Friday, June 27, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Over the last several months when folks were putting together benefit shows dad would call in at some point during the show. So when I had to chance to fill in for dad last week and call in for a show Mick Lane was producing.....I'm not sure what the appropriate phrase is but I was looking forward to calling and talking to the crowd. Alas it didn't work out, there were some technical glitches that made a phone call impossible. So I am posting what I had intended to say. I know it's not the same and a day late but what the hell.

Hello.....I know you all were expecting to hear from Phillips Number one but you'll have to settle for Phillips Number two {cheap attempt at comedy}.

Like a master potter Utah's words and deeds were the potters wheel and over time he gently molded pieces of wet clay into a community a community that he knew in the end would not forget and you haven't....thank you.

Dad had had a line when he opened his shows. He would sit in his chair, lift his favorite Fedora from his head and place it on the back of the chair in a notch he carved for just such a thing, slap his hands on his knees and say "I come to in troubled times".
well I do indeed come to you in troubled times. George bush is still in the white house, were enduring a war with no end and on May 23, we lost one of our great elders. I say we because it was not just a loss for my self and my family but a loss for everyone around the world as well as a loss for the people that did not yet know of Utah or his great works.

Some deaths carry with more significance, they hang heavier in our hearts and linger far longer. Utah's death is one of those.

His heart may have worn out but it never failed him and it will forever beat in the homeless and the poor, it will beat in his fellow workers and the working class, it will beat in those who strive to defeat social injustice and his will forever beat in each and every one of us.

In every well planed civil disobedience there are people waiting in the wings to replace the people on the front lines that are taken away.

It will take more than any one person to replace Utah, it will take all of us.

So I say we take this night to mourn, memorialize and celebrate and when the morning comes we go out into the world and push our selves beyond what is normal.

Thank you and goodnight

Monday, June 23, 2008

One more thougth

After reading the post from Joanie it reminded me of being on the road with dad and walking the lobby before his shows. Dad always, I mean always walked the lobby before shows, mostly to meet and talk but also to size up the crowd and see if the show he had prepared was the right fit. When ever he saw young folks in the crowd he would nudge my elbow and say " those are Ani's people" he was so proud of their friendship. So whenever I am fortunate enough to meet warm and soulfull people like Joanie and her friend Jewls it reminds me of how many hearts and minds he touched and it reminds me of that rye smile and look of gratitude he got whenever Ani's people graced the audience.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

From A friend and fellow Anarchist

For Utah

We talk of him now
in the past tense
the is of a moment ago
has become was
the physical
now is spirit
it is time
the great distiller
reducing and refining
the stuff of lives
into essence
into the ether he goes
leaving the now
for the long road
of memory
Yesterday JB Freeman and his lovely wife Juanita came to SLC for a visit. After lounging around the yard we trekked downtown for dinner at Lambs Grill on 2nd and Main in downtown Salt Lake. Whenever dad came to town we shared at least one meal at Lambs, usually the meal of choice was Lamb Chops and water with no ice accompanied by a side salad with lemon. In true fashion JB & Juanita held to tradition. As for me I find it hard to eat anything that I can pet so I ordered dads runner up, Cesar Salad with blackened chicken.

After dinner we walked over to Library Square for the Ani Defranco show. Karla at Fleming's was kind enough to arrange tickets for us. It was the perfect diversion.
The city library has a very nice Amphitheatre for concerts. Made up entirely of grass
that gently slopes towards the stage with the Wasatch Mountains as aback drop. The night was slightly over cast and warm with a gentle breeze, a perfect Solstice night.
The show started a little late because Ani's tour bus had some tire issues in Telluride that set them back a few hours, I don't think they got into town until 4:00 p.m. Her crew did an amazing job getting things set up in such a short period of time.

There is something about out of door shows that perplexes me. I think some folks come to socializes while others come to hear the artist. when you have such power full poets and song writers of social conscience as Martyn and Ani something gets lost in the sea of people chatting to their neighbors. I don't get it. Other than that the show was just what one would expect of two such word smiths, both power full and timely.

We had a chance to chat with Ani for a few minutes after the show. She is so kind and thoughtful. Because of the tire trouble in Telluride the whole tour was sliding further behind schedule. but she still took the time to visit with us. She stood there with her beautiful daughter Petah in her arms obviously tired and a little weary and one of the firs things she said was "hows Joanna". Now there were any number of things she could have said in such a situation but it was obvious that she knew what Joanna is going through. What else would you expect from the woman dad often referred to as "The woman with the most powerful intellect he ever knew"
She is amazing.

Until next time

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hi Keith,
Well it's been four weeks. To be truth full I don't think I have started the full on mourning process. I am, sad... very sad at times and melancholy but I was always used to going long stretches with out seeing or talking with dad. But as the days and weeks go by I'm starting to get that heavy feeling that no, he's not just on another road trip and will be back at home soon but he is in fact gone.

JB Freeman and his lovely wife Juanita, two of dad's old friend from the Rose Tattoo are arriving in town today for a short visit. Coincidentally Ani is playing a gig in town so were going to catch the show. The great singer song writer Martyn Joseph is opening up for her. We first saw Martyn at the Vancouver festival in 04. He is amazing, him being from Wales I used to refer to him as the Welsh Bruce Springsteen but some how that seems a serious injustice to Martyn and how phenomenal he rally is. If you get a chance to see him perform, do yourself a favor and check him out.

Other news.
We are still working out putting a bench at the cemetery. We are trying to put our own bench at the grave site and not have to but one from the mortuary. It will be far more inexpensive and much more sentimental. If it works out I will build a simple wooden bench to go under the Black Oak dad is buried under.
I am also still working with Ken Sanders on republishing "The Star Light on the Rails" book of songs from the early seventies. For the most part it will be the same book with a couple of added songs and maybe some photos of dad over the years.

Caffe Lena is also working on a tribute show down the road. I am hoping to be able to travel to Saratoga for the show. The last trip I took with dad was to New York. He did a show at Lena's and a couple of days later we drove to Homer were he did a show at an old church that had been converted into a community center.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kate wolf Festival

We dedicate this year's festival to
Our Dear Friend, Bruce Utah Phillips, who passed on at home in his sleep Friday night (May 23rd).
We hope you will join us in sending loving thoughts and energy to his wife Joanna and the rest of the family.

And to Utah, may your journey on the rails take you everywhere you want to go,
with the fresh air blowing peacefully across your soul.

We'll miss ya bro' were a one-of-a-kind, a real special one-of-a-kind.

We will name the Revival Tent in honor of Utah's memory and call it "Utahpia"
Safe Journey...and in the words of Wavy Gravy, "Good Grief"

On Saturday, June 28, at 5:30pm there will be a one hour sing "Remembering Utah Phillips" at the Old Songs Festival in Altamont, NY. Several singers will lead his songs in between some of Utah's own printed words and his life story. When he came to Saratoga, NY in the 1970's we were also there at the Caffe Lena leading a folk community sing called the Pick'n and Sing'n Gather'n. In an interview by J. Arem on Aug. 9, 2005 he remembers his first encounter with organized folk music.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Chicago Benefit

We are in the homestretch.
It is tomorrow at 9 pm at the Heartland 7000 N. Glenwood, Chicago,IL with Larry Penn, Otis Gibbs, Kathy Greenholdt,Larry O.
Dean,Paul Caporino,
Mike Felten,Joseph Bella, Scott Dekatch, Corky Siegel and Jim Tullio. Silent Auction items from John Prine, Wilco, Myke Adams.

Proceeds to benefit the Phillips family and the Hospitality House shelter in Nevada City, CA
Be There.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Memorial Service Last Sunday

The memorial service for dad was held at the little league baseball field in Nevada City Ca. Dad had a great love for little league baseball, he admired the pure and simple way kids played ball. He attended most every game and even traveled a couple of times with the team to away games, I can only imagine the conversation on the road with the kids. Dad's favorite team growing up was the Cleveland Indians. the Indians is also the name of the little league team in Nevada City.

It was a perfect day for a memorial, bright blue sky, mid seventies and almost no wind.
The ball field in rimed by towering pines with a dirt infield and the typical signs adorn the out filed fence. The memorial had a very distinct baseball flavor. The base lines were freshly chalked the home team Indians dressed in uniform passed out the programs for the memorial and latter when it got warm they passed out water to the crowd that numbered 800 0r more that filled the out filed and bleachers of the ball park, the concession stand was open and the most popular item was the" Utah Special", a chili dog and a warm bottle of water a close second was the Hobo Special, a bowl of chili and a warm bottle of water, dad preferred his beverages warm.

There was a small eight foot riser just behind home plate for the speakers. It was nicely decorated by Amigo Bob with pine tree branches
I had the honor to MC the event which began with the singing of the peoples national anthem. For those who don't know the peoples national anthem is.... everyone sings his or her favorite song at the same time. Then the Indians hurler Zach White threw out the first pitch to his trusted catcher Michael Skerak. It was a perfect pitch, high and tight in the strike zone. Then the announcement was ball!

My little brother Brendan spoke to dads love of base ball. My little sister Morrigan spoke and read a lovely Wendel Beery poem. John Mccutcheon delivered a eloquent tribute and sang so Long It's Been good to know Ya. Some of the other speakers were John cloud, John spoke about dads vast knowledge. Tony Rohrieg from the Salt Lake branch of the I.W.W. and Mark Ross talked about dads union involvement. Dads Dr. Doctor Lang and cardiac Robin wright talked about dads heart condition. Poet molly Fisk read a poem and spoke of dads love of poetry. Joanna's son Ian Durfee read a beautiful passage and talked about Bruce the adventurer. Librarian Mary Ann Trigg spoke about dads love of books and how he used to hide his library card at the library in a book he knew know one would ever check out. Dad's booking agent and long time friend Jim Fleming spoke about Utah the performer and Steve baker and Mikhail Graham spoke about dads involvement in community radio and his radio show , Loafers Glory the Hobo Jungle of the Mind. Dear friends Brack, Bob, and Kuddie from the Rose Tattoo reflected on riding the rails and dads tramping days. Dads sister Deborah Cohen Lead the seventh inning Kvetch, we played take me out to the ball game and launched a model rocket into the summer sky. Actually the first attempt at launching the rocket was not so smooth in fact in didn't launch at all. I think it was one of the little leaguers, with a little prodding from his friends that fixed the problem. The second attempt was a success and the rocket soared into the air and believe int or not when the chute deployed the rocket dropped to the infield next to home plate. After the seventh inning Kvetch Joanna's other son Nicholas Tomb touched on dad's impeccable style. Nory Fussell talked about the towns peace center and dad's hand in it's beginning and sang a song. Janice O'Brien spoke about Hospitality House Shelter . The shelter dad and Joanna along with the help and support from many, many wonderful people in Nevada City and Grass Valley shelters about forty people a night. Dad's dear wife Joanna Robinson reflected on their life together and Brendan closed the show with dad's Hymn song.

I know I am missing some details but the whole thing was and still is kind of a blur. It was sad, touching, funny and beautiful. It was a fitting memorial to a truly remarkable man, a man that I am honored to say was my father.
If some of you read this and have more to contribute about the tribute please do post it or send me an e-mail and I will post if for you.
A pot luck at the Foundry followed the memorial maybe one of you can touch on pot luck. The whole day was overwhelming to say the least. I am still trying to process the whole thing.
Thank you, everyone , for the help and support it was an amazing event that could not have happened with out you, it was a real community effort and dad would have been proud of his home town Nevada City.

I first saw Utah with Rosalie Sorels at the Cherry Tree Music Coop
in Philadelphia. Second date with my singin' partner of 35 years in 1973.
We looked forward to all the times we saw him again.

The first time we spoke together was between two terrific sets at the Old Towne Crier
in Beekman, NY. (I think it was in 1981.) Utah was trying to interest the little ones in the crowd about the yo-yo he had carved. They weren't interested, but I was.

When he went out to take the night air on the front porch, I started up a conversation, which eventually centered on exactly why writing is so hard. It's the beginning, he said. It's always been that way. I felt the same, that after the train started leaving the station, chugging faster and faster, the words came out of the pen so much easier.

Why was it so hard to begin? Was it the teachers who put all those red marks on the page to "correct" us? Was it fear that it wouldn't be so good? Were we just plumb lazy? We concluded nothing, but it was a fruitful thing for me -- I wrote songs more consistently after that discussion than I had before.

When I met him again at the Bear Mt. Festival in 1982, he looked like a tanned slimmed-down version of himself. I hoped he remembered me, and he did. He looked at me and my 2-year old daughter riding in a backpack, and said, "Hi, good to see you. But what's that horrible growth on your back?" Talked about how he was trying to eat right and get healthy. He sure did look like he was trying really hard!

My daughter Sara (soon to be 28) barely remembers the night she inadvertently got him back for the gibe at her. We took her to the Towne Crier to see Utah. She was dancing in the center aisle with her arms raised, interacting with the grownups; we were trying to get her to sit down. Utah was tuned, seated on the stage and ready to begin, and the li'l upstart was stealing his thunder. I could see steam coming from his ears like a freight train engine's stack as it roars into the station. He leaned forward in his seat with an imperious look on his face, and addressed the little squirt: "Hey! ... Are you a kid, or are you standin' in a hole?"
Sara didn't understand him, so she turned around towards the crowd, cocked her head, and drew a gale of laughter, which stole even more thunder! He laughed, waited for us to grab her, and gave all he could give to the crowd. Great show.

This Friday night, we'll sing a passel of Utah's tunes, and we'll continue to all our lives. He's touched us in ways no other person ever did. I'm gonna sing "Daddy, What's a Train." It's Utah's song, so by way of introduction,
I'll start with these lines:

"He sat down on a stool, a guitar in his land
He told us of the characters he's met throughout this land,
He sang a song he'd written a dozen years before,
About the trains he knew so well that rode the tracks no more.

Spoken: Y’see he used to ride the rails the windy rain and hail
A drifter spinnin’ tales along his way.
His son is now all grown, has a family of his own,
But when he was small, old Utah heard him say.

"Daddy what's a train?....."

Fair Winds,
Steve Kaplan

Monday, June 2, 2008

Thank you all for the letters and phone calls. I have just returned to our home in Salt Lake. I will update the blog over the next few days. Dad would want me to describe the service and memorial for his many friends that could not attend, it was beautiful.