Singer-songwriter Dwight Twilley, known for such power pop hits as “I’m on Fire” and “Girls,” has died. He was 72.
His wife Jan confirmed a statement from Tulsa’s Church Studio, where Twilley recorded several songs including “I’m on Fire,” which read, “He peacefully departed this world, surrounded by the love of his life, Jan, and close friends. The loss is immeasurable, and our words can’t capture the depth of our grief. Dwight’s musical prowess touched countless lives, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of many. We are profoundly thankful for the enduring musical legacy he has bestowed upon us all.”
Twilley was born on June 6, 1951, in Tulsa, Okla., where he met and formed the music group Oister with Phil Seymour in the late 1960s, recruiting part-time member, Bill Pitcock IV, on lead guitar.
Twilley and Seymour eventually ventured to Memphis, Tenn., to pursue professional recording. The duo wandered into Sun Studio where Jerry Phillips, son of the legendary recording studio’s founder Sam Phillips, referred them to former Sun artist Ray Harris. The rockabilly musician introduced Twilley and Seymour to “‘the Sun sound,’ roughing up their Beatles-obsessed style a bit and creating a unique and endearing sound,” according to.
In 1974, Twilley and Seymour went to L.A. and signed to Shelter Records, co-owned by Denny Cordell and Leon Russell. Cordell changed the group’s name from Oister to the Dwight Twilley Band, and the two soon recorded “I’m on Fire” at the Church Studio in Tulsa. The Dwight Twilley Band debut single reached no. 16 on the Billboard charts in 1975 while the group was recording their first album, tentatively named “Fire,” with producer Robin Cable at London’s Trident Studio.
During an appearance on “American Bandstand,” the group was set to perform what would’ve been their follow-up single “Shark (in the Dark),” but Shelter Records rejected the single to avoid the Dwight Twilley Band being perceived as a cash-in novelty act following the success of Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws.”
Amid a lawsuit between Russell and Cordell, the band’s completed album went unreleased for nearly 18 months due to Shelter Record’s move from MCA Records to ABC Records for distribution; their “B Album” was left unreleased altogether.
The Dwight Twilley Band endured distribution problems multiple times, including for their follow-up single “You Were So Warm” and their debut album “Sincerely” (1976), which featured “I’m on Fire.” Around that time, Twilley and Seymour befriended Tom Petty and contributed backing vocals on several tracks, with Petty returning the favor for the band’s sophomore album “Twilley Don’t Mind” in 1977. Seymour exited the band the following year and pursed a brief solo career until his death in 1993.
As a solo artist, Twilley released his eponymous album in 1979, followed by his 1982 album “Scuba Divers.” In 1984, the musician dropped the album “Jungle,” featuring his second national hit “Girls” that also reached no. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. “The Great Lost Twilley” album, released in 1993, consisted of Twilley and Seymour’s unreleased songs.
In 1996, two newly recorded songs appeared on the 21-song best-of collection “XXI.” Twilley released both another rarities collection in 1999, “Between the Cracks, Vol. 1” (Not Lame Archives), along with his first new album in 13 years, “Tulsa” (Copper). In 2001, Twilley released “The Luck” (Big Oak), an album he had completed in 1994, and his ninth studio album “47 Moons” dropped in 2005.
His critically acclaimed song “Looking for the Magic” (1997) has been featured in such film and TV series as “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” “Backcountry,” “House of Cards” and “Mindhunter.”