I first heard the music of Phil Keaggy in the fall of 1979. It was my first week in college and a bunch of my new roomies and I were driving around the Miami area. Out of the car speakers came a progressive jam of a song, cool vocals and guitar riffs. I was informed that the song was called “Time” and the artist was one Phil Keaggy. Impressed, I headed to the school bookstore the next morning to buy his albums. Keaggy, for those who aren’t familiar, is a world class guitarist, with a multitude of styles. He was, as I found out, the first guitar hero in christian music. And so my love affair with his music began. To date I have seen him in concert somewhere between 35 – 37 times. The number is a blur at this stage.
But this blog is about the first two times I met him. In 1984 I was attending the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale. Over the five years since first hearing Phil’s music, he had never played close enough for me to see him. Sometime in the spring of 1984, I heard that Phil would be participating in a “pro-life” event in Ft. Lauderdale. Excited, I bought my ticket and made my way to a very large church in Ft. Lauderdale. (I’ll point out that I was, and am, against abortion. But that gets tricky, and we’ll talk about that some other time.) To be honest, I attended the event only to see Keaggy. And so three hours of speakers came and went while I waited to see Phil. The only speakers who I remember were Frank Schaeffer, son of Francis Schaeffer (who received a standing ovation for saying the media was “full of bullshit”), and Melanie Green, wife of CCM icon Kieth Green. The response to Frank’s vulgarity was stunning to me, having been raised that good christians don’t say that particular word!
Finally Phil came out and performed two songs. This was very disappointing to me, three hours waiting for two songs didn’t cut it. The photo at the top of this blog is one I took during his performance. I determined that I would wait in the hallway hoping to meet Phil and snag a autograph.
After sitting around for three plus hours, I needed to use the restroom. And of course, as I was using the bathroom, Phil came in and settled into the urinal next to me! My immediate thought was “I’m not going to talk to my musical hero while we are both going to the bathroom”. So I finished up and waited for him in the hallway. Phil was very gracious and signed an autograph for me, I asked a couple of stupid questions, and we went our separate ways.
Which brings me to the next picture, taken a little over a year later, in the summer of 1985. I had graduated from AiFL and moved back to New York State. A buddy of mine and I heard Phil would be playing in Lancaster, PA. We excitedly made the 4 hour trip to see him. This time there were no disappointments, as Phil and band played over two hours. Afterward Phil came out to meet people and my buddy and I got in line to talk with him. While waiting, I worked up the questions I would ask, determined to not blurt something stupid like I did the previous year. Our turn came and before I could say anything, Phil said “we’ve met before haven’t we? It was in the hallway in Ft. Lauderdale wasn’t it”? He remembered our conversation. Blown away, I once again had nothing brilliant to say, and mumbled a couple of weak questions.
I have heard from others through the years that have had similar experiences with Keaggy. He apparently has an incredible memory, and is very humble and gracious. He must of met thousands over the course of a year plus, but he remembered me. I’d like to think it’s because I’m an incredible guy, but I know that’s not the case! But it made for an unforgettable night.