U. Utah Phillips remembrance-died 23 May 2008 To Thread - Forum Home

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U. Utah Phillips remembrance-died 23 May 2008

28 May 18 - 01:27 PM (#3927653)
Subject: U. Utah Phillips - 10 years ago 5/23
From: GUEST,Busker On A Budget

May 23, 2008

The folk-music world, the labor movement, indeed, all people of good will who strive to create and maintain community and cherish traditions, lost a towering figure in Bruce "U. Utah" Phillips.

As I reorient personally and creatively after/in-process-of some serious personal struggles, I find that my individual values regarding relationships and community are reflected in the stories I hear Utah tell in video and audio clips I discover.

I also find a gentle, quiet beauty in the simple, yet poetic songs he shared. There's great value to me in remembering that the accompaniment to a good lyric need not be a competition-grade exercise in instrumental chops.

As a folksinger living in the U.S., I also resonate powerfully with the unwavering pro-union message of one of the great Wobblies of history.

What remembrances do you have of Utah? :)

28 May 18 - 08:05 PM (#3927704)
Subject: RE: U. Utah Phillips - 10 years ago 5/23
From: ChanteyLass

Utah is one of the first singers I took my then-young son to see. I couldn't let him grow up without seeing Utah! It was not the first or last time I saw him when he came to Rhode Island.

28 May 18 - 08:10 PM (#3927705)
Subject: RE: U. Utah Phillips - 10 years ago 5/23
From: Joe Offer

Utah left a big footprint here in the Sierra Nevada Foothills of Northern California. He did performances all the time, and he was very active in the Unitarian church. He worked to establish services for homeless people in Nevada County, and his work was an inspiration to us in neighboring Placer County. He was a voice for justice and music who will not be forgotten.

29 May 18 - 12:42 AM (#3927716)
Subject: RE: U. Utah Phillips - 10 years ago 5/23
From: GUEST,gopherit!

It was bitter/sweet dedication of Utah's rail road car this weekend in Weed, California with his two sons and a set by John McCutcheon beneath the looming Mt. Shasta in the pine sented forest. About a 100 folks showed up, most of them obvious-Utah-devoted fans and friends. His songs and spirit and inspiration live on. Thank you again, Utah. Carry on!

Perhaps someone who can type may add details if they are so inclined

29 May 18 - 12:44 AM (#3927717)
Subject: RE: U. Utah Phillips - 10 years ago 5/23
From: lefthanded guitar

Utah was one of the 'big names' ( in folk music) I saw any number of times at
Cafe Lena. Once before a concert, my friends and I went out to eat in Saratoga
beforehand ; and he was dining there too. When one if my companions
said we were coming to hear him later, he invited us (maybe 1/2 dozen
of us) to join him. We did, and he was a gracious host and conversationalist.
Fortunately for me, my friends were more comfortable and outgoing than I - as I sat there wordlessly star struck and dumb as a statue the entire dinner- but he bid us all - including shy adolescent me- a gracious farewell.

To this day, he is a beloved and esteemed songwriter;
you almost always hear one of his songs at the
various song circles I attend in the NYC trip state area.
And when I perform, I always do one of his.   

Gone quite a few years, but still a treasure to us music lovers-
-and also a genial, nice man, to my lights.

29 May 18 - 01:50 AM (#3927719)
Subject: RE: U. Utah Phillips - 10 years ago 5/23
From: Joe Offer

The Utah Phillips caboose is now located in Dunsmuir, California. It had its grand opening celebration this weekend.

I wonder how it ended up in Dunsmuir. Did Utah have a connection to that little railroad town, way up there in Far Northern California?


29 May 18 - 08:43 AM (#3927770)
Subject: RE: U. Utah Phillips - 10 years ago 5/23
From: Mark Ross

Joe Offer, I was there at The Black Butte Center for RR Culture (which is in Weed, California) this weekend for the Grand Opening of the Utah Phillips Flanger Car. I was Utah's sideman for a while, and his friend for almost 40 years.

Back in the '70s when he was recording for Philo records in Vermont, the company gave him an acre of land so he would have a place to live. He bought an 1890 Canadian Pacific flanger car (used to scrape ice and snow off the tracks) for $500. He held a big party, got everyone drunk, and laid 50 feet of track. The car was brought to Monckton Ridge on 2 flat bed trucks, and there was a crane to hoist it off and place it on the tracks. The car was 48 feet long, and the track 50 feet. Utah called it The Greater Monckton Ridge, Saratoga, Salt Lake & Pacific RR.
Utah said "It can move 1 foot in either direction. You have to start somewhere."
He lived in it for a couple of years when he wasn't on the road playing. It was fixed up real nice with a dining table elevated in the cupola and a bed and a woodstove.
Utah moved to Spokane with Sheila Collins a couple of years later, had 2 children and settled down there. He and Sheila later divorced and Utah married Joanna Robinson and moved to Nevada City.
Last year someone alerted his eldest son Duncan that the car was for sale. Duncan managed to find the seller who now owned the Philo barn.
When asked for the price the owner replied, "I'm not going to sell you the car, I'm going to give it to you."
I had been talking to friends who restored old cars trying to find a place to put it. The BBRC, which is owned by a bunch of former (and current hoboes and rail roaders said they would take it. Duncan raised over 22 grand to haul the car across country (it's too old to be hauled behind a train, being wood bodied without a steel frame. It was badly in need of repair, and Duncan is in the process of restoring it (and he's doing a magnificent job!).
This weekend about a 100 people gathered for the ribbon cutting and a concert by John McCutcheon, Utah's son Brendan, Bodie Wagner, Michael Taub and Gwedolyn Hallmsith, and myself. Utah's wife Joanna Robinson, his sister Deborah Cohen, brother Stuart Cohen, grand-children, and great-grandchildren were in attendance, along with an assortment of hoboes, hoboettes, and fans and friends of Utahs'. It was a grand timeand I am exhausted.Here's a link to the web site Duncan has set up in his fathers memory;


29 May 18 - 03:14 PM (#3927841)
Subject: RE: U. Utah Phillips - 10 years ago 5/23
From: StephenH

Thanks for the account of the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Mark Ross.
Anyone video the proceedings? (I'll have a look on Youtube.)
Utah was a huge inspiration for the sort of music that I play and, occasionally perform. Only had a brief chat with him on one or two occasions but am grateful for that.
Over the years I've come across songs that I hadn't realised were written by Utah and each time I'm reminded of just what a great songwriter he was- an aspect of Utah Phillips that sometimes gets overlooked.

04 May 20 - 02:33 PM (#4050476)
Subject: RE: U. Utah Phillips - 10 years ago 5/23

I'm just a fan. My roots, like those of his stepdad, for sure, were those of the minimally educated, lower class workers in one of the many ethnic ghettos of the late 1800's through mid 1900's.

Utah Phillips spoke and sung passionately about that working man and the people with even less. America's big shoulders has been built on that willingness to be present, for a paycheck, and to say to any and all, we are all here and we are all equal. Nobody can take advantage of us for long. We are the people. As has been written, U Utah Phillips said that every time he walked on stage or appeared in public.

While there are many a magnificent songwriter and singer during his time, less than a handful would talk to us about being an American, and American worker, IWW, sharing and leading the way forward.

No other performer opened my mind to what were foreign concepts and are now part of the fiber of who I am and what I represent.

04 May 20 - 02:45 PM (#4050479)
Subject: RE: U. Utah Phillips - 10 years ago 5/23
From: Jim Carroll

A wonderful siner and a wonderful man - you lucky to have seen him, if you did
His 'All Used Up' still leaved a lump in the throat
He was made from the same mold as Guthrie, Aunt Molly Jackson and the other greats of America - a truly 'Steinbeckian' man, if ever there was one
Jim Carroll

05 May 20 - 10:54 AM (#4050638)
Subject: RE: U. Utah Phillips remembrance-died 23 May 2008
From: Elmore

Anybody waiting for Utah to "Shut up and sing" was in the wrong room. What he had to say was on a par with what he had to sing.