It is shocking and sad what little footage exists of James Richard “Dickie“ Phillips that shows his unorthodox method of playing the electric guitar. Here is the *only clip on YouTube that shows Dickie Phillips playing with Tex Williams And His Western Caravan — note how he places the guitar across his lap and presses his fingers firmly downward on the strings in the manner of a pianist:
“The Talking Boogie“
Tex Williams & His Western Caravan (1950s?)
[Guitar solo by “Dickie” Phillips begins at the 0:45 mark]
Herb Steiner chimes in via The Steel Guitar Forum on Tex Williams’ musical personnel:
“The steel player in ‘Talkin’ Boogie’ is Wayne Burdick. Singing with Tex is Deuce Spriggens on bass and Jimmy Widener on guitar. Max Fidler is the lead violinist, Ossie Godsen on vibraphone, Warren Penniman on drums, and I don’t recognize the other players. Really good band, y’all. “
I have a (better quality) clip of this same band performing “Tulsa Trot” that features a wonderful and more intricate solo from Dicky Phillips that is really fun to watch — I regret that this performance is not yet available on YouTube [*since rectified – click here for a stellar live performance of “Tulsa Trot”].
Distracted by the vintage Vegas architecture & signage
However, Tex Williams did do another live performance of “The Talking Boogie” on TV’s Town Hall Ranch Party with our old friend Joe Maphis, who plays his one-of-a-kind doubleneck guitar:
“The Talking Boogie“
Tex Williams with Joe Maphis & The Western Ranch Party (1958)
Phillips’ individualistic approach to playing the instrument, although similar to a Chapman Stick (without the “double tapping“) is a marvel to watch — and also brings to mind the similarly mind-blowing style of Kenneth Ray “Thumbs” Carllile., who dazzles TV host Tennessee Ernie Ford in this live performance accompanied by Roger Miller:
Thumbs Carllile & Roger Miller
Text below is an excerpt from Phillips’ obituary:
JAMES RICHARD “DICKIE” PHILLIPS, b. August 30, 1920, Beamon, Pettis County, Missouri; d. April 23, 1991, Jackson County, Missouri; m. MARTHA KILLEBREW, ca. 1940, St. Louis, Missouri.
James Richard Phillips was an accomplished musician, playing the fiddle and guitar with many well known bands, such as Spike Jones, Tex Williams and Bob Scobey. He played with Pat Boone’s backup band and appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Show as a regular attraction for several months, both on radio and television.
When he was with the Tex Williams band, he played background music for a number of movies, including several of the Walt Disney animated films. During his youth, he played with a band which appeared in Hawaii and during this time he contracted tuberculosis.
THIS JUST IN!
Update (June 16, 2017)
An electric violin that was developed by Leo Fender, in partnership with Dickie Phillips, was purchased on Ebay in 2004 Ben Heaney (of DeltaViolin – deltaviolin.com) but “took me a long time to get my head round what I’d bought.” As it turns out, the story has taken on considerable historic significance, as this 1958 production prototype is the world’s rarest electric violin! One of only two of its kind, and “500 times more rare than a Stradivarius,” Heaney adds that “the BBC just broadcast a recording of the 1958 Fender Electric Violin – no samples, no synths, no loops… – a single take divided into three sections and multi-layered.”
UK music fans will hear this electric violin for the first time, essentially, as Heaney prepares to take this instrument on tour, as well as in the recording studio, in the coming months. The instrument can already be heard on a track called “Where’s the Fire Gone” by The August List — the first recording “to feature this particular age of Fender violin,” according to Heaney, who also tells Zero to 180 —
“The sound is fantastic. Totally unlike ANY electric violin on the market today … with the possible exception of a prototype I’ve helped a new maker develop…
The reason is simple, seemingly no one has used Fender’s pickup solution. That’s why it sounds different. Almost every other violin is using a piezo, so ultimately share a root sound” — save this prototype.
Click on this link to hear a solo recording of the world’s rarest electric violin.