John Phillips (musician)

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John Phillips
Birth name John Edmund Andrew Phillips
Also known as Papa John
Johnny Phillips
Born (1935-08-30)August 30, 1935
Parris Island, South Carolina, U.S.
Died March 18, 2001(2001-03-18) (aged 65)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Genres Folk, pop
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active 1960–2001
Labels Dunhill Records
Associated acts The Journeymen, The Mamas & the Papas, The Beach Boys

John Edmund Andrew Phillips (August 30, 1935 – March 18, 2001) was an American singer, guitarist, songwriter and promoter, most notably of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, a landmark event of the counterculture era and the Summer of Love. Known as Papa John, Phillips was a member and leader of the vocal group The Mamas & the Papas.

Early life

Phillips was born in Parris Island, South Carolina. His father, Claude Andrew Phillips, was a retired United States Marine Corps officer who won an Oklahoma bar from another Marine in a poker game on the way home from France after World War I. His mother, Edna Gertrude (née Gaines),[1] who had English[2] and Cherokee ancestry, met his father in Oklahoma. According to his autobiography, Papa John, Phillips' father was a heavy drinker who suffered from poor health.

Phillips grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, where he was inspired by Marlon Brando to be "street tough." From 1942 to 1946, he attended Linton Hall Military School in Bristow, Virginia; according to his autobiography, he "hated the place," citing "inspections," and "beatings," and recalls that "nuns used to watch us take showers."[3][4] He formed a group of teenage boys, who also sang doo-wop songs. He played basketball at George Washington High School, now George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia, where he graduated in 1953, and gained an appointment to the Naval Academy. However, he resigned during his first (plebe) year. Phillips then attended Hampden–Sydney College, a liberal arts college for men in Hampden Sydney, Virginia, but dropped out in 1959.


Early years

Phillips longed to have success in the music industry and traveled to New York to find a record contract in the early 1960s. His first band, The Journeymen, was a folk trio, with Scott McKenzie and Dick Weissman. They were fairly successful, putting out three albums and several appearances on the 1960s TV show, Hootenanny. All three albums, as well as a compilation known as Best of the Journeymen, have since been reissued on CD. He developed his craft in Greenwich Village, during the American folk music revival, and met future The Mamas & the Papas group vocalists Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot there around that time. Lyrics of the group's song "Creeque Alley" describe this period.

The Journeymen were the house band of the hungry i on Broadway, San Francisco for many years.

The Mamas and the Papas

The Mamas and the Papas in 1968; Michelle Phillips, Mama Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty, Phillips

Phillips was the primary songwriter and musical arranger of The Mamas & the Papas. In a 1968 interview, Phillips described some of his arrangements as "well arranged two-part harmony moving in opposite directions".[5] After being signed to Dunhill, they had several Billboard Top Ten hits, including "California Dreamin'", "Monday, Monday", "I Saw Her Again", "Creeque Alley", and "12:30 (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon)". John Phillips also wrote "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)", in 1967 for former The Journeyman band mate, Scott McKenzie.[5] "San Francisco" is widely regarded as emblematic of 1960s American counterculture music. Phillips also wrote the oft-covered "Me and My Uncle", which was a favorite song cover frequently performed by The Grateful Dead.

Phillips also helped promote and performed with The Mamas & the Papas in the Monterey International Pop Music Festival held June 16 to 18, 1967 in Monterey, California. The festival was planned in just seven weeks and was developed as a way to validate rock music as an art form in the way jazz and folk were regarded. It was the first major pop-rock music event in history.

John and Michelle Phillips became Hollywood celebrities, living in the Hollywood Hills and socializing with stars such as Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and Roman Polanski. The Mamas & the Papas broke up in 1968 largely because Cass Elliot wanted to go solo and because of some personal problems among Phillips, his wife Michelle, and Denny Doherty, including his wife's affair with Doherty. As Michelle Phillips later recounted, "Cass confronted me and said 'I don't get it. You could have any man you want. Why would you take mine?'" Michelle had been fired briefly in 1966, for having had affairs with both Gene Clark and Doherty, and was replaced for a period of two months by Jill Gibson, their producer Lou Adler's girlfriend. Although Michelle Phillips was forgiven and asked to return to the group, the personal problems would continue until the group split. Cass Elliot went on to have a successful solo career until her death from heart failure in 1974.

Later years

Phillips released his second solo album John, the Wolf King of L.A. in 1970. The album was not commercially successful, although it did include the minor hit "Mississippi", and Phillips began to withdraw from the limelight as his use of narcotics increased.

Phillips produced his third wife, Geneviève Waïte's, album, Romance Is on the Rise and wrote music for films. Between 1969 and 1974, Phillips and Waïte worked on a script and composed over 30 songs for a space-themed musical called Man on the Moon, which was eventually produced by Andy Warhol but played for just two days in New York after receiving disastrous opening night reviews.

Phillips moved to London in 1973; Mick Jagger encouraged him to record another solo album. It was to be released on Rolling Stones Records and funded by RSR distributor Atlantic Records. Jagger and Keith Richards would produce and play on the album, as well as former Stone Mick Taylor and future Stone Ronnie Wood. The project was derailed by Phillips' increasing use of cocaine and heroin, which he injected, by his own admission, "almost every fifteen minutes for two years".[6] In 2001, the tracks of the Half Stoned or The Lost Album album were released as Pay Pack & Follow a few months after Phillips' death. In 1975 Phillips, still living in London, was commissioned to create the soundtrack to the Nicolas Roeg film The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie. Phillips asked Mick Taylor to help out; the film was released in 1976.

In 1981, Phillips was convicted of drug trafficking; subsequently, he and his television star daughter Mackenzie Phillips made the rounds in the media in an anti-drug campaign, helping to reduce his prison time to only a month in jail, of which he spent three weeks (one week off for good behavior) at Allenwood Prison Camp, Allenwood Pa. Upon his release, he re-formed The Mamas & the Papas with Mackenzie Phillips, Spanky McFarlane (of the group Spanky and Our Gang) and Denny Doherty. Throughout the rest of his life, Phillips toured with various incarnations of this group.

In 1986, his best-selling autobiography, Papa John, was published. With Terry Melcher, Mike Love and his former Journeyman colleague Scott McKenzie, he co-wrote the number 1 single for the Beach Boys, "Kokomo," from the film "Cocktail," which was also nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Song Written specifically for a Motion Picture or Television category (it lost to Phil Collins's "Two Hearts," from the film "Buster").

His years of drug addiction resulted in health problems that required a liver transplant in 1992. Several months later, however, photographs of him drinking alcohol in a bar in Palm Springs, California were published in the National Enquirer newspaper. Questioned on the Howard Stern radio show, he said "I was just trying to 'break in' the new liver".

Personal life

Phillips married Susan Adams of a wealthy Virginia family in 1959. They had a son, Jeffrey, and a daughter, Laura Mackenzie (known as "Mackenzie") Phillips. While touring California with The Journeymen, Phillips met teenager, Michelle Gilliam, with whom he had an extramarital affair. Their affair forced the dissolution of his marriage to Adams, and he married Michelle in 1962. The couple had one child together, Chynna Phillips, vocalist of the 1990s pop trio Wilson Phillips. They divorced in 1970.

Actress Geneviève Waïte became his third wife in 1972. The couple had two children, Tamerlane and Bijou Phillips. Phillips and Waïte divorced in 1985.

Incest allegations

In September 2009, eight years after Phillips's death, his eldest daughter Mackenzie claimed that she and her father had a 10-year incestuous relationship. Mackenzie wrote of the relationship, which she said began when she was 18 years old in 1979, in her memoir High on Arrival. Mackenzie wrote that the relationship began after Phillips raped her while they were both under the influence of heavy narcotics on the eve of her first marriage.[7] Mackenzie Phillips appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show on September 23, 2009, and told Winfrey that her father injected her with cocaine and heroin. According to Phillips, the incestuous relationship ended when she became pregnant and did not know who had fathered the child. As her story goes, these doubts resulted in an abortion, which her father paid for, "and I never let him touch me again."[8][9]

Chynna Phillips, Mackenzie's half-sister, stated that she believed Mackenzie's statements and that Mackenzie first told her about the relationship during a phone conversation in 1997, approximately eight years after Mackenzie said the relationship had ended.[10] Jessica Woods, the daughter of Denny Doherty, said that her father knew of the relationship.[11] Bijou Phillips, Mackenzie's other half-sister, said in a statement that Mackenzie had informed her of the relationship when Bijou was 13 years old,[12] but also stated, "I'm 29 now, I've talked to everyone who was around during that time, I've asked the hard questions. I do not believe my sister. Our father is many things, this is not one of them."[13] Geneviève Waïte, Bijou's mother and Phillips' wife at the time the abuse allegedly occurred, denied the allegations and said they were inconsistent with his character. Michelle Phillips, Chynna's mother and Phillips second wife, also stated that she had "every reason to believe [Mackenzie's account is] untrue."[14]


Living with his fourth wife, Farnaz, in Palm Springs, California, Phillips died on March 18, 2001, at the age of 65. He died in Los Angeles of heart failure just days after completing recording sessions for a new album. Phillips 66 was released posthumously in August 2001. He is interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery (Cathedral City) near Palm Springs.[15][16]

Awards and honors

In 1996, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to Phillips.[17]

The Mamas and the Papas were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame on January 12, 1998, and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000.



Year Billboard Hot 100[18] Album
1970 # 32 John Phillips



  • 2007: Jack of Diamonds


  1. "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: M-Z - Google Books". January 1, 2003. Retrieved August 19, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "A history of the Hardgrave family: the descendants of Major Francis ... - Google Books". November 29, 2007. Retrieved August 19, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Phillips, John, Papa John – An Autobiography, Doubleday & Co. 1986, pp. 41–43. ISBN 978-0440167839
  4. Cadet, Linton Hall, Linton Hall Military School Memories: One cadet's memoir, Scrounge Press, 2014. ISBN 9781495931963
  5. 5.0 5.1 Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 36 – The Rubberization of Soul: The great pop music renaissance. [Part 2]" (audio). Pop Chronicles.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. The E! True Hollywood Story, Episode: "Mackenzie Phillips". Entertainment Television Network, 1999. Phillips admits this in an on camera interview.
  7. "Mackenzie Phillips: I slept with my own father". People. Retrieved September 23, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Thomson, Katherine (September 23, 2009). "Mackenzie Phillips To Oprah: Decade Of Sex With Dad Ended With Abortion". Huffington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Excerpt from High on Arrival by Mackenzie Phillips". September 23, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Everett, Cristina (September 23, 2009). "Chynna Phillips recalls learning about sister Mackenzie Phillips' affair with father, John Phillips". New York Daily News. Retrieved September 24, 2009. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Denny Doherty's Daughter Corroborates Mackenzie Phillips' Story". Oprah. Retrieved September 24, 2009. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Bijou Phillips reacts to Mackenzie's Claims". Oprah. Retrieved September 24, 2009. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Phillips Blames Mackenzie For Ruining Her Life". The San Francisco Chronicle. September 29, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Eng, Joyce. "Mackenzie Phillips' Family Split Over Star's Incest Claims". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved September 24, 2009. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help); Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  15. Brooks, Patricia; Brooks, Jonathan (2006). "Chapter 8: East L.A. and the Desert". Laid to Rest in California: a guide to the cemeteries and grave sites of the rich and famous. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press. p. 245. ISBN 978-0762741014. OCLC 70284362.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. John Phillips at Find a Grave
  17. Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
  18. "John Phillips - Chart history".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Cadet, Linton Hall, Linton Hall Military School Memories: One cadet's memoir, Scrounge Press, 2014, pp. 114–116. ISBN 9781495931963

External links