Papa” John Phillips

Papa” John Phillips
Known for his trademark Russian Kossack fur hat, John Phillips was a talented musician and songwriter and played an important role in the development and maturation of Rock-n-Roll. He started out as a folk guitar player/singer for the Journeyman. When the folk scene dried-up after Dylan went electric he went shopping for a new act. With Michelle Phillips (his wife) , Denny Doherty & Cass Elliot they formed the “Mama’s and the Papa’s”. The group spent most of 1965 honing their act and consuming a gallon bottle of LSD-25 on the island of St. Croix. With no money, no record deal and future in question “Papa” John and Michelle found themselves wandering the streets of New York. The New York cold must of revived some LSD deadened brain cells cause he wrote the song that would set the course of his career : “California Dreamin” . Lou Adler smelled “solid gold” when they auditioned for ABC/Dunhill back in Los Angeles. Their debut album “If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears” was released in 1966 and spawned two major hits : “California Dreamin” and “Monday Monday”. It was downhill from there. As with most multi-gendered rock groups everyone got screwed figuratively and literally. Drug use, alcohol consumption, money issues, cheating and busted-up relationships taxi’ed the bands limits and they broke-up in 1968. A couple of their other well known tunes were “I Saw Her Again Last Night” and “Creeque Alley”. However “Papa” John’s contributions to rock music went well beyond the “Mama’s and Pappa’s”. In 1967 he organized one of the most historic events in the history of rock and roll, The Monterey Pop Festival. Held during the infamous “Summer Of Love” , a flower-power stoned-out LSD induced crowd grooved to the likes of Janis Joplin, Canned Heat, Otis Redding, The Who, Simon & Garfunkel and the other big acts of the era. Oh yes, and one other guy that Paul McCartney suggested, “The Jimi Hendrix Experience”. It was the experience’s American debut and Jimi pulled-out all the stops. Rock forelore has it that he ate a handful of acid just before he took the stage. Introduced by Brian Jones of the Stones, Hendrix blasted into a version of “Killing Floor” and took off like a fireball. No one had ever heard or seen anything like him before. He played with his teeth, behind his back, thru his legs, one arm, the microphone stand with deafening volume and sustained feedback. He ripped thru a couple of originals and some blues standards with unprecedented guitar techniques. While playing his version of “Wild Thing” in what was to be his grand finale of the show he lit his guitar on fire and then smashed it up and left the whole audience completely stunned and freaked-out. Acid rock was born that night and rock and roll and the world would never be the same. Lucky someone was straight enough to capture the entire event on 35mm film. It was the highlight of Otis Redding’s career. A couple of months later Otis was killed in a plane crash leaving behind “Monterey” as his legacy. Phillips also wrote “San Francisco (be sure to wear some flowers in your hair)” for Scott McKenzie, “Me and My Uncle” covered by the Grateful Dead and his last number one hit “Kokomo” for The Beach Boys in the 1980’s. (As well as the Beach Boys first number one since “Good Vibrations” in 1966). By the late 70’s “Papa” John had bottomed out and had become a full blown Heroin addict. A 1980 drug arrest landed him in rehab and he cleaned-up. Like all good rock-stars in their twilight years he received a new liver in 1992. After that he was involved in a variety of projects with mixed results. He died of heart failure on March 18th, 2001 at the age of 65

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