The Energizer: Flip Phillips

FlipPhillips87MJCThe last jazz party held in Odessa during Dr. O.A. “Jimmie” Fulcher’s lifetime was in 1977, and one of the musicians who attended was Flip Phillips, who had been a regular attendee in Odessa since 1971. Flip Phillips is fondly remembered in West Texas for his exuberant playing, and as a musician who would attend every party in Odessa except one for 21 consecutive years. No one can remember why Flip stopped attending parties in West Texas. He shows up in no programs after 1991, although he continued to play and record up until his death in 2001.

Scott-Flip-Jack-1991-no-dsFlip made his first impact on the jazz scene playing with Woody Herman in the 1940s, and then was a mainstay of the Verve record label in the 1950, as well as a regular on the Jazz at the Philharmonic circuit into the 1960s. In 1977, the Odessa American decided to interview Flip in advance of the jazz party, and Flip said what musicians continue to say about the West Texas parties. “We have the best guys in the country here, “ Phillips said. “Trumpets, drums, pianos – the best in the world.”

Phillips-1977As of 1977 Phillips claimed he had circled the globe 11 times, which gave him a basis for his comments about the musicians in Odessa.

Flip’s tenor sound was the backbone of numerous Jazz at the Philharmonic Tours with Norman Granz, and he even recorded with Charlie Parker. He was fond of an old saying, “When you want to make a dollar, make the people holler,” and many of his West Texas friends remember that when Flip was on stage in the Permian Basin, things began to happen.

“When Flip was on the bandstand, the band really got going,” said jazz party President Margaret Gilham. Long time party attendee Ingrid Zeeck remembers that Flip “was the driver, and he was fun. My husband and I always said, oh, Flip is on the bandstand – he’ll drive them. And he would.”

Flip-Zoot-1981Others also remember his friendship and thoughtfulness, and his love for golf. Former Midland Jazz Classic President Bobby Crues still has an ornamental wooden clock Flip made for him and his wife Georgia hanging in his living room.

Flip would tell you that, above all, he’d like to be remembered as a great fisherman. But we think he would not be happy if you left out his tenor saxophone playing.