' and stuff. He does it pretty well, too,
so I'm told," Twilley said.
"I hear he even tries to do his hair like mine," he said.
"I wish him luck."
Wylie himself could not be reached for comment. He's
been in seclusion with Chris Gaines.
Figure out the Dwight Twilley/Doug Wylie mystery for
yourself when the Mystery Band plays at 9:30 p.m. Friday at
The Break, 4404 S. Peoria Ave. Cover charge is $3.
Twilley's on fire, again
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
The star-studded Spot Music Awards show just added
Dwight Twilley — premier pop-rocker behind such early
hits as "I'm on Fire" and "Girls," — has been added to the bill
of the Nov. 12 concert at the Cain's Ballroom. Twilley will
headline the Tulsa-talent show along with the Tractors and
Admiral Twin. The free concert that night follows a
first-ever VIP awards ceremony honoring Tulsa musicians,
presented by the Tulsa World and its Spot entertainment
Twilley's performance at the Spotniks will reunite him
with original Dwight Twilley Band guitarist Bill Pitcock
IV, who hasn't played on stage with Twilley in nearly 15
years. Pitcock contributed some of his unique guitar work
to Twilley's latest album — Twilley's first new material
since 1986 — entitled "Tulsa."
And "Tulsa" is beginning to get around.
Recorded entirely in Twilley's converted garage studio
in midtown and released this summer on the American indie
label Copper Records, "Tulsa" was picked up just this week by
Castle Music, one of the largest independent record
companies in Europe. The company also has agreed to
distribute "Between the Cracks," a CD collection of rarities
and outtakes from Twilley's entire three-decade career,
released in the United States last month on Not Lame
"We got the deal!" exclaimed Jan Allison, Twilley's wife,
from the canned veggies aisle at the neighborhood
supermarket. She and Twilley were huddled in conference.
Big dinner plans were afoot to celebrate a record deal that
could be the beginning not only of Twilley's long-overdue
comeback but of the much-ballyhooed return of power pop in
"Everyone's been talking about how power pop was going to
make this big return, but it hasn't happened. These people
at Castle are telling me they want my record to lead the
charge," Twilley said. "They've picked up six other bands
from these labels, too, with the intention of starting this
pop revolution in Europe, where they're craving it. I mean,
people are going crazy to get these records over there ...
And if it happens in Europe, then it could more easily
happen here. We tend to take our cues from Europe on what's
cool." Twilley's been releasing occasional vinyl singles
in Europe for about a year through a French label called
Pop the Balloon Records. The label reports that Twilley's
singles have been the most successful sellers in its
Why is the Old World so mad about the boy? It may be the
Elvis Factor: Twilley never toured in Europe. Like Elvis,
Europeans have only heard the buzz about him and been able
to buy records, but they've never gotten to actually see
him. Thus, they clamor after the records with greater
"From their standpoint, I'm just something they've heard
about," Twilley said. "When I had big records here, the first
thing the labels wanted to spend money on was a tour of the
states. We just never got to tour over there. If someone
had said, 'Go play over there,' I would have. It was only
when we set up my web site that I realized how big my
audience is over there ... The worldwide reaction to this
record has made me go, 'Gah!' I guess I'd better get off my
butt and make another one."
Are there songs in the works for another record?
He simply chuckled.
"I always have songs," he said.
"I could make probably two or three records without
writing a single new song. 'Baby's Got the Blues Again' (a
song on 'Tulsa') is an old one that was on the original
demo Phil (Seymour) and I took to Shelter Records. I
thought that was a quirky and bold thing to do, putting it
on the new record. Funny thing is, that's the song that's
been spotlighted in most of the press we've been getting. I
look back and think, 'Well, hell, there's 13 or 14 boxes
with more of those.' That's what I raided to fill up
'Between the Cracks' — which is titled `Volume One,' by the
way. And, I mean, these songs seem to stand the test of
time. I don't think anyone listens to 'Baby's Got the Blues
Again' and says, 'Wow, that's a 20-year-old song.'"
Twilley hopes to mount a European tour soon to capitalize
on his new continental success, but it will take some work
to put it together. He hadn't even planned on playing
locally until the Spot Music Awards came along. "It was only
because of this thing you guys did — paying some attention
to Tulsa musicians — that I decided to play," he said.
In addition to suiting up with Pitcock for the first
time in a long time, Twilley said he's planning some other
surprises for the Spotniks show. Namely, he said he'll
probably sit down at a piano again, "which I haven't done in
years on stage but actually did on this record." Mostly,
Twilley said, he just wants to have a blast. "This thing
is like a special occasion. It's almost a partyish
atmosphere, I think. The key to the whole deal is just to
have a gas so the audience is aware they can have a good
time and see what these wacky Tulsa musicians are all
Also on the bill for the Nov. 12 concert are the Red
Dirt Rangers, Freak Show, the Full Flavor Kings, Brian
Parton and the Nashville Rebels, and Republic Records
recording artist Molly's Yes.
Twilley's "Tulsa" album has been nominated for the Best
National Album award, and Twilley himself is up for Artist
of the Year. Ballots for the awards run each Friday inside
the Spot magazine. The last chance to vote will be the Oct.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Dwight Twilley doesn't sit still. Even in his own home.
He's sitting cross-legged on his living room floor,
rocking back and forth, sucking Parliament cigarettes to
the filters. Sometimes he gets up and paces behind the
couch. He bites his nails like a new father outside the
He is a new father, really. His latest baby is being
born right here in this living room, on the stereo. It's
Twilley's new album — his first record of new songs since
We're in Twilley's living room in a nondescript house in
a midtown Tulsa neighborhood like any other. The dogs
frolic in a fenced yard out back. The neighborhood kids
loiter in the front yard, hoping to find one of the box
turtles that live underneath the property's massive,
signature oak tree. There are no fancy cars in the
driveway. Only the converted garage with no windows --
Twilley's recording studio — gives away anything unusual
about the house. No one would drive by and think this was
the home of a Top 40 pop star.
"It's only when I'm out mowing the lawn and looking dirty
and awful that somebody drives by and stops. 'Are you
Dwight Twilley? Can I get your autograph?' " he says.
That odd, windowless garage is where the entire new
album was recorded. It doesn't sound like a homemade
record, though. It sounds bigger and brighter than any
album released in his three-decade career. It sounds as if
he had a huge, major-label recording budget — or, as Twilley
is fond of putting it, "We tried to make this record sound
like we had a deli tray."
But there was no caterer, no staff of engineers, no
heady Los Angeles vibe intoxicating everyone in the
process. Just snacks in the kitchen across the breezeway,
Twilley's wife Jan Allison running the control board and
the laid-back comfort of Tulsa keeping the couple sane for
a change. In fact, the heady Tulsa vibe informed and
inspired practically every note, word and sound that went
into this new record — from the use of a recorded
thunderstorm and cicada chorus to lyrics such as, "I gave a
lot up for rock 'n' roll / I had a lover but I let her go
A quick scan around the living room reveals prints of
Twilley's paintings on the wall, a Bee Gees boxed set on
the stereo cabinet, Twilley himself jittering through his
nervous energy on the floor. At least he's still got the
energy, and at least he's home.
The new album will be on shelves Tuesday. It's called
All roads lead to Tulsa
It's 1970. Twilley and Phil Seymour have finally gotten
out of town. The two had met three years earlier at a
screening of "A Hard Day's Night" and discovered their
musical chemistry, as well as their desire to practice that
science far and away from Tulsa.
In a '58 Chevy, they head east to Memphis. Driving down
Union Avenue, they pass a storefront painted with the
moniker of Sun Records. "Hey, look, it's a record
company," Twilley says.
He and Seymour walk into Sun Records and talk to "some
guy named Phillips." They have no idea where they are — Sun
Records, the studio where Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis
and countless others were molded, talking to Sam Phillips,
the man responsible for their molding.
Phillips listens to the tape of songs by Twilley and
Seymour. He doesn't send them away. Instead, he sends them
to Tupelo, Miss., to see Ray Harris, who says, "Y'all sing
"We had no idea where we were, really. We thought Elvis
was a movie star and that the Beatles invented rock 'n'
roll. We heard this Elvis stuff and were saying, 'Hey, that
sounds like Ringo,' " Twilley says of the trip. "It made an
impression. That's what wound up setting us apart.
Everybody else thought the Beatles invented rock 'n' roll,
and we fused the two.
"Plus, when we came back, we didn't sing like (weenies)."
A few years later, after learning to blend the catchy
pop of the Beatles with the backbeats of classic rock 'n'
roll, Twilley and Seymour escape Tulsa again. This time
they go west, to Los Angeles. Once again, they start
shopping their tapes to record companies. "Leon
(Russell) had started Shelter by then, and that was the
last thing we wanted," Twilley says now. "We thought that was
the stupidest thing in the world. Every club in (Tulsa) had
someone singing like this — " and he launches into a wheezy,
whiny Leon Russell impression. "We drove 1,500 miles to get
away from that."
Still, during the pair's first week in L.A., someone
takes their tape to the Hollywood office of Russell's
Shelter Records. Within days, Twilley gets a call from
Russell's manager and label head Denny Cordell.
"I show up at the Shelter office and sit in the little
waiting room. The Shelter people are in listening to the
tape and apparently freaking out. Somebody said, 'They came
out here with a tape of 30 of these (songs)!' Denny walks
out and says, 'I've heard your tape. Here's how I feel
about it,' and drops a record contract in my lap. Then he
walks out, saying over his shoulder, 'You'd better get an
attorney.' That was it," Twilley said.
"Then they sent us back to Tulsa."
It's a chilly night early in 1975. Actually, it's early
in the morning, maybe 3 a.m. Twilley and Seymour are toying
around in the Church Studio (then owned by Russell) under
strict orders from Shelter Records to get to know the
studio and not — under any circumstances — record any songs.
Maybe it's the hour, maybe there are stimulants --
regardless, Twilley and Seymour buck the orders. Seymour
takes Twilley into the hallways and says, "Let's do it.
Let's record a hit. Right now." Building on a groove
Seymour had been tinkering with, and handing guitarist Bill
Pitcock IV the riffing opportunity of his life, the Dwight
Twilley Band records "I'm on Fire."
The Shelter people will be annoyed — until they hear it.
The single will be rushed out. By June it will hit No. 16
on the charts and stick in the Top 40 for eight weeks. For
the next 10 years, Twilley's career will ride a
roller-coaster of fame and frustration, scoring another Top
10 hit in 1984 with "Girls" and settling him into life in
The prodigal star
Fast-forward to November 1996. I'm at Caz's in the Brady
District, checking out the latest band to be graced by Bill
Padgett's thundering drums, a now-defunct act called Buick
MacKane. The singer, Brandon McGovern, moved from Memphis
to Tulsa just to be near Phil Seymour, who had died from
cancer a few years earlier. The influence rings in every
sweetened, Beatlesque chord.
Buick MacKane is the opener tonight. The main act is
Dwight Twilley. Most in the audience remember Dwight, after
all, he had some hits. Those still new to the Tulsa scene
probably don't realize he was a Tulsan, much less that he's
back in town. But the crowd is willing
to give his set a listen.
When Twilley walkes into the bar — feathered hair,
sloganeering buttons on his lapel — he turns heads not with
the ghosts of his good looks but with an intangible aura of
a superstar. His set on the floor of this tiny shotgun bar
was bigger and stronger than any other local show in recent
memory, and the songs were gorgeous, crystalline, catchy as
hell. What on earth was he doing back here?
"After the earthquake ('94, in California), the insurance
people said we'd have to move out of the house to fix it
and then move back in," said Twilley's wife, Jan Allison.
"Dwight looked at me and started singing, 'Take me back to
Tulsa . . .'"
Weary of the literal and figurative shake, rattle and
roll of the L.A. lifestyle, Twilley and Allison moved back
in '94. Twilley wasn't retiring. In fact, quite the
contrary — he planned to finally record a new album right
"But with fax machines and Fed-Ex, you don't need to live
in the big business centers anymore," Twilley said.
"I wanted to come home."
'I'm Back Again'
Before Twilley and Allison premiere the new record,
Twilley shows off his home studio. It's a masterfully
rehabilitated garage, an immaculate studio and a small drum
room; set into the door between them is a porthole from the
Church Studio. He points out a few pieces of equipment used
in the recording, and talks about how many favors he cashed
in to lure old Dwight Twilley cronies out to play on yet
another record — original guitarist Bill Pitcock, noted
local axmen Pat Savage and Tom Hanford, original Dwight
Twilley Band drummer Jerry Naifeh, Nashville Rebels bassist
Dave White and drummer Bill Padgett, among others.
"I used up every favor, burned every bridge. There's guys
who won't return my calls anymore," Twilley says.
But he doesn't seem to regret the effort. He's very
proud of the results and is quite sure that his moving back
to Tulsa was a great career move.
"This record wouldn't have been possible without the
incredible musicianship in this town," he says. "I've always
said that Tulsa musicians are the best in the world because
they have to work so damn hard, harder than anywhere else.
That was part of why I moved back. I wanted a band of Tulsa
musicians again . . . and I feel a real sense of
accomplishment that I've made a new Dwight Twilley record
here in Tulsa."
"Tulsa" will be released Tuesday by a Texas-based
independent label, Copper Records. It's the first new
Twilley record to hit shelves in 13 years, the first
recorded in Tulsa in two decades. A CD collection of
rarities and outtakes will follow later in the summer from
a different label. A new Twilley single — 7-inch vinyl, no
less — is the current best-seller for a French indie.
Twilley classics have popped up on every "power pop"
collection worth its salt in the last three years.
Twilley just doesn't sit still — especially when he's
Between the cracks
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Twilley's latest salvo includes not one but two new CDs.
In addition to the album of new songs, "Tulsa," Twilley soon
will release a CD called "Between the Cracks, Vol. 1." It's a
collection of rarities, demos and outtakes from the early
'70s to the present.
Twilley is an extensive archivist of his personal
exploits, and he's saved nearly everything he's recorded on
his own and with the Dwight Twilley Band. "Between the
Cracks" features several gems from this collection,
including several tracks from "The Luck" album, which was
never released. There's also a demo of a song from about
1973 featuring just Twilley and a piano.
"Between the Cracks" will be released by Not Lame Records
For more information on Twilley recordings, look to his
website at http://members.aol.com/Twillex.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Someone just had to have the Dwight Twilley rubber
stamp. She's probably got it by now, too, and is currently
stamping all her correspondence, memos and personal papers
with the old Dwight Twilley band logo. And she's happy as
The stamp is just one of many such vintage trinkets
available for sale on Twilley's new web site
(http:/members.aol.com/Twillex/), in the Twilley Store.
Twilley — the Tulsa pop star noted for such hits as 1975's
“I'm on Fire'' and 1984's “Girls'' — set up the site as a
way to communicate directly with his fans and to clear out
his inventory of rubber stamps, old stickers, Dwight
Twilley pendants and classic posters. Oh, and records,
“I've just always kept really good archives,'' Twilley
said this week. “I was digging through some video stuff a
while back and found some old films that I had transferred
to video. One of them turned out to be a rehearsal film of
the Dwight Twilley Band preparing for the 1977 tour. I
think it was shot at Channel 8. It's real nice footage of
us clowning around. That's a big seller. People have got to
have that one.''
Yessir, to a certain segment of bright-eyed pop fans,
Twilley hung the moon. He was, after all, a big-shot on
radio for a good decade. He claimed Tom Petty as a close,
personal friend. People in other countries know who Twilley
is. Heck, he performed on “American Bandstand'' three
So he must be a big, untouchable star, right? Probably
just sits at home on a pile of royalty money, playing
around with his web site.
Nah. Since Twilley returned home to Tulsa a few years
ago, he's let everyone know that he's just another Tulsa
musician. He mostly sits at home writing new songs and
enjoying the lift the recent resurgence in power-pop has
given his career.
He hopes to further prove the point with this weekend's
shows — two in a row at Steamroller Blues and BBQ, with the
raucous Brian Parton and his Nashville Rebels opening each
“I like to get out every now and then and play, just
like anyone else. It's not feasible to get out an play
clubs every weekend, but I play when I can ... I kind of
get jealous when my friends — all musicians — are talking
about their Friday-Saturday gigs around town. I wanted one,
especially because most of the shows we've been doing
lately are the big Balloon Fest and centennial shows. I
just wanted to get out and be one of the guys. I'm a Tulsa
musician, too,'' Twilley said.
The Twilley band this time around will include Tom
Hanford and Jerry Cooper on guitars, Dave White on bass,
Bill Padgett on drums and Twilley's longtime stand-by
percussionist Jerry Naifeh.
Fans ought to enjoy the live performances while they
can. Twilley is currently considering a contract with a
record label to record a new album. Since his rousing
performance at last year's South by Southwest music
conference perked up the ears of scouts, some major labels
have been toying with the idea of signing Twilley. At this
point, though, Twilley said he just wants to put out a
“I've got a lot of songs building up,'' he said. “If
this goes through, we'll probably be out from in front of
the microphone for a while.''
Meanwhile, you can check out some of those new songs on
the cassette packages available on the Twilley Store. And
don't forget those key rings. And the imprinted vinyl
editions. And the ...
With Brian Parton and the Nashville Rebels 10:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday Steamroller Blues and BBQ
1732 S. Boston Ave. $5 at the door
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Dwight Twilley Band
"Twilley Don't Mind"
(The Right Stuff)
Tulsa's own Dwight Twilley has more lives than your average
alley cat. The latest reissue of the Dwight Twilley Band's first
two albums is the fourth reissue for both since their original
pressings in '76 and '77, respectively. Every few years, someone at
an indie label discovers the records, their eyes grow wide as 45s
and they begin asking everyone they know, “Why isn't this stuff
hugely popular? Why isn't radio saturated with this guy?'' They
think they've found a pop music gold mine.
They have, of course. Trouble is, bad luck and delays caused
people to miss these records the first time around and, well, it's
hard to convince the masses of a second chance. Pity, because these
two records, particularly “Sincerely,'' are examples of everything
that is great about pop music. The songs are immediate but
timeless. They spark with youthful energy without being base. They
are utterly accessible but remain smart. “I'm on Fire,'' the
opener to “Sincerely'' and Twilley's greatest hit with partner
Phil Seymour, was recorded the night Twilley and Seymour first set
foot in the Church studio here in town — their first time in a
studio, period. “Let's record a hit record,'' Seymour said, and
they did. The chugging guitars, the layered vocals, the infectious
attitude — it's irresistible.
“Sincerely'' brims with that immediacy and remains one of the
most exciting records of my lifetime. “Twilley Don't Mind'' starts
with that same eagerness (“Looking for the Magic,'' featuring Tom
Petty's ringing guitar, is truly intriguing and unique) but slows
down before the flying saucer “Invasion.'' (This “Twilley''
reissue, though, features the best bonus tracks.) Still, these
records are more than mere echoes of Abbey Road — they are
diamonds lost in the rough, but they still shine.
Dwight takes flight
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Up, up and away ... yada yada yada.
There are lots of reasons to check out the Gatesway
International Balloon Festival this weekend, but one of the best
barely has been mentioned in the advertising and the hubub: the
festival features a fantastic line-up of local music acts.
For all those harping into thin air about how much Tulsa would
benefit from a music festival of all-local rock acts, this is it.
On Friday evening and all day Saturday, two stages at the festival
will be packed with the creme de la creme of local bands — from
hot pop and rock on the Z-104.5 FM “The Edge'' Stage to more
down-home and bluesy sounds on the KVOO Stage.
Rocker Dwight Twilley is scheduled to headline the festival on
Saturday night, and it's a rare opportunity to see this
underappreciated pop master burn up a stage. Twilley, whose top 20
hits were 1975's “I'm on Fire'' and 1984's “Girls,'' currently is
enjoying the revivalist crest of the power pop movement. Those two
hit singles are popping up on compilations around the world,
solidifying Twilley's importance in rock 'n' roll history.
“It's great. It kind of let's these songs take their place in
history in the pack with all the ones being remembered,'' Twilley
said this week.
The first two albums from the Dwight Twilley Band, “Sincerely''
and “Twilley Don't Mind,'' are scheduled for rerelease in October
from The Right Stuff record company.
Twilley, though, is no nostalgia act. Saturday's show will
feature a good chunk of new material, songs that Twilley has been
writing since he moved back to Tulsa last year and then raised
eyebrows with his showcase at the South by Southwest music festival
“We've got a lot of new songs that we'll be doing this weekend,
stuff we'll be trying out before the centennial show in
September,'' Twilley said. Twilley and his band will open for Leon
Russell on Sept. 19 as part of Tulsa's centennial homecoming
Twilley's band includes guitarists Pat Savage and Tom Hanford,
plus the rhythm section that doubles for two other Tulsa bands
(Crown Electric, Brian Parton), bassist Dave White and drummer Bill
“I came back (to Tulsa) because I wanted to create another band
of Tulsa musicians,'' Twilley said. “I think this is the best band
I've had since the Dwight Twilley Band,'' which included the late
Also on the bill, the Mellowdramatic Wallflowers have a full set
of shimmering new pop songs in advance of a new CD due any time
now. Jenny Labow, formerly of Glass House, is still supporting her
solo debut CD of breezy acoustic pop, and Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
once again steer their ever-winding wandering around the country
for another hometown gig.
Jify Trip is returning to form, too, after some juggling of
guitarists. After losing their original axman, Steve Francen --
formerly of Mellowdramatic Wallflowers — sat in with the band, but
his current project, Flapjack Cancer Co., didn't allow the extra
time. A sharp, award-winning player from Oklahoma City, Tony
Romanello, will be playing with the band for the balloon festival.
He's a great player, worth checking out.
The styles run the gamut, too, from the slightly wacky rock of
the Cactus Slayers to the intelligent jazz of the Jazzbos. The
festival's music schedule offers a fine sampling of what's going on
around town every weekend right under your nose, and the event
benefits the Gatesway charity. What's to lose?
Gatesway International Balloon Festival
When 3-10:30 p.m. Friday, 6 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where Occidental Center, 129th East Avenue and 41st Street
Tickets Admission is free
Parking Available near the sight; plus a shuttle bus will be running from
the sight to Expo Square and Broken Arrow High School
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.