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John Phillips (musician)

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John Phillips
Phillips in 1967
Phillips in 1967
Background information
Birth nameJohn Edmund Andrew Phillips
Also known asPapa John
Johnny Phillips
Born(1935-08-30)August 30, 1935
Parris Island, South Carolina, U.S.
DiedMarch 18, 2001(2001-03-18) (aged 65)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
  • Singer
  • musician
  • songwriter
  • Guitar
  • vocals
Years active1960–2001
Susan Adams
(m. 1957; div. 1962)
(m. 1962; div. 1969)
(m. 1972; div. 1985)
Farnaz Arasteh
(m. 1995)

John Edmund Andrew Phillips (August 30, 1935 – March 18, 2001)[1] was an American musician. He was the leader of the vocal group the Mamas & the Papas and remains frequently referred to as Papa John Phillips. In addition to writing the majority of the group's compositions, he also wrote "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" in 1967 for former Journeymen bandmate Scott McKenzie,[2] as well as the oft-covered "Me and My Uncle", which was a favorite in the repertoire of the Grateful Dead. Phillips was one of the chief organizers of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.

Early life[edit]

Phillips was born August 30, 1935, in Parris Island, South Carolina.[1][3] His father, Claude Andrew Phillips, was a retired United States Marine Corps officer. On his way home from France following World War I, Claude Phillips managed to win a tavern located in Oklahoma from another Marine during a poker game. His mother, Edna Gertrude (née Gaines),[4] who had English ancestry,[5] met his father in Oklahoma. According to Phillips's autobiography, Papa John, his father was a heavy drinker who suffered from poor health.

Phillips grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, where he was inspired by Marlon Brando to be "street tough". From 1942 to 1946, he attended Linton Hall Military School in Bristow, Virginia. According to his autobiography, he "hated the place," citing "inspections," and "beatings," and recalls that "nuns even watched us take showers".[6][7] He formed a musical group of teenage boys, who sang doo-wop songs. He played basketball at George Washington High School, now George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia, where he graduated in 1953, and gained an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. However, he resigned during his first (plebe) year. Phillips then attended Hampden–Sydney College, a liberal arts college for men in Hampden Sydney, Virginia, dropping out in 1959.


Early years[edit]

Phillips traveled to New York in the early 1960s in the hope of gaining a record contract. His first band, The Journeymen, was a folk trio, with Scott McKenzie and Dick Weissman.[8] They were fairly successful, putting out three albums, and had several appearances on the 1960s TV show Hootenanny. All three albums, as well as a compilation titled Best of the Journeymen, have since been reissued on CD. He developed his craft in Greenwich Village, during the American folk music revival, and met future Mamas & the Papas members Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot there around that time. Lyrics in the group's song "Creeque Alley" describe this period.

The Mamas and the Papas[edit]

The Mamas and the Papas in 1968: Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty, John Phillips

Phillips was the primary songwriter and musical arranger of the Mamas and the Papas. In a 1968 interview, Phillips described some of his arrangements as "well-arranged two-part harmony moving in opposite directions".[2] After being signed to Dunhill, they had six Billboard Top Ten hits – "California Dreamin'", "Monday, Monday", "I Saw Her Again", "Creeque Alley", "Words of Love" and "Dedicated to the One I Love".

Phillips helped promote the Monterey International Pop Music Festival held June 16– 18, 1967, in Monterey, California; he performed with the Mamas and the Papas as part of the event as well. The festival was planned in just seven weeks, and was developed as a way to validate rock music as an art form in the way jazz and folk were regarded. It was the first major pop-rock music event in history. He also co-produced the film Monterey Pop (1968) with the group's producer Lou Adler.[9]

John and Michelle Phillips became Hollywood celebrities, living in the Hollywood Hills and socializing with stars such as Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and Roman Polanski. The Mamas and the Papas broke up in 1968 largely because Cass Elliot wanted to go solo and because of personal problems between Phillips, his wife Michelle, and Denny Doherty, including Michelle's affair with Doherty. As Michelle Phillips later recounted, "Cass confronted me and said 'I don't get it. You could have any man you want. Why would you take mine?'" Michelle Phillips was fired briefly in 1966 for having affairs with Gene Clark and Doherty. She was replaced for two months by Jill Gibson, their producer Lou Adler's girlfriend. Although Phillips was forgiven and asked to return to the group, the personal problems continued until the group split. Elliot went on to have a successful solo career until her death in 1974.

Later years and death[edit]

Phillips released his first solo album, John, the Wolf King of L.A., in 1970. The album was not commercially successful, although it did include the minor hit "Mississippi", and Phillips began to withdraw from the limelight as his use of narcotics increased.

He teamed up with Adler again to produce Robert Altman's 1970 film Brewster McCloud and also wrote the songs for the film.[9]

Phillips produced his third wife Geneviève Waïte's album Romance Is on the Rise, and wrote music for films. Between 1969 and 1974, Phillips and Waïte worked on a script and composed over 30 songs for a space-themed musical called Man on the Moon, which was eventually produced by Andy Warhol but played for just two days in New York after receiving disastrous opening night reviews.

Phillips moved to London in 1973, where Mick Jagger encouraged him to record another solo album. It was to be released on Rolling Stones Records and funded by RSR distributor Atlantic Records. Jagger and Keith Richards produced and played on the album, as well as former Stone Mick Taylor and future Stone Ronnie Wood. The project was derailed by Phillips's increasing use of cocaine and heroin, which he injected, by his own admission, "almost every fifteen minutes for two years".[10] In 2001, the tracks of the Half Stoned or The Lost Album album were released as Pay Pack & Follow a few months after Phillips's death. In 1975 Phillips, still living in London, was commissioned to create the soundtrack to the Nicolas Roeg film The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie. Phillips asked Mick Taylor to help out; the film was released in 1976.

In 1981, Phillips was convicted of drug trafficking.[11] Subsequently, he and his daughter Mackenzie made the rounds in the media in an anti-drug campaign, helping to reduce his prison time to a month in jail, of which he spent three weeks (one week off for good behavior) at Allenwood Prison Camp, in Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Upon his release, he re-formed the Mamas and the Papas with Mackenzie Phillips, Spanky McFarlane (of the group Spanky and Our Gang) and Denny Doherty. Throughout the rest of his life, Phillips toured with various incarnations of this group.

His autobiography, Papa John, was published in 1986.

With Terry Melcher, Mike Love, and former Journeymen colleague Scott McKenzie, he co-wrote the number-one single "Kokomo" for the Beach Boys. The song was used in the 1988 film Cocktail and was nominated for a Grammy Award (Best Song Written specifically for a Motion Picture or Television) and a Golden Globe Award for Best Song.

His years of drug addiction resulted in health problems that required a liver transplant in 1992. Several months later, photographs of him drinking alcohol in a bar in Palm Springs, California, were published in the National Enquirer. On March 14, 1994, during his first Howard Stern Show appearance since the transplant, he said, "Occasionally I have a drink", when asked if he still drank.

Phillips spent his last years in Palm Springs, California, with Farnaz Arasteh, his fourth wife. On March 18, 2001, he died of heart failure in Los Angeles at the age of 65,[1][12] days after completing recording sessions for a new album. He is interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Cathedral City, near Palm Springs[13] with his third wife Geneviève Waïte.

Personal life[edit]

Phillips married Susan Adams[12] of a wealthy Virginia family on May 7, 1957. They had a son, Jeffrey, and a daughter, Mackenzie.

While touring California with The Journeymen, Phillips met teenager Holly Michelle Gilliam, with whom he had an extramarital affair.[11] After the affair caused the dissolution of his marriage to Adams, he married Gilliam on December 31, 1962, and she thereafter became Michelle Phillips. The couple had one child together, Chynna Phillips, vocalist of the 1990s pop trio Wilson Phillips. Denny Doherty and Michelle started an affair in 1965. Phillips and Michelle divorced in May 1969.

Phillips married his third wife, actress and model Geneviève Waïte, on January 30, 1972.[14] The couple had two children, Tamerlane and Bijou Phillips. Phillips and Waïte divorced in 1985.[15]

Phillips married his fourth wife, painter and artist Farnaz Arasteh, on February 3, 1995.[16][17]

Abuse allegations[edit]

In September 2009, eight years after Phillips's death, his eldest daughter Mackenzie alleged that she and her father had a 10-year abusive and incestuous relationship. In her memoir High on Arrival, Mackenzie wrote that the relationship began in 1979 when she was 19 years old. She said that the abuse began after Phillips raped her while they were both under the influence of heavy narcotics on the eve of her first marriage.[18] On The Oprah Winfrey Show on September 23, 2009, Mackenzie Phillips said that her father injected her with cocaine and heroin. According to Phillips, the sexual abuse ended when she became pregnant and did not know who had fathered the child; she said these doubts led her to have an abortion her father paid for. She stated, "I never let him touch me again."[19][20]

Geneviève Waïte, John's wife at the time, denied the allegations, saying they were inconsistent with his character. Michelle Phillips, John's second wife, also stated that she had "every reason to believe [Mackenzie's account is] untrue".[21] Chynna Phillips, Michelle Phillips's daughter, stated that she believed Mackenzie's claims and that Mackenzie first told her about the sexual assault during a phone conversation in 1997, approximately 11 years after the events had ended.[22] Bijou Phillips, Mackenzie's half-sister from her father's marriage to Geneviève Waïte, has stated that Mackenzie informed her of the sexual abuse when Bijou was 13 years old, and the information had a devastating effect on Bijou's teenage years, stripping her of her innocence and leaving her "wary of [her] father".[23] She also stated, "I'm 29 now, I've talked to everyone who was around during that time, I've asked the hard questions. I do not believe my sister. Our father [was] many things. This is not one of them."[24] Jessica Woods, daughter of Denny Doherty, said that her father had told her that he knew "the awful truth" and that he was "horrified at what John had done".[25]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1996, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to Phillips.[26]

The Mamas and the Papas were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame on January 12, 1998, and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000.



Year Title Catalog Number US[27] US A/C[28] US Country[28] Album
1970 "Mississippi"

B-side: "April Anne"

Dunhill 4236 # 32 #13 #58 John Phillips


Solo work
Year Name Type Label Additional artist(s) Notes
1970 John Phillips (John, the Wolf King of L.A.) Album Dunhill Records The backing musicians included members of Wrecking Crew. [29]
1970 Brewster McCloud Soundtrack MGM Records Merry Clayton on vocals.
2001 Pay Pack & Follow Album Eagle Rock / Red Ink Records Mick Jagger on vocals, Keith Richards, Mick Taylor, and Ron Wood on guitar. Recorded 1973–1979, but released one month after his death in April 2001.
2001 Phillips 66 Album Eagle Rock / Red Ink Records Released in August 2001.
2008 Pussycat Album Varèse Vintage Recorded in 1978, released in September 2008.
2009 Andy Warhol Presents Man on the Moon Musical Varèse Sarabande Written by John Phillips and produced by Andy Warhol and directed by Paul Morrissey. 1975 musical. Released as part of the John Phillips Presents series of CDs.[30]


  • 2007: Jack of Diamonds


  1. ^ a b c "Obituary: Papa John Phillips 1935–2001". Think.cz. March 17, 2001. Retrieved October 4, 2021.
  2. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 36 – The Rubberization of Soul: The great pop music renaissance. [Part 2]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  3. ^ "John Phillips". Biography. A&E Television Networks. October 13, 2016. Archived from the original on April 9, 2019. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  4. ^ The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: M-Z. New York City: Charles Scribner's Sons. January 1, 2003. ISBN 978-0-684-31222-4. Retrieved August 19, 2015 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Williams, Clarence Russell (1998). A history of the Hardgrave family: the descendants of Major Francis Hardgrave, Revolutionary War Soldier. Madison, Wisconsin: Russell Publishing Company. p. 269. Retrieved August 19, 2015 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ Phillips, John, Papa John – An Autobiography, Doubleday & Co. 1986, pp. 41–43. ISBN 978-0440167839
  7. ^ Cadet, Linton Hall, Linton Hall Military School Memories: One cadet's memoir, Scrounge Press, 2014. ISBN 9781495931963
  8. ^ McLellan, Dennis (August 21, 2012). "Scott McKenzie, whose hit single 'San Francisco' captured spirit of 1960s, dies at 73". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 23, 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Hofheinz Goes For Big At Party In Astrodome For MGM's 'McCloud' Pic". Variety. December 2, 1970. p. 5.
  10. ^ The E! True Hollywood Story, Episode: "Mackenzie Phillips". Entertainment Television Network, 1999. Phillips admits this in an on camera interview.
  11. ^ a b Weller, Sheila (2007). "California Dreamgirl". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Phillips says she may have aborted dad's child". Today. New York City: NBC News. Associated Press. September 23, 2009. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  13. ^ Brooks, Patricia; Brooks, Jonathan (2006). "Chapter 8: East L.A. and the Desert". Laid to Rest in California: a guide to the cemeteries and grave sites of the rich and famous. Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot Press. p. 245. ISBN 978-0-7627-4101-4. OCLC 70284362.
  14. ^ "American Female Singer / Song Writers". Air Structures. August 2004. Archived from the original on October 4, 2009. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  15. ^ Scwed, Mark (June 21, 1985). "Divorce". UPI. Boca Raton, Florida: News World Communications. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  16. ^ Schindehette, Susan (June 17, 1996). "The Mamas and the Papas' Kids". People Magazine. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  17. ^ "Farnaz Arasteh". MyHeritage. Or Yehuda: MyHeritage Ltd. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  18. ^ "Mackenzie Phillips: I slept with my own father". People. September 22, 2009. Retrieved September 23, 2009.
  19. ^ Thomson, Katherine (September 23, 2009). "Mackenzie Phillips To Oprah: Decade Of Sex With Dad Ended With Abortion". Huffington Post.
  20. ^ "Excerpt from High on Arrival by Mackenzie Phillips". Oprah.com. September 23, 2009. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  21. ^ Eng, Joyce. "Mackenzie Phillips' Family Split Over Star's Incest Claims". TV Guide. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  22. ^ Everett, Cristina (September 23, 2009). "Chynna Phillips recalls learning about sister Mackenzie Phillips' sexual abuse". New York Daily News. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  23. ^ "Bijou Phillips reacts to Mackenzie's Claims". Oprah.com. Retrieved September 24, 2009.
  24. ^ "Phillips Blames Mackenzie For Ruining Her Life". San Francisco Chronicle. September 29, 2009.
  25. ^ "Denny Doherty's Daughter Corroborates Mackenzie Phillips' Story". Oprah.com. Archived from the original on September 28, 2009. Retrieved January 28, 2023.
  26. ^ Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
  27. ^ "John Phillips – Chart history". Billboard.
  28. ^ a b "John Phillips Albums (Top Albums) ••• Music VF, US & UK hits charts". www.musicvf.com. Retrieved April 24, 2016.
  29. ^ "John Phillips (John, The Wolf King of L.A.) – John Phillips | Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  30. ^ "Long Lost Footage of Musical Play by John Phillips, Produced by Andy Warhol". Dangerous Minds. July 31, 2009. Archived from the original on August 3, 2009. Retrieved December 23, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Cadet, Linton Hall, Linton Hall Military School Memories: One cadet's memoir, Scrounge Press, 2014, pp. 114–116. ISBN 9781495931963

External links[edit]