John Phillips

Aug 30, 1935
Mar 18, 2001

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From Wikipedia:

John Edmund Andrew Phillips (August 30, 1935 – March 18, 2001) was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He was the leader of the vocal group the Mamas & the Papas and remains frequently referred to as Papa John Phillips. In addition to writing the majority of the group’s compositions, he also wrote “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” in 1967 for former Journeymen bandmate Scott McKenzie, as well as the oft-covered “Me and My Uncle”, which was a favorite in the repertoire of the Grateful Dead. Phillips was one of the chief organizers of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. […]

In June 1966, The Mamas & The Papas travelled to London for a promotional visit. On June 12, they went to the discotheque Dolly’s and met with John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Some days later, George Harrison invited them to his Esher’s home; Paul McCartney joined them in the evening.

Paul McCartney and George Harrison met with members of the band again in August 1966, when The Beatles were in the US for their last tour. The discussion Paul had with John Phillips and Lou Adler, the manager of The Mamas & The Papas, reportedly led to the organization of the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967.

Pop music wasn’t covered by the mainstream media until Rolling Stone came along in November of 1967. […] The impetus for putting the festival on, about a couple of weeks prior to the festival, maybe a couple of months, Paul McCartney, myself, John Phillips, I think Cass Elliot and Michelle Phillips and we were sitting around discussing the fact that pop music wasn’t considered an art form in the way that jazz was considered, and even folk.

So when the opportunity came to purchase these dates in Monterey and do something, we thought well, here’s a chance to validate it. Monterey is known for a jazz festival, it’s known for a folk festival. Let’s just get in and do it. It was the first pop festival.

Lou Adler – Interview with Tavis Smiley for PBS, June 2007

The impetus to stage the Monterey International Pop Festival evolved one night in 1967 [sic], at Cass Elliot’s house. Paul McCartney, John and Michelle Phillips, Cass, and I were discussing, along with other highly inspired issues, the general perception of rock ‘n’ roll, and that, while jazz was considered an art form, rock ‘n’ roll was continually viewed as a fad, a trend—and yet both were American-born musical genres.

Not too long after that night, John and I were approached by Alan Pariser and a promoter named Ben Shapiro, who wanted to hire the Mamas and the Papas to headline a one-day blues and rock event at the Monterey Fairgrounds. Later that night—actually, at three o‘clock in the morning—John and I had decided, influenced by some heavy “California dreamin’,” that it should be a charitable event. Shapiro, who had envisioned a commercial event, eventually decided to leave the project, and we bought the dates from him. John and Michelle, Paul Simon, Johnny Rivers, Terry Melcher, and I put up $10,000 apíece; with six weeks to go, the Monterey International Pop Festival, a three-day non-profit event, was becoming a reality. […]

Lou Adler and John Phillips – From “A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival” by Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik, 2011

In April 1967, Paul was in the US to spend some days with his girlfriend Jane Asher and was invited to John and Michelle Phillips’ house where they jammed.

One night Scott and I were on a real tear and in walked Paul McCartney and some friends in the Beatles organization. Paul was in town in connection with “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” They were the Beatles hits in the early months of 1967. Scott froze in mid-shot. It must have been the first time he had met Paul. Paul was always so nonchalant and disarmingly modest. He just waved casually and, not wanting to disrupt the game, said to Scott, “Eh, mate, don’t let me throw you off your game. Just keep playing.” Scott shook his head, leaned over the table, and lined up his next shot.

We sat in front of the fireplace and heard all the latest Beatle adventures and folklore from Paul. The grass and pills had been passed around and I was flying. Then Paul spotted Michelle’s cello standing in a corner. He had never played one before, but he started plucking away at it as if it were a giant bass guitar. I sat down at the grand piano in the living room and we began noodling around. Then I got up and turned off the lights to show cartoons.

We were all laughing our heads off as Paul walked to the piano. He played the keys and plucked the strings inside the piano, simultaneously watching and scoring music for the cartoons. It was an impressive display of composing genius. By daybreak I had crashed out in the living room. Scott came into the house and woke me to tell a story. He had given Paul, Mal Evans, a Beatles executive, and an L.A. groupie a ride to where they were staying. “It was amazing,” Scott said in his boyish drawl. His eyes were widening with excitement. “We get up into Laurel Canyon and stop at this gas station. I’m in the front with Mal and Paul’s with the chick in the back. The morning traffic’s already on its way down towards Sunset. On the radio, would you believe it, is ‘Strawberry Fields’ and the guy’s standing there with the pump in his hand, singin’ along — no idea there’s Paul McCartney in the backseat. So we drive some more and Paul leans up and taps me on the shoulder real gently and asks, “Oh, I meant to ask you. What is it exactly you do?’ What was I going to say, ‘I used to be a Smoothie’? ‘I’m an ex-Journeyman’? ‘I’m a singer,’ I said. Then he asked me what I sang. And I was so out of it and confused I said I didn’t really know what I sang. I’ll never forget that. It was so weird, but he was cool about it.”

John Phillips – FromPapa John: An Autobiography (of the Mamas and the Papas): A Music Legend’s Shattering Journey Though Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll” by John Phillips, 2006

Also during this visit, John Phillips and Lou Adler asked Paul to join the board of the Monterey Festival.

We assembled a board of directors, even though it never formally met. The directors were: [Rolling Stones manager] Andrew Oldham; John Phillips; Donovan and myself; Roger McGuinn; Terry Melcher; Alan Pariser, of course; Paul Simon; Brian Wilson; and Abe Somer, who played an important part in all the legal aspects. Pariser had great relationships with the artists. Andrew Oldham was our British connection. Andrew and Paul McCartney suggested Hendrix and the Who.

Lou Adler – From “A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival” by Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik, 2011

Last updated on March 12, 2023

Recording sessions John Phillips participated in


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