Born Philip James Flowers, 28 January 1934, Clarendon, North Carolina
Phil Flowers was primarily a soul singer, but he has recorded in a wide variety of styles : rock ’n’ roll, gospel, R&B, blues, ballads and sixties pop. Rock and roll fans will remember him most of all for his frantic rocker “No Kissin’ At the Hop” from 1958. Though he never had a national hit, Flowers managed to sustain a career in music for four decades.
Born on a small farm in Longwood County, North Carolina, Flowers was taught how to pick a guitar by his father, Phil senior. By the time he was fourteen, Phil decided that picking a guitar was a lot easier than picking cotton, so he joined a travelling combo that played in his town. Phil played with various groups until he got a letter from Uncle Sam and was enlisted into the U.S. Air Force. During his service he starred with the successful “Tops in Blue” Air Force show and played camps all around the country.
After his return to civilian life, Phil began singing professionally in the Washington D.C. area. He made his first record for the Hollywood label in 1956, “Honey Chile” (not the Fats Domino number). The other side was performed by a different artist. Two more releases on Hollywood followed before Phil was signed by Mercury in 1958. Only one single was issued, on the Wing subsidiary, “No Kissin’ At the Hop”/“Walking At Night” (Wing 2100). The Cash Box reviewer rated “Walking At Night” as excellent (B+) and “No Kissin’ At the Hop” as good (C+ : “Wild offering that ought to make the dancing teensters happy” - issue of July 26, 1958). Both sides were written by Phil himself, in partnership with Cindy Davis, a pseudonym for Kay Adelman, whose husband Ben Adelman ran the Empire label between 1959 and 1962. Phil would have two releases on Empire in 1960, “Sadie From Haiti” and “Ham ’n’ Eggs”. The latter record was credited to the pseudonym “Skip Manning”. The Adelmans formed a joint publishing venture with Phil Flowers and Lillian Claiborne, called Lil-Phil-Ben.
The Wing single failed to catch on and Mercury did not release any further recordings by Phil. There followed a long period of label-hopping, with releases on United Artists, Empire, Honey, Sway, Domino, Josie, Almanac and Columbia. During the early 1960s Flowers recorded mostly twist and other dance records, as well as a gospel album in 1963. After the dance crazes went out of fashion in the Beatles era, he switched to soul music.
In the 1960s, Flowers had a great band, the nucleus of which consisted of Melvin Lee (guitar), Willie Melvin (bass), Harold Blair (sax) and T.N.T. Tribble (drums). Tribble is credited on several of Phil’s recordings and he also recorded in his own right.
Things finally began to happen for Flowers in late 1967. His second Dot single, “Cry On My Shoulder”, sold well on the East Coast and Phil was invited to sing on the nationally televised Dick Clark Show. An album for Dot ("Our Man In Washington”) was well received. In 1968, Flowers performed at the White House, during the Johnson administration. That same year, at the request of the mayor of Washington, D.C., Flowers and his backing group (The Flower Shop) were dispatched to sing in neighbourhoods where riots had broken out after the assassi- nation of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From 1969 until 1973 Flowers recorded for A&M, Bell and Epic. His covers of “Like A Rolling Stone”and “Every Day I Have To Cry” (A&M, 1970) were also released in the UK, his first releases there. He appeared in Las Vegas and was a regular at Washington hotels and clubs, often performing with his siblings and children as backup singers. Much of his repertoire consisted of self-composed songs (Phil was a prolific songwriter) and he did impressions of a wide range of other singers, including Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. In the late 1970s he was the lead singer of the rock group Jebediah, with whom he recorded an album of Jagger-Richards compositions for Epic in 1978. During the later years of his life, Phil performed mostly on cruise ships, as well as in Bermuda, Saudi Arabia, Puerto Rico and some European countries.
Phil Flowers died of cancer in 2001, six days before his 67th birthday. He collapsed at his home in Gaithersburg, Maryland and was taken to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville, where he died the next day.
More info : http://www.soulwalking.co.uk/Phil%20Flowers.html
CD : Rockin’ Dance Party : All the Hits (Encore CD-2013). Released in 1995. 25 tracks from 1958-1964, some previously unissued. Title on spine is “No Kissin’ At the Hop”.
Acknowledgements : Pete Hoppula, Claudia Levy, Greg Pato and the anonymous liner notes for the Encore CD.
Dik, October 2017
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