Friday, February 28, 2020

Obituary: Brewer Phillips

Obituary: Brewer Phillips - Chicago Tribune, September 14, 1999.

Brewer Phillips, 65, a blues guitarist who was a steady force in Chicago blues from his arrival in 1954 to an appearance at the Chicago Blues Festival in 1990, died Sept. 3 1999 after a heart attack in his South Side apartment. Mr. Phillips is perhaps best remembered for his work as a sideman to slide guitarist Hound Dog Taylor, in whose band the Houserockers he played for nearly two decades.

''His sound had so much edge and so much attack and a controlled distortion that it made a kind of snarl that people for years have tried to get from effects pedals and fancy amplifiers," said Bruce Iglauer, founder of Chicago-based Alligator Records. "He got it all from his hands." Mr. Phillips was born in Mississippi and taught himself to play guitar at an early age, even though he never learned to read music. His first gigs were staged in juke joints, where relatives and friends would gather to drink moonshine. "We would just play guitars, and dance, and party," said his older brother, Vance Phillips. Mr. Phillips left Mississippi in the late 1940s for Memphis, where he played behind Roosevelt Sykes, Joe Hill Louis and Memphis Slim, Iglauer said.

In 1954, Mr. Phillips packed up again, this time fallowing Vance to Chicago. He arrived in Chicago at a time when the city's most legendary blues artists were defining the art, said Chicago-based Delmark Records founder and owner Bob Koester. It was a time when Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Junior Wells could be heard regularly at clubs on the South and West Sides.

In 1957, Mr. Phillips joined Hound Dog Taylor, an alliance that would last through several albums until Taylor died in 1975. Two of those albums were nominated for Grammy Award. Phillips cut his only solo album, "Home Brew," on Delmark. Survivors include two brothers, Robert and Eddie, and two sisters, Lauren Harrington and Lorina Durens. A funeral service was held Saturday at Trinity Memorial Chapel, 7605 S. Halsted St.

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