No Ordinary Guy!
A tribute to Guy Phillips, musician, inspiration, guitar-player
BY: AMI BROWN
I never had the pleasure of meeting Guy Phillips, but after reading these memories, I almost feel like I knew him. His presence in the Southport music scene echoes his musical vibes today and will for years to come. His lasting influence on these musicians is a real testament to his talent, his genuine personality and his positive attitude. His friends have all generously reminisced and shared some of their fondest memories so we can all get to know a little more about the one they call “Yug”, Guy Phillips.
FROM DALE MACPHERSON Southport harmonica player/friend for 30 years I have been involved in music from the time I was a child. I sat on the piano beside my cousin Shirley and learned to sing harmony. At the age of 14 while working in Wards Grill in my home town of Whiteville; a traveler came into the grill and needed $4.50 for a bus ticket to Wilmington. He had a cheap guitar on which he had scratched the words “MOON GUY”, apparently with a pocket knife. I borrowed the money from Mr. Ward and purchased the guitar. I didn’t realize what an impact that act of kindness would have on the rest my life.
Many years passed before I met Albert Rogers and Guy Phillips. We began to play some gigs together. It was a privilege and pleasure to play with such a gifted guitar player. Guy had good licks on the guitar that would do any singer proud. I had no idea at the time that he had played with so many of the people who had influenced my personal musical style. As we got too be close friends; we would chat about our musical experiences and friends. He would speak of folks who I had dreamed of meeting. Once while we were doing a gig; I introduced the players on stage. I mentioned that he had a good friend named Emmylou who was very successful in the music business. If you know Guy; you can visualize the way he looked down and shook his head in disgust as he played his flawless introduction solo. I knew that I had made a mistake. Later during the break he gave-me-hell for name dropping. That was the last time I ever publicly mentioned his affiliation with the STARS that he knew and had played with through the years. As we continued through the years, I looked forward to the times that I would start an old song (not on the play list) that most had forgotten and see him look at me with that sly smile of approval and start calling out the cords to any in the band members who might be unfamiliar with the tune. Some of best gigs that I have ever done were with “Old Yug”. I am sure that St. Peter will give him that sly smile of approval as he enters in to ETERNAL REST. My prayers go out to the family and friends of the best guitar player that I have had the pleasure of playing with. Rest In Peace Guy!
FROM PAUL DECKER Virginia singer/songwriter/friend for 50 years There was an active local folk scene in Virginia Beach and Norfolk throughout the middle sixties, centered mainly around The Folk Ghetto in Norfolk and The Upstairs in Virginia Beach. A bunch of us, musicians and friends, had a house at 319 16th St. in Virginia Beach right around the corner from The Upstairs. We became notorious enough that people from up and down the mid-Atlantic region would drop in unannounced to join the party. One of those was Guy Phillips from Greensboro NC by way of Chadds Ford PA driving a green, I think, TR3 with just room enough for himself and his guitar case. This was late ‘65 or early ‘66. He fit right in with the 16th St crowd, one of whom was the girl now known as Juice Newton. Yug had already been through a marriage and the Marines by this time. He started playing in the local clubs and liked it well enough to bring up some Greensboro friends to check it out, notably Emmylou Harris and Mike Williams – playing together as Emerald City – and a quirky harmonic player name Danny Flowers. Danny started picking up guitar in Virginia Beach and became a really good player. He was briefly a member of Guy’s band of a few years later and wrote one of the first songs they recorded. He also wrote the song on Emmy’s Pieces of the Sky album from which that title comes. He is best known for later writing Tulsa Time. Things always slowed down in Norfolk in the summer so we weren’t worried but when fall came it never picked back up. Group Nine got electric instruments, added bass, lead guitar and drums and started recording. In his businessman hat, Guy was a big help to us in getting the equipment we needed. Guy was working with a prolific songwriter, Benjamin Herndon, to form the band eventually known as the Oxpetals. A lot of people came and went in that group. Emmylou was in it for a time when her duo act split, I was in it when my group broke up, Danny Flowers and Juice Newton both spent some time in the group, and several others. We were all doing jingles at D’Arcy Studios in Norfolk to give our wallets a little padding. D’Arcy Studios later became Studio Center, a huge recording operation that produces jingles and TV spots all over the country. Somewhere in their vaults they still have a tape with Juice Newton and Emmylou Harris both singing the praises of iced tea. This is getting on now into late ‘67 and early ‘68. Guy and Benjamin and I all had apartments in Roland Court -more commonly known then as Eden Alley – on 17th St. right off Atlantic Ave in Virginia Beach. There, the Oxpetals coalesced into their final form with the addition of Steve Pague (who now goes by Steven Michael Pague) and Bobby Webber and Dan Allison (Ace). Webber died a few years ago and Ace well before that. Webber spent time in Southport and some of the locals may have known him. They soon moved to New York and then Moosepac Lake NJ. Our lives have remained entwined in various ways ever since.
FROM TRACEY CURBEAM Vocalist from Baltimore, MD. I met Yug in 1985, when I joined his band, The Rhythm Express. We had so much fun working together and for me it was such a wonderful musical experience. We performed at many clubs in Baltimore as well as private events. We remained friends and kept in touch with each other, even after the band ended. Yug was an unpretentious kinda guy, so what you saw was who he was! I, last saw Yug in 2012 with Dave Smith, our saxophonist and Barbra Grela, our manager. It is one of the highlights of the last few years of my life. And we last spoke on December 2, 2016. I am going to miss our conversations and his sense of humor. And I’m so glad that GOD allowed our paths to cross. Yug, I love you, forever!!! FROM STEVE BOONE Florida, bassist for the Lovin’ Spoonful I met him in 1968 on Long Island along with several of his bandmates in a band The Oxpetals that were managed by Nat Weiss who partnered with Brian Epstein the Beatles manager. Yug and I became friends and musical buddies including me becoming the record producer for The Oxpetals. After the album was finished and turned into Mercury Records I said goodbye to the music biz and bought a sailboat and headed for the Caribbean. Yug would soon follow along with wife Lisa and along with several others we started a band in St Thomas called of all things “Wang Dang Doodle and Yug” Once back after several years in Caribbean. Yug and I partnered up again in converting a barge into a floating recording studio in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in 1975 and we would remain musical and business partners thereafter. In 2009 We both began playing in an Irish Band at The Dubliner in Wilmington, NC. We constantly kicked ideas around for various musical ventures right up until the time of his passing. He was and remains one of the most versatile guitarists I have ever worked with and that would include some mighty fine company.
FROM EMMYLOU HARRIS Nashville TN, played and sang with Guy in the early days, friend for 50 years Guy was a big influence on my music in the beginning and throughout my entire career.
FROM REV (DANIEL GUETSCHOW) Southport, NC guitarist / vocalist Guy and I met about 5 years ago, began playing as a duo, and immediately formed a bond. We had both been professionally performing music since we were teenagers, and had both played nationally. I, like Guy, have played with many very talented musicians. There are only a few that stand out, because they made playing magical. Guy Phillips is one of those few. I could throw any style at him and he always rose to the occasion. We could make up songs on the fly, instinctively knowing where we were taking it. He was a vocalist’s dream lead player, playing beautiful phrases at just the right time. We inspired one another to play at our highest level. It has been my great joy and honor to work with him and we became close friends. Our last few “gigs” were in the hospital, entertaining the staff at Duke. He just couldn’t put the guitar down.
FROM CHRISTINE MARTINEZ (Southport musician and closest friend) Christine Martinez was probably Guy’s closest and dearest friend here in Southport. She refers to him as family, but even more than that. They were often mistaken for a couple or sometimes father – daughter. They had a bond like no other, and hard for her to describe in words. Christine met guy almost twenty years ago – the same day she met her husband – where the two were in a band together. So their history goes back much further than when they formed their duo. After the birth of Christine’s second child, she decided to start singing and playing again.
About 2008, she called up Guy and asked him to play with her. He jumped at the chance and she described it as “instant magic”. They had a connection and the local Southport music scene embraced their duo into the fold with open arms. “He absolutely influenced me musically”. He would encourage her explore new sounds – like jazz and other unexpected tunes for a couple of acoustic guitars. He also encouraged her to write her own music, and he put his own special touch to that music, never to be duplicated or replaced. They brought the best out in each other. They soon added a couple more members – and the Christine Martinez Band was born. “Guy insisted that the band be named after the singer – but he was always the leader. Guy was the backbone and provided the structure of the music. He was not a natural born guitarist – he worked at it, he worked hard. And he expected everyone in the band to do the same. He’d let you know if you fell short of his expectations. He wasn’t afraid to let you know.”
“Guy was a lot of things to so many, a son, a father, a friend… but most of all he was a guitar player – that’s who he was. He was loyal to the music and completely dedicated.” “He was strong – he played gigs right up until the end. The doctors said his music was one thing that kept him going so long. He was determined to NOT be defined by his disease. Even through pain – he played, we’d lock eyes and it was magical… every time.” “Guy was a big influence on my music in the beginning and throughout my entire career.” Emilou Harris “He was so much more than a band mate. He was a personal friend, I considered him family. He was always there for me. The struggle to go on without him musically is hard, but the personal loss of his friendship is much, much more than that.“ Guy grew up in Greensboro but spent his childhood vacations at his grandfather’s cottage on Holden Beach with his 15 cousins. In 1988, he decided to move back to this area, and settled on Oak Island. He loved the beach. In addition to playing music, he worked as a realtor for Margaret Rudd for several years. All of the people quoted above (and a few others) performed at the memorial celebration on February 11th. People came from all over the US, as far as Colorado, Nashville, and Arizona. Guy formed so many lifelong friendships and all 15 cousins were there, too! Although there is a hole in our hearts, may it be ever filled with his music and lasting influences on the music scene here locally and around the world!
Guy was family, he showed unconditional love. Our connection was magic, hard to define. He was also a paradox, a Republican Hippie, and was always that way.” Christine Martinez
GUY’S OBITUARY: Local musician Guy B. Phillips III, a.k.a. “Yug”, of Oak Island passed away on December 19, 2016. Guy was born on February 13, 1944, in Tampa, Florida. He was the son of the late Guy B. Phillips Jr. and Margaret Louise Anderson. Many weekends and vacations were spent with Guy Sr. and Annie Phillips in Chapel Hill with their 16 grandchildren. Guy’s fondest memories were from time he spent at Holden Beach, where Guy and Annie built the first oceanfront cottage. Guy described his youth a few years ago as “us Phillips cousins had something that a lot of kids don’t: we had each other; we didn’t grow up fast; we got to be kids; we had freedom to run around town, in the woods, and at the beach with no fears of anything negative.” I think we can all agree that his favorite parts of his childhood remained true for him his whole life. After years of pursuing his passion for music—from Greensboro to Virginia Beach to New York to Baltimore and the Caribbean—he settled in Brunswick County, specifically the Southport / Oak Island community. Here is where his guitar and unique persona became a masterpiece of friendships and affirmation. Guy is survived by his son, Craig Phillips and wife Robin of Baltimore; grandson Domonic Webster II and wife Karen and their children Riley and Domonic III. Guy is also survived by his sister, Pat Rucker and her husband Kirk, their daughter Lia and his grand-niece Sarah. And his beloved lab Sadie, is now living in Baltimore with her boyfriend Mac (Craig’s lab).
A big thank you to all the people who contributed to this article, Deb Klipp and the Rev for compiling the information and photos, and especially Christine Martinez.