Poor Dwight Twilley has to be one of the most talented, yet also the most star-crossed, musicians to ever have a big hit on the charts since Badfinger. Forming the Dwight Twilley Band in 1967 with his Oklahoma schoolmates Phil Seymore and Bill Pitcock IV, Twilley and his young buddies (all only 16 years old) spent the majority of their days in school and their nights cutting demos in Twilley’s makeshift studio.
By 1974 Twilley and the band (then known as Oister) had played enough gigs and gotten enough good press to make a name for themselves regionally and during a trip through Memphis ran into a record producer who used to be an artist for Sun. Taking an interest in Twilley’s songs, the producer took Twilley to his studio and was able to capture Twilley’s mix of Merseybeat pop and add some Memphis rock and roll to Twilley’s sound. While nothing came of the demos, Twilley and Seymore moved back to Tulsa with a more concrete vision of how they wanted their music to sound. Eventually hooking up with Denny Cordell and Leon Russell, who were co-owners of Shelter Records at the time, Twilley and his band went into the studio and immediately recorded their first hit, “I’m On Fire”. Not anticipating the song doing as well as it did, the band had recorded no album to follow it up. Quickly they went into the studio to record some new songs, while recycling others from other aborted projects.
Unfortunately, the haste was for naught. Due to distribution problems at Shelter and other record company shenanigans, the album didn’t come out until a year and a half later, after the band had lost all momentum. Though it sold poorly, Sincerely is fantastic, with an equal mixture of Beatles-like pop and Sun-studios rockabilly elements, forming a hybrid few had ever explored then or since. Unfortunately, record company woes struck again and Twilley’s next album Twilley Don’t Mind also trickled out much later than expected to little fanfare, though the album is even better than his first. Thoroughly disappointed, Seymore bailed and began a solo career of his own before dying of lymphoma in the early ’90’s.
Though Twilley has recorded steadily (albeit on small labels for most of his career) despite having one hit in the early ’80’s one can say his career never recovered from all the derailments around these two albums. Raven has wisely matched both of them up here and they really are fantastic. One can only imagine how Twilley’s career would have been different if Twilley had been able to follow up his single’s smashing success. Still, these are great albums with catchy songs and great harmonies from Seymore and incendiary guitar from Pitcock. It’s almost bittersweet for all the what-could-have-been’s but I implore you to check them out. Everybody says Big Star was the most interesting power pop of the ’70’s. I say Twilley has them beat. You decide, but either way, this stuff is fantastic.