That Time I Met Phil Keaggy

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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.

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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.

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Music for the soul

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Stevie Wonder
“Sir Duke”

Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands
But just because a record has a groove
Don’t make it in the groove
But you can tell right away at letter A
When the people start to move

They can feel it all over
They can feel it all over people
They can feel it all over
They can feel it all over people

Music knows it is and always will
Be one of the things that life just won’t quit
But here are some of music’s pioneers
That time will not allow us to forget
For there’s Basie, Miller, Sachimo
And the king of all Sir Duke
And with a voice like Ella’s ringing out
There’s no way the band can lose

You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people
You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people

A couple of years ago I started walking on my lunch breaks with my ear buds firmly planted in my ears, listening to music while I walked. I’ve always loved music. My dad was a very good vocalist, he sang in a quartet in college. My mother was a self taught pianist and accordian player. She could really sing as well. And me? I couldn’t carry a tune if my life depended on it. I stink. As a musician I am not very good. I love the guitar and goof around with it all the time, but I haven’t taken the time to learn how to play properly. But I love the music! I’ve noticed that as I walk and soak in the various styles and groups and solo artists I like, its almost a spiritual experience. Something about being locked into the sounds just takes me higher, lifts my soul you might say. Now I’m not talking about religious music, just music in general. I come back from those walks refreshed, feeling good. You could say I can feel it all over. I feel connected to nature, connected to my surroundings, peaceful. I’m sure there’s a scientific reason for this. Music is, after all, just vibrations that our ear drums convert into sound. Or something like that. I don’t have a deep message here. Just musings. Perhaps it’s because the weather still stinks here in central New York, and I’m not walking at lunch yet! But I think I’ll put together a quick mix for my first lunchtime walk of the season. Let’s go 10 songs, songs that are currently on my mental radar. This will be heavy on the classic rock side, I’m old! Take a look at my list, then post your list in the comments, if your so inclined! So as soon as possible, get your ear buds in and go for a walk. It’ll be good for your soul!

1. Sir Duke – Stevie Wonder
2. Stand or Fall – The Fixx
3. Love Song – Elton John
4. I Love You But I’m Lost – Tears for Fears
5. Mission (A World Record) – ELO
6. Lights of Home – U2
7. The Hunger and the Thirst – Vector
8. Little Wing – Sting
9. Opus Insert – Kansas
10. Feeling That Way/Anytime – Journey
Bonus: All Mixed Up – The Cars