Upchurch started his career working with the Kool Gents, the Dells, and the Spaniels before going on to work with Curtis Mayfield, Otis Rush and Jimmy Reed. He then returned to Chicago to play and record with Woody Herman, Stan Getz, Groove Holmes, B.B. King, and Dizzy Gillespie.
In 1961, his record "You Can't Sit Down", by the Philip Upchurch Combo, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. In the 60s he toured with Oscar Brown, appearing on the 1965 live album, Mr. Oscar Brown, Jr. Goes to Washington. Returning from the Army in 1967, he recorded with Richard Evans, John Lee Hooker, Grover Washington, Jr. and Cannonball Adderley. Upchurch was part of a group called the Soulful Strings during the 1960s, prior to working with Rotary Connection on Chess's Cadet label.
In the 1970s he worked with Ramsey Lewis, Quincy Jones and led his own quartet with Tennyson Stephens. In the mid 1970s and 1980s, he performed with George Benson, Mose Allison, Gary Burton, Lenny Breau, Joe Williams, Natalie Cole, Carmen McRae, Cat Stevens and Michael Jackson.
His son is the drummer, Sean Rickman.
His wife, his seventh, is the actress Sonya Maddox.
- You Can't Sit Down (Boyd 1961)
- You Can't Sit Down, Part Two (United Artists 1961)
- Twist the Big Hit Dances (United Artists 1961)
- Feeling Blue (Milestone 1968)
- Upchurch (Cadet Concept 1969)
- The Way I Feel (Cadet Concept 1970)
- Darkness, Darkness (Blue Thumb 1972)
- Lovin' Feeling (Blue Thumb 1973)
- Upchurch Tennyson (Kudu 1975)
- Phil Upchurch (1978)
- Revelation (Jam 1982)
- Name of the Game (Jam 1983)
- Companions (Paladin 1985)
- L.A. Jazz Quintet (Pro Arte 1986)
- All I Want (Ichiban 1991)
- Love Is Strange (Go Jazz 1995)
- Whatever Happened to the Blues? (Ridgetop/Bean 1997)
- Rhapsody & Blues (Go Jazz 1999)
- Tell the Truth! (Evidence 2001) produced by Carla Olson
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With George Benson
With Dizzy Gillespie
- The Real Thing (Perception, 1969)
With Hubert Laws
- The Chicago Theme (CTI, 1974)
With Ramsey Lewis
- Them Changes (Cadet, 1970)
With Jack McDuff
- Feather, Leonard & Gitler, Ira The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz Oxford University Press US, 2007 ISBN 0-19-532000-X, 9780195320008 at Google Books
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 140. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Phil Upchurch page via soulwalking.com
- Phil Upchurch, "Companions" - Jam Records LP 021, 1984