Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Jeff Phillips - Wrote for Jermaine Jackson and Yvonne Elliman

Jeff Phillips was born in Perth WA. Lots of family singalongs kickstarted his love of music. At 7 years of age, he fell in love with Rock and Roll and learnt to play guitar. 
So began his career in show biz. 

During his school years, his determination to be a singer persisted. He attended University and studied Economics, which only served to reinforce his plans for singing and songwriting.

Jeff got a great break appearing on "In Perth Tonight" where he sang Elvis Presley's "Puppet on a String" and Billy Thorpe's "Broken Strings".  As a result, Graham Kennedy invited him to appear on "In Melbourne Tonight". 
He returned to Perth to finish school and then drove back to Melbourne, across the Nullabor in his trusty VW, looking for another taste of those exciting TV appearances.

Melbourne had a new show called "New Faces". He was asked to enter. Never one to say no, he entered, sang "Dreams Of The Everyday Housewife"and won.

Soon afterward he got a message from IMT "We want you on IMT tonight! Jeff sang "Angel", a Cliff Richard hit. Jeff was clapping and the audience picked up the clapping and the song finished to a standing ovation.

A contract from Festival followed his successful TV appearances. TV appearances. Travelling to Sydney he recorded "Want to Meet Her" and "Baby It's You" with Pat Alton. Then followed an offer to host "Sounds Like Us" at the ABC. The show won a Logie  in 1968/69.

When Jeff later hosted "The Happening" the power of the video clip was just beginning. Ian Meldrum was a regular.

"About that time, we used to hang out at The Treble Clef" on Toorak Road. Ronnie Burns would turn up. Johnny Farnham. Russell Morris. It was a great time". says Jeff

Answering an article in The Herald Sun about the upcoming Greek Music Festival, which asked "Where are all the Australian songwriters", Jeff phoned the Greek consulate.

He represented Australia and sang his own composition "Gloria".

Jeff says "Greek audiences don't wait for the end. as soon as I hit the chorus, they clapped. I won the song festival! $5000 US, some gold statuettes, one for the lyricist (me) one for the melody writer (me) and a gold medal for the artist (me). And I got invited back the following year to open the festival".

1971 "The Happening" ended . Jeff went off to London got into TV series with "Rolf on Saturday OK"

He made lot of recordings in London with United Artists, including Vanda and Young's "Superman" and Yesterdays Hero.

"Superman" was released in Germany and another song that he wrote, "Rock Me Slowly.

He sang "Here you come again" released thru RCA. Looking for a hit song, They heard a demo and said yes. He performed that song on several BBC shows but it "fell between the cracks" because it was a ballad. Then Dolly Parton recorded it, and it was a great hit written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weild

Jeff: "I loved Europe, and was enjoying every minute of it. However, all of a sudden I wrote a song called "Rock Me Slowly" and I got a text from the publisher to tell me that Diana Ross is going to record it in Los Angeles. That was the cue to pack up and go to LA".

By the time Jeff arrived, Diana Ross had left the Motown label and moved to  go to RCA. At a party Jeff was surprised to meet a guy who said "I know you. You wrote "Rock Me Slowly". "I'm gonna record that next week with Jermaine Jackson. Diana was gonna record it then she left Motown. But Germain is still with Motown".

When Yvonne Elliman recorded it, that song got Jeff a lot of attention.

" I learned how to pay a particular chord, a major seventh a really sexy chord. Next minute a lot of people wanted it to be "Love Me Slowly.
"Yvonne Elliman recorded a real smokey sexy version of it. One of her best friends was Kiki Dee. Kiki and I did some writing together. I got to know so many people. Billy was there at Santa Monica Civic Centre. At the end of his concert he did "Oop Poop Pa Doo" and the crowd loved it". 

In the early 80's, Jeff Philips returned to australia and auditioned for Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats"and won the role of rock and roll cat - Rum Tum Tugger. Jeff says "Stewart Wagsaff was always Henry Higgins from "My Fair Lady" no matter what other roles he played, and I'll always be Rum Tum Tugger from "Cats". 

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