Remembering the Great Power Pop Pioneer Dwight Twilley On All Mixed Up
Tulsa’s Dwight Twilley is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of power pop.
A musical genre defined by catchy guitar hooks, memorable melodies, contagious vocals filled with harmonies, it draws heavily from the British Invasion groups of the mid-1960’s.
The Tulsa Sound that Twilley was such an integral part of included the legendary Leon Russell and Tom Petty who recorded some of his earliest Heartbreakers-era songs in Tulsa.
Twilley passed away on Wednesday October 18 at his home in Tulsa at the age of 72. This previously unaired interview with Dwight Twilley was recorded in April 2023.
JIM MONAGHAN – It’s 105.5 WDHA here on All Mixed Up. If you’ve listened to me for any amount of time, you know I am a huge fan of this artist, Dwight Twilley. Good morning, and welcome to “Joisey.”
DWIGHT TWILLEY – Thank you, sir.
JM – The new compilation, The Best of Dwight Twilly. The Tulsa Years 1999 to 2016, Volume One, has just been issued on CD and vinyl. It is chock full of some great tracks. Dwight, what was the best part of putting this compilation together?
DT – Really, it was just kind of fun going back through all the songs that we’ve done since 1999, all the recording we’ve done ’99. I think that was the year of the earthquake, right?
JM – Yes.
DT – So we just kind of built our own studio onto our house here in Tulsa, and we just started cutting like crazy people, really having a great time.
JM – When people talk about the Tulsa Sound, a handful of names come to mind, and they’re all very diverse. You get Leon Russell, you get you, you get JJ Cale. What is it about the Tulsa Sound for you?
DT – To me, it never really existed. There’s just always been a lot of great musicians coming out of, you know, a lot of that was all under the glory of Leon. He was kind of the king and the boss of the whole. And when you would record here, there would be a ton of great musicians available to sit in on everything.
JM – Not unlike what went on in Los Angeles with the Wrecking Crew, for example.
DT – Yes, very much.
JM – And I think what people don’t realize, Dwight, is over that period of time from ’99 to 2016, you’ were incredibly prolific. I think you did six different CDs plus a Beatles cover album, so there was a lot of material to go through.
DT – Yeah, for sure. It was a lot of fun sifting through.
JM – There are two rabbit holes that I go down frequently, Dwight. One is a Motown rabbit hole where I could just listen to those great tracks forever. And then there’s power pop, and invariably your music is a big part of that rabbit hole. When you go down a musical rabbit hole, where do you end up?
DT – You know, early Beatles.
JM – I wouldn’t necessarily consider them power pop, but there’s certainly a big factor of that in their music. And that Beatles record that you did had some wonderful tracks on it.
DT – Yeah, it was a lot of fun making that.
JM – I think, for me, the ones that stood out were “Helter Skelter,” “in My Life,” I love the twist you put on that, and “Drive My Car,” which is perfect for you.
DT – Yeah, those are great.
JM – And I assume by the title of this compilation, The Tulsa Years 1999 to 2016, Volume One, I’m assuming there’s going to be a Volume Two.
DT – Absolutely. It already exists. This one is 20 songs and there’s another 20-song album already in the can ready to go.
JM – If you had to define power pop, Dwight, what would you describe it as?
DT – Kind of like what you were talking about. Probably the best example to me of a power pop band, the best power pop band that ever existed was the Beatles.
JM – But they did so many other things; when I think of power pop, I think know, maybe somebody like The Cars or maybe someone like Big Star. I think some of Todd Rundgren’s early work fits in there as well. And then you and the work that you did with Phil Seymour as well, whether it’s the jangly guitars or the harmonies and the vocals, there’s something special about that.
DT – Yeah, it was for me. I was always comfortable in that suit.
JM – For listeners who want to learn more, they can go to dwighttwilley.com or follow you on Twitter @dwighttwilley. And again, the new compilation, The Best of Dwight Twilley the Tulsa Years 1999 to 2016, Volume One, available on CD and vinyl. Dwight, thank you so much for calling in this morning. A best of luck with the compilation and looking forward to Volume two as well.
DT – Thanks for having me.