52 Guitars: Week 47
If there is anyone reading this who has heard of Glenn Phillips, I'd like to know. Without looking back over the whole list of people I've posted about this year, I feel pretty sure he is the least-known. I believe--again, without checking--that he's one of the two people I've featured whom I've seen in live performance. The other was Jimi Hendrix.
Sometime around the turn of the year 1967-8, between semesters at college, I went to visit some friends who had relocated from Tuscaloosa to Atlanta. They took me to a club to hear Ellen McIlwaine, a blues singer at the beginning of a moderately successful career. On the same bill was a group called the Hampton Grease Band. They were a strange outfit whom I would have compared to Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band if I had ever heard of the latter. Hampton, the vocalist, wandered around yelling and talking, while a pretty interesting pair of guitarists and a rhythm section played. One of the guitarists was named Glenn Phillips. Though I doubt I remembered the name from that night, I heard more about the band later.
A few years later the Hampton Grease Band put out a double LP called Music To Eat. I bought it, and only listened to it a couple of times. That was a disoriented time in my life, and it was a disorienting record, and I didn't want to hear it anymore. Hardly anyone did, apparently; it was a decidedly un-listener-friendly album, and reportedly the second worst-selling album in the history of Columbia Records at that point. I don't know what happened to my copy, but I wish I'd hung on to it, as it apparently became something of a collector's item later on.
Another decade and a half or so later, I ran across Phillips's name in Guitar Player magazine, and learned that after the Grease Band broke up he had embarked on a solo career, and though he'd had no commercial success was highly regarded by other guitarists. I've been meaning for years to find some of those recordings. I didn't find a great deal on YouTube, but what I found is quite interesting, and makes me want to hear more. Apparently he's still living in Atlanta, and for the past forty years has continued doing what he started doing in the early '70s--playing in clubs and making recordings.
These are all live performances. Neither the sound nor the video is of very high quality, and the performances are kind of rough around the edges, but I think you can get the idea.
"I Say No":
What I like most about his soloing is that it's so melodic, and at times almost joyful.
Oh, and about the Hampton Grease Band--here's a sample: