Phil Keaggy

Philip Tyler Keaggy (born March 23, 1951 in Youngstown, Ohio) is an American acoustic and electric guitarist and vocalist who has released more than 50 albums and contributed to many more recordings in both the contemporary Christian music and mainstream markets. He is a seven-time recipient of the GMA Dove Award for Instrumental Album of the Year, and was twice nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Gospel Album. Keaggy was raised in a small farmhouse in Hubbard, Ohio with nine brothers and sisters, and began playing guitar at age ten on a Sears Silvertone guitar. He went to high school in Austintown, Ohio graduating in 1970. He is missing half of the middle finger on his right hand due to a childhood accident at age 4 involving a water pump. He has frequently been listed as one of the world's top-3 "fingerstyle" as well as "fingerpicking" guitarists by Guitar Player Magazine readers' polls.



Phil Keaggy was a member of a mid-1960s garage rock band called the Squires; one of their songs, which he co-wrote, appears on a compilation album called Highs in the Mid-Sixties, Volume 9.

Keaggy began professionally playing music in the late 1960s with drummer John Sferra. The two longtime friends, with the addition of bassist Dan Pecchio, formed a band called Glass Harp in 1968. A major turning point for the trio was their winning of an Ohio area's "Battle of the Bands." One of event's judges happened to be an associate of the celebrated producer Lewis Merenstein, whom he alerted to the hot young threesome. At the time, Merenstein was fresh from producing albums for many successful artists including The Spencer Davis Group, Turley Richards and Van Morrison's Moondance (Merenstein produced Astral Weeks as well) and had just been voted Producer of the Year by Rolling Stone. Merenstein was persuaded to fly down from New York to see what the fuss was all about. Upon hearing the band perform, Merenstein was so inspired that Decca Records signed Glass Harp to a multi-record deal. A short time later, the band found itself in New York's Greenwich Village recording its first album at Jimi Hendrix' Electric Lady Studios with Lewis Merenstein as producer. As a Decca Records artist, the band began to open for such artists as Iron Butterfly, Yes, Traffic, and Chicago. At one point, future James Gang and Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh was being considered to join New Hudson Exit (the band Phil Keaggy was in prior to the formation of Glass Harp) but the other members of the band felt Walsh's style was too dynamic. Years later, Amboy Dukes guitar player Ted Nugent was quoted as saying "I don't know what happened to that Phil Keaggy. He could have saved the world with his guitar" in Guitar Player Magazine.


On Valentines Day in 1970, Keaggy's mother was involved in a fatal car accident. He was heavily involved in drugs at the time, and that same day was badly hurt by an LSD trip. In the midst of this tragedy his sister told him about Jesus, and he became a Christian.

Having recorded three albums with Glass Harp, Keaggy left the band in 1972 and released his first solo album the following year entitled What A Day. Keaggy married his wife Bernadette the following summer. He then took a brief vacation from recording on his own and only toured in support of other artists like Love Song, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Paul Clark, and Nancy Honeytree. Keaggy returned to the studio in 1976 with Love Broke Thru which included his version of the Randy Stonehill/Keith Green/Todd Fishkind classic song of the same name, which at Keith Green's insistence was the first released recording of the song. During the summer of 1977 Keaggy went on an eighteen-city tour of the western United States with 2nd Chapter of Acts and "a band called David". This was captured in the live triple album How the West Was One. The only release of the Phil Keaggy Band also occurred in 1977, Emerging. The Phil Keaggy Band consisted of Keaggy, Lynn Nichols, Phil Madeira, Dan Cunningham and Terry Andersen. In 1978, Keaggy released his first critically acclaimed instrumental album entitled Master and the Musician.


The Keaggy family then moved to Leawood, Kansas in August,1979. Their first daughter, Alicia, was born there in March, 1980. The Keaggys left Leawood in 1983 and settled in Costa Mesa, California. Their second daughter, Olivia, was born on Valentine's Day, 1984, and their son, Ian, was born in 1987.

Keaggy was signed to the Contemporary Christian music label Sparrow Records in the 1980s, where he released a string of albums including Town to Town, Ph'lip Side, and Play Thru Me. In 1988, Keaggy would team up with Stonehill, drummer Joe English (who had previously played with Paul McCartney and Wings) , singer Margaret Becker, and others for the Compassion All Star Band's album One by One.

In 1988, Keaggy won his first Dove Award for his second instrumental project, The Wind and the Wheat. Keaggy's second Dove Award came in 1992 for his Celtic-influenced Beyond Nature. From 1998 to 2001, Keaggy dominated the "Instrumental Record" category in the Dove Awards winning awards for Invention, Acoustic Sketches, Majesty and Wonder, and Lights of Madrid.

In 1989, Keaggy teamed up with Randy Stonehill, Russ Taff, Derri Daugherty, Mark Heard, Steve Taylor, Rick Cua and other musicians to create Phil Keaggy and Sunday's Child: a tribute of sorts to 1960s bands like The Beatles. That same year, Keaggy would hit the road with Stonehill for a tour by The Keaggy/Stonehill Band, which included Swirling Eddie David Raven on drums and Daniel Amos bassist Tim Chandler. In the fall of 1989 the Keaggys relocated once again, leaving the sunny shores and crowded freeways of southern California behind and moved to Nashville, Tennessee where they reside currently. A few years later, Keaggy would perform at former Beatle Paul McCartney's sister-in-law's wedding. Keaggy had met Laura Eastman, sister of Linda McCartney, while the former worked at CBN. After the wedding, Keaggy fulfilled a lifelong dream by jamming with McCartney in a bedroom at the Eastman family estate, site of the wedding.


Keaggy followed Sunday's Child in 1990 with all-out rock album Find Me In These Fields and in 1993 with Crimson and Blue, a bluesy rock album geared to the Christian market that included a cover of Van Morrison's "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God". That album was released simultaneously in the mainstream market as Blue, with a modified tracklist and some reworked songs. The most significant differences are the inclusion of three different songs (Keaggy's cover of the Badfinger song, "Baby Blue"; "All Our Wishes"; and "The Further Adventures of..." from the Revelator EP) and the exclusion of five songs from Crimson and Blue ("Love Divine," "Reunion Of Friends," "Stone Eyes," "I Will Be There," and "Nothing But The Blood.") Once again, an impressive list of musicians joined Keaggy for these releases, including Steve Taylor, Rick Cua, Phil Madeira, Charlie Peacock, Sam Bush, John Mark Painter (of Fleming and John), Ashley Cleveland, Jimmy Abegg, fellow 1970s Keaggy Band members Lynn Nichols and Phil Madeira, and John Sferra of Glass Harp. The band that toured in support of the album featured Wade Jaynes (of Chagall Guevara) on bass, Phil Madeira on Hammond B-3 organ, and John Sferra on drums.


On October 22, 2000, Keaggy, John Sferra and Daniel Pecchio reunited as Glass Harp for a concert in their hometown of Youngstown, Ohio at a sold out Powers Auditorium. Joining the band for the occasion was conductor Isaiah Jackson and members of the Youngstown Symphony. The following year saw the commercial release of the reunion concert in the form of the live album Strings Attached. Although the album is largely devoted to the band's previous work, it also includes Glass Harp's take on several songs from Phil's solo career. In 2003, the band released Hourglass, their first album of new material since 1972. Stark Raving Jams, a triple disc collection of live performances spanning from 1970 to 2003, was released the following year. Like Strings Attached, this collection also featured performances of some of Phil's solo material. Glass Harp's first three studio albums have since been re-issued on CD, each one including a previously unreleased bonus track.

In 2004, Keaggy guest performed with the indie band Dispatch for several songs during The Last Dispatch. It was to be Dispatch's last performance together and became the largest concert in independent music history.

Keaggy also guest performed on two songs of Rufus Tree's 2005 album "Dying To Live".

Keaggy continues to record and tour regularly. He is currently working on a record with former P.O.D. guitarist Jason Truby.

The Question: "Who is the best guitarist in the world?"

Rumors have followed Keaggy for years that Jimi Hendrix had supposedly named him as his answer to the question Johnny Carson asked him, "who is the best guitarist in the world?" while making an appearance on The Tonight Show. Another version of the story goes something like, "Jimi, how does it feel to be the world's greatest guitar player?" To which Jimi supposedly replied, "I don't know, you'll have to ask Phil Keaggy!" which according to some was from an interview in Rolling Stone or Guitar Player Magazine. Sometimes, the rumor is that it was Eric Clapton, or that it was on the Dick Cavett show. A recent variant has it that it was Eddie Van Halen on Letterman or with Barbara Walters who was asked the question. During live performances, Keaggy has mentioned it but personally thinks the rumors are untrue. However, because many of these shows did not keep archives of many of their early shows, it is nearly impossible to either confirm or disprove the rumors completely. Some fans have claimed to have seen the show in question, or read the interview but to date, no one has presented a tape, a magazine article or any kind of evidence to confirm it. Phil was asked this at one of his guitar clinics he held in California a few years ago and his answer was simply, "I don't think there is anything to it at all. I doubt that Jimi ever heard me play as he had died in England before I recorded with Glass Harp at his Electric Ladyland Studios in New York City. Someone told me years ago that when asked that question he replied, 'Phil Keaggy is the shortest guitarist in the world,' which is more believable." (See this Snopes article regarding the "Tonight Show" appearance.)



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