What did DAVIE ALLAN & THE ARROWS, THE DWIGHT TWILLEY BAND and THE DREAM SYNDICATE and all have in common? Bassist Dave Provost, that’s who. Who has played in musical aggregations with the likes of AL GREEN, SKY SAXON, and KATHY VALENTINE? Dave Provost has.
Dave is a kind of rock n roll Zelig, somehow popping up at all the crucial turns and twists in LA rock history during the past 4+ decades. Over the years his formidable musical & rhythmic chops got him seats next to some seriously world-class musicians, while his gregarious, outgoing nature had all the rest inviting him to their after-gig parties. And now, he’s now spilling the beans about it all, starting with this post.
This is really, really good news to those of us who appreciate just where this man’s walked and rocked in his lifetime. So please: do take a seat at the feet of Mr Dave Provost for a spell, and follow him in his search for lost rock n roll time.
wight Twilley and Phil Seymour were from Tulsa, Oklahoma. They had first met while waiting in line to see A Hard Days Night, and later became the standard bearers of Pure Pop. The soaring vocals, rockabilly guitar, and teenage beat of their hit “I’m On Fire” was a telegram that read better days are just around the corner. It announced the end of the disco era. The fact that they looked good didn’t hurt either.
Contract problems eventually led to a split between the two singers of the Dwight Twilley Band. My group The Textones had backed Phil Seymour on the demos that landed him on the new Boardwalk label. Record mogul Neil Bogart was rolling in dough from his years of success with Casablanca, and Phil was his new Star.
I was working as a hotel bellhop when I got the offer to play with Phil. I thought I’d won the lotto when I received an endorsement to Rickenbacker Guitars, but this was the big time. “Precious To Me” was a hit, and Phil had a golden voice.
Within a week we were appearing on TV’s American Bandstand. After the taping I got that postpartum depression that happens after a good gig, so I left for an evening of adult beverages with Dick Clark’s assistant. I’m a lightweight when it comes to drinking. After she drove me home, she had me tie her up. I then walked into the living room, and passed out on the couch. When I awoke, I looked at the clock: I had five minutes to get to the hotel and start my shift. After work I went home, and the police greeted me at the door. Apparently, they’s been called about the screams coming from my bedroom. The girl didn’t press charges, and I apologized for not remembering that she was there.
Bogart had rented a posh modernist house for Seymour in the Hollywood Hills. Phil was overwhelmed by his new Teen Idol status. Even the critics loved him. He was such a sweet, talented bumpkin. A tiny guy like Phil was not a good candidate for cocaine. I never liked the stuff, and that made me the adult in the band. Bogart even offered me a raise just to babysit Phil, which I declined. After Seymour forgot to show up for his opening slot with REO Speedwagon in San Diego, he became showbiz poison. A few dates on an Alice Cooper tour didn’t help to stop Phil’s downward spiral either. His coke dealer became his new manager. I went back to work at the hotel with my tail tucked between my legs.
Phil did eventually clean up and reinvented himself as drummer/singer with Carla Olson’s Textones, who were then signed to A&M.
The one common thread in the journey of Phil Seymour and Dwight Twilley was guitarist Bill Pitcock IV. He was the official third member in the Dwight Twilley Band, and was the catalyst that made the magic happen. His lack of teen appeal had always relegated him to the shadows of the lime light. Bill was the farmer in a room full of movie stars, but he was also the only guy that knew the secret ingredient to the family recipe. Dwight and Phil were aware of that, and both kept him on a retainer at the same time.
After five years of legal hassles with Shelter Records, Twilley was now free. An opulent deal was struck with EMI. Dwight had many finished songs recorded for his new label debut, Scuba Divers, but he needed to flesh out the rest of the LP.
I had previously recorded with the three original Dwight Twilley Band members on “Suzy Glider” which was used as the B side of Phil’s “Precious To Me” 45 (the first pressing had “Baby It’s You” as the flip, and was quickly changed when that song was chosen as the second single). I had also played live with Twilley a few times. My favorite show was at a child’s backyard birthday party in Sherman Oaks. I don’t think that the neighbors fully understood it’s historical importance; it was possibly the last time that the three founding members ever appeared together.
Bill Pitcock liked my jokes and we sounded great together in Phil’s band, so off we went to the wonderful world of Twilley.
Dwight is an auteur. He needs to create, and excels in the process. When he’s not writing songs, he’s painting abstract art, or writing books – and not in a dilettante way either. So it made sense that he was a perfectionist in the studio. I always loved watching him work; he was very fond of the tricks used by Phil Spector. He’d do things like tape down the keys of a baby grand, and beat it with a rolled up news paper to accent a chord change.
On the song “I’m Back Again” Dwight decided to record the band live in the studio. He had never done this before. Our line up was Dwight, Bill, John Cowsill on drums, and myself. John had broken his left arm, and had it in a sling. He had to play that song for 32 takes with just one arm before we finally nailed one that Dwight was happy with. It’s not much of stretch to describe Twilley as The Beatles and Elvis rolled up in one crazy ass Okie. I rank the early records up there with Big Star, and The dBs for off-center Pop greatness.
Twilley lives in Tulsa now, and has a great new album out. Phil passed away in 1993, and Bill in 2011. Dwight was at the bedside of both.
- Dave Provost