Philip Tyler Keaggy (born , 1951 in Youngstown, Ohio) is an American acoustic and electric guitarist and vocalist who has released more than 50 albums and contributed to many more recordings in both the contemporary Christian music and mainstream markets. He is a seven-time recipient of the GMA Dove Award for Instrumental Album of the Year, and was twice nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Gospel Album. He has frequently been listed as one of the world's top-3 "fingerstyle" as well as "fingerpicking" guitarists by Guitar Player Magazine readers' polls.
Keaggy was raised in a small farmhouse in Hubbard, Ohio with nine brothers and sisters. Keaggy went to high school in Austintown, Ohio, graduating in 1970. He is missing half of the middle finger on his right hand due to a childhood accident at age four involving a water pump. Keaggy recalls the incident, "We lived on a farm in Hubbard, Ohio, which had a big water pump, and I was climbing up on it. As I was kneeling on top of the platform, it broke and the faucets came crashing down on my finger and cut it off. I can remember it very vividly?as if it happened yesterday, and I can see my dad running down the hill, rescuing me, and taking me to the hospital. I can recall having a white cast and bandage; it was gigantic! They tried to sew it on, but it didn't take, so I grew up with nine fingers. As a young kid, I was embarrassed about it a lot, especially when I was beginning to get into guitar. I used to be red when I'd play in front of people because I believed they were looking at my hand, which they probably weren't...Before my accident with my finger occurred, my oldest brother was killed in a car accident and two weeks afterward my younger sister had her big toe cut off. These were all really heavy things for my mom and dad to go through."
Initially, it was not the guitar that attracted Keaggy to playing music; "I asked my dad for a set of drums for my tenth birthday but he came home with a Sears Silvertone guitar...I had wanted a set of drums, but my folks couldn't afford them, so I got the guitar. I didn't know how to tune the guitar;. as it was when it came, that's how I thought it was supposed to be...So for about nine months I learned funny little melodies with my guitar tuned out. Finally, my brother Dave said "Here, let me show you how to tune this thing properly." I said, "Well, O.K., but I gotta learn all over again." I was disappointed...My oldest brother Dave, showed me some chords...But if I were to pinpoint one turning point...when I was in sixth or seventh grade, I met a man named Nick who worked an electronics store in California, where my family lived for awhile. One day, Nick took me to a music store loaded with all these great guitars the British groups were using and he asked me "Which one is your favorite?" I pointed out a 1962 Stratocaster and he bought it for me. He got me my first professional gig at Artesia Hall?just me and my guitar and amp...I paid him back by sweeping driveways and working in the electronics store. I had that guitar for quite a while and put a lot of time and effort into playing it."
Phil Keaggy was a member of a mid-1960s garage rock band called the Squires; one of their songs, which he co-wrote, appears on the compilation album Highs in the Mid-Sixties, Volume 9. In 1967 he moved on to briefly record with the band The New Hudson Exit. At one point, the band had considered Joe Walsh as its lead guitarist. Walsh would later establish himself as guitarist for the James Gang before embarking on a solo career and work with the Eagles.
In 1968, Keaggy, along with longtime friend, the drummer John Sferra and bassist Daniel Pecchio, formed a band called Glass Harp. The band released the single "Where Did My World Come From?" on the United Audio label in 1969. A major turning point for the trio was their winning of an Ohio area's "Battle of the Bands." One of event's judges happened to be an associate of the celebrated producer Lewis Merenstein, whom he alerted to the gifted young threesome. At the time, Merenstein was fresh from producing albums for many successful artists including The Spencer Davis Group, Turley Richards and Van Morrison's Moondance (Merenstein produced Astral Weeks as well) and had just been voted Producer of the Year by Rolling Stone magazine. Merenstein was persuaded to fly down from New York to listen to the band in concert. Upon hearing Glass Harp perform, Merenstein's enthusiastic report resulted in Decca Records signing Glass Harp to a multi-record deal.
Reflecting on 1970, Keaggy recalls, "...the 18th year of my life was very dark; I was into drugs by now....back in '69 I was experimenting with LSD. I had done some trips and it was terrible, I thought it might enhance my creative ability in music, but it didn't. I once heard a tape of me playing when I was high and it was awful. I sang weird and I played badly. I thought I was doing such a great job, but it was a deception. People I was supposedly very close to, who were close to me, were turning on me. It seemed really strange...I was experiencing such fear...it was just...terrible...During these days I would take naps in the afternoon because I'd be so tired playing at night, staying up till 4 in the morning, getting up early and napping again in the afternoon. I'd wake up having nightmares...I had "Peace" written on my wall and I went around giving the peace sign, but I didn't experience peace in my life. I didn't know what peace really meant; it was just a clich?."
On Valentines Day in 1970, Keaggy's life would change dramatically. The guitarist says, "y dad and mother were on their way to take my sister to her girlfriend's house. At the time I was down in Maryland playing with and was high as usual. When I returned I received word from my brother Bill that they were in an accident, a head-on collision....mom was in critical condition...Dad was going to be all right but he was shattered. His world, his whole life was crumbling. Mom looked very bad but I thought she would snap right out of it, I was very insensitive to the reality of what was going on. I was living in my own world, trying to do my own thing, not really caring about people, just myself. I remember visiting her at the hospital and saying, "Don't worry, mom, you'll be okay." A week later she died. I was in Mansfield that weekend playing. I came home at 5 in the morning and the lights were on as I entered the house. They told me mom had died at such and such a time and I remember that I fell right to floor in despair. My whole world was shattered, too, because I had really loved mom and I knew that she prayed for me and wanted the best for me. I began now to experience an emptiness in my life?right down deep, gut level...I felt I was lost and needed help. My sister, Ellen, who I hadn't seen for about three years, told me she had an experience that changed her life completely, a born-again experience. She had met Jesus Christ and her life was changed. I just listened to her as she shared her experience with me. And as I looked at her, I saw that she had hope. I could see that she was reflecting peace in her life, and joy, and love. She shared with me that mom, before she died, praised Jesus...Mary Ellen was sharing with me and my younger sister, Geri, about how we both could come to know the Lord and have our lives changed. She invited us to service one Sunday morning while she was in our area. I heard the Gospel preached and I responded...and said, "Jesus, come into my life."...I didn't know a whole lot. I didn't even know what He was going to do, but I knew Jesus was the answer."
In Septermber, Glass Harp found itself in New York's Greenwich Village recording its first album "Glass Harp" at Jimi Hendrix' Electric Lady Studios with Lewis Merenstein as producer. Keaggy and Sferra were eighteen years old at the time. All three members of Glass Harp were active in songwriting the band's material. Keaggy sang the majority of songs, but Pecchio and Sferra also sang lead on several numbers. One song of Keaggy's in particular, "Can You See Me," dramatically reflected his newfound Christian faith, with its reference to Jesus' death. Keaggy recalls, "It was recorded in New York City in about a week. Even though I had bronchitis and had to sing one verse at a time, it worked out. And I was even able to get in a witness for the Lord Jesus in "Can You See Me" and "Look in the Sky."
As a Decca Records artist, the band began to open for such bands as The Kinks, Iron Butterfly, Yes, Traffic, and Chicago.
In 1971, Glass Harp released a follow up album, Synergy. Again Keaggy's Christian faith surfaced in some of the lyrics. The guitarist notes, "That album was a real experience because I was able to sing 'The Answer,' a song I wrote right after my conversion to Christ. And with...producers and an engineer that didn't care about Jesus, I was surprised that out of 15 songs, one of the ten that got on the album was 'The Answer.' I praise Jesus for that work, because it's just a simple song of testimony." The following year the band released its third album: It Makes Me Glad, which included a version of the old spiritual "Do Lord." "We all worked the best that we could. The group knew that it would be our last album together because I had given notice that I was going to leave. And on August 8, I did. It was a really heavy thing for everybody."
"What A Day"
Having recorded three albums with Glass Harp, Keaggy left the band in 1972. Keaggy says, "We enjoyed playing together and we really got tight musically. But spiritually we were going different directions." In 1973 Keaggy released What A Day, his first solo album. The songs were written while Keaggy was still with Glass Harp. Keaggy performed all the instruments on the album. The title track remains a staple of Keaggy's concerts up to the present day. Years later, Amboy Dukes guitarist Ted Nugent was quoted as saying "I don't know what happened to that Phil Keaggy. He could have saved the world with his guitar." Keaggy married his wife Bernadette in the summer of 1973. He then took a brief hiatus from recording on his own and only toured in support of other artists like Love Song, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Paul Clark, and Nancy Honeytree.
Keaggy returned to the studio in 1976 with Love Broke Thru, an album which included his version of a song that would eventually be considered a classic in Christian Music: "Your Love Broke Through." Written by Keith Green, Todd Fishkind and Randy Stonehill, the song would later be closely identified with Green, yet it was at Green's insistence that Keaggy's rendition be the first released recording. Keaggy's album was listed as #64 in the 2001 book, CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music.
During the summer of 1977 Keaggy went on an eighteen-city tour of the western United States with 2nd Chapter of Acts and "a Band called David." This tour was captured in the subsequent live triple album How the West Was One, a collection that featured concert renditions of "What a Day" and "Your Love Broke Through." That same year also saw the formation of the Phil Keaggy Band. Comprised of Keaggy, guitarist Lynn Nichols, keyboardist Phil Madeira, bassist Dan Cunningham and drummer Terry Andersen, the Phil Keaggy Band released their lone album in 1977, Emerging. 1977 also marked the release of the Glass Harp compilation album, "Song In The Air."
In 1978, Keaggy released his first critically acclaimed instrumental album entitled The Master and the Musician. It would go on to become the best-selling album of his career . A 1989 reissue of the album included a new track, "Epilogue: Amazing Grace."
The Keaggy family then moved to Leawood, Kansas in August,1979. Their first daughter, Alicia, was born there in March, 1980. The Keaggys left Leawood in 1983 and settled in Costa Mesa, California. Their second daughter, Olivia, was born on , 1984, and their son, Ian, was born in 1987.
Keaggy's record label during the early part of the decade was Sparrow Records. 1980's Ph'lip Side features the blistering "Sunday School" and the gentle "Little Ones." The following year saw the release of Town to Town, noted for what has become a concert staple "Let Everything Else Go." It also included Keaggy's arrangement of "Rise Up O Men of God." This would begin a trend in which Keaggy would frequently feature a hymn on his albums. In 1982, Keaggy released Play Thru Me, noted for its bright upbeat classic, "Morning Light" as well as the searing slide-guitar instrumental workout entitled "Happy."
In 1984, Keaggy and Randy Stonehill co-wrote and sang the moving duet "Who Will Save the Children?" for Stonehill's album Celebrate This Heartbeat. The duet would also serve as a theme song for Compassion International, a Christian child advocacy ministry that helps more than 1 million children in 25 countries. Both artists remain avid supporters of this ministry up to the present day.
The following year Nissi Records released Keaggy's next studio album, Getting Closer. Keaggy would later re-record two of the album's songs: a rearranged version of "I Will Be There" appears on 1993's Crimson and Blue while "Passport" received an update for the 2009 Christian Progressive Rock compilation album CPR 3.
1986 saw the release of Way Back Home. The album consisted of quieter acoustic numbers, including a new take on 1981's moving "Let Everything Else Go" and "Maker of the Universe," a profound ballad about the incarnation of Christ. The album also emphasized one of the prominent themes in Keaggy's music: family.
The next year Phil Keaggy released his second instrumental album, The Wind and the Wheat. The album reflects the "New Age" instrumental sounds of the day, but the songs remain fresh, particularly the soaring "March of the Clouds." The Wind and the Wheat won the guitarist his first Dove Award, an honor that he received in 1988. Also in 1988, Keaggy and Stonehill would team up with singer Margaret Becker, former Wings drummer Joe English and others as the Compassion All Star Band. The group released a subsequent live album One by One.
In 1989, Keaggy teamed up with Randy Stonehill, vocalist Russ Taff, bassist Rick Cua, Derri Daugherty, Mark Heard, Steve Taylor and other musicians to create what would become one of Keaggy's most enduring albums, Phil Keaggy and Sunday's Child. Lynn Nichols, guitarist for the 1977 Keaggy Band and producer for Keaggy's The Master and the Musician album, produced the Sunday's Child project. The title track in particular recalled the sounds of the 1960s, and that, along with an album cover that resembled that of the classic image of With The Beatles, has sometimes seen the Sunday's Child album referred to as a tribute album of sorts to the 1960s. Referring to the Sunday's Child album cover, Keaggy says that the idea "was the producer?s. I actually had a different cover in mind...It was...a black and white of my daughter Olivia sitting on a guitar case, with this Gretsch anniversary model standing up behind her against this concrete wall, and she?s got a little white flower wreath in her hair. She?s about four years old, and?I just loved that cover. So when the album came out, I wasn?t really knocked out by the Beatles thing, because it didn?t look like the Beatles to me! It was my goofy face and then these three guys in the background, one of which was Lynn Nichols, the producer. And I thought, "Oh, I don?t care for this." I wanted to have the other cover. I wanted it to say "Phil Keaggy and Sunday?s Child," and to me, that was Olivia, being as she?s my daughter. So my nephew works in a printing place, and I created this cover that had all the same photos and information inside the CD insert, but I had him make 500 of these new covers, and we took the shrink wrap off...500 CDs, and...inserted these covers that I wanted and took them on the road and sold them, and we mailed them out through the fan club, since we didn?t have a website in those days." Reflecting on the music of the project, Keaggy says, "I feel the album, as a good collection of songs, is really listenable...I feel that folk who want to listen to an album are more interested in good songs than merely the guitar player. For Sunday's Child, not only did we resort to using vintage guitars and amps, but I resorted back to old ways of playing. The rock leads are shorter and more precise. More to the point, feisty, and a little bit more dangerous. What you get is more incisive work. It's something that fits the song rather than trying to create a song around a riff or guitar figure...What I think comes through this album is that sense of longing, of love, of suffering and in all of this there can be hope. Everyone has to find their way to God and I hope people will see Jesus in my life and this album as a guide along the way." One track, "I've Just Begun (Again)," was first written when Keaggy was 17, and was updated for this album. In addition to his own material, Keaggy recorded two Mark Heard songs for the album: "I Always Do" and "Everything is Alright." The recordings would appear again on subsequent tribute albums to Heard. One of the tribute albums, Orphans of God, was listed at #25 in the book, CCM Presents: The 100 Greatest Albums in Christian Music .
Also in 1989, Keaggy hit the road with Stonehill for a tour by The Keaggy/Stonehill Band, which included Swirling Eddie drummer David Raven and Daniel Amos bassist Tim Chandler. In the fall of that year, the Keaggys relocated once again, leaving the sunny shores and crowded freeways of southern California behind and moved to Nashville, Tennessee where they reside currently.
A few years later, Keaggy would perform at former Beatle Paul McCartney's sister-in-law's wedding. Keaggy had met Laura Eastman, sister of Linda McCartney, while the former worked at CBN. After the wedding, Keaggy fulfilled a lifelong dream by jamming with McCartney in a bedroom at the Eastman family estate, site of the wedding.
Keaggy followed Sunday's Child in 1990 with an all-out rock album Find Me In These Fields. The project was produced by Lynn Nichols and garnered a Grammy award nomination.
In 1992, Keaggy released what has become a landmark acoustic instrumental album, Beyond Nature. His third instrumental project reflected a Celtic-influence and earned the guitarist his second Dove Award in the "Instrumental Record" category.
The following year saw Keaggy work with another group of talented musicians for his next project. These recording sessions reunited Keaggy with former Glass Harp bandmate John Sferra on drums. Keaggy says, "I started Crimson & Blue with a two-fold purpose: To record something more aggressive and to work with John again. We recorded all the basic tracks together and most of the leads were recorded live. It's just your basic four-piece group." Comprising the rest of the group were Phil Madeira, the former keyboardist of the 1977 Phil Keaggy Band, bassist Rick Cua, and guitarist Jimmy Abegg. Lynn Nichols produced the sessions. Other guest musicians included Sam Bush on mandolin, John Mark Painter (of Fleming and John), and Ashley Cleveland on backing vocals. Charlie Peacock and Steve Taylor also played a prominent role in the project. The sessions resulted in the release of Crimson and Blue, a bluesy rock album geared to the Christian market that included a cover of Van Morrison's "When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God". "Love Divine," "I Will Be Here" and "Everywhere I Look" all received siginficant airplay. That album was released simultaneously in the mainstream market as Blue, with a modified tracklist and some reworked songs. The most significant differences are the inclusion of three different songs (Keaggy's cover of the Badfinger song, "Baby Blue"; "All Our Wishes"; and "The Further Adventures of...") and the exclusion of five songs from Crimson and Blue ("Love Divine," "Reunion Of Friends," "Stone Eyes," "I Will Be There," "Nothing But The Blood.") The song "All Our Wishes" is a story about Phil and Bernadette Keaggy losing a baby. The song was written, musically, in 1967 when Keaggy was in ninth grade
The band that toured in support of the album featured Madeira on Hammond B-3 organ, Sferra on drums, and Wade Jaynes (of Chagall Guevara) on bass.
In June 1994, Phil released a heavily revised version of his 1986 album Way Back Home. The 1994 edition featured new recordings of ten of the original album's eleven songs, including the moving classics "Maker of the Universe" and "Let Everything Else Go." The updated version also included four brand new tracks: "It Could Have Been Me," "She's A Dancer," "Father Daughter Harmony," and "The 50th." Keeping with the album's family motif, "Father Daughter Harmony" was a moving duet with daughter Alicia while "The 50th" feauures Keaggy's guitar playing over a reel-to-reel recording of his grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary in 1949.
1995 saw the release of a two volume compilation project: Time: 1970-1995. The anthology featured selections from throughout Keaggy's career, including several classic instrumentals. Several unreleased tracks were featured, including a live version of "Do Lord" with Glass Harp, a live version of "Shouts of Joy" from the Crimson and Blue tour and "We'll Meet Again," a song Phil wrote and recorded as a teenager. An alternate version of "Time" was also included as was a new solo recording of the Glass Harp song "The Answer."
Also in 1995, Keaggy was voted by Guitar Player Magazine readers as the #2 Best Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitarist.
That same year, Phil released what has become one of his best-selling albums, True Believer. The title track was written by veteran producer Alan Shacklock and reached number one on the Christian radio charts. It also won Shacklock the EMI Songwriter of the Year award. Yet Shacklock's slick production work on the album was a departure in style and sound for Keaggy, and while most of the album's material transcends the production, this would prove to be Keaggy's lone work with Shacklock. Years later, in reflecting on the album, Keaggy would say that True Believer "is really the most unlike me of any album I?ve ever done, in my personal opinion. It was more of a manufactured concept: "We?re gonna make a pop album for you that?s going to launch you into the next ten years." I don?t know if it did. It?s an unusual album to listen to for me, but there are a couple of good songs on there, though." Despite the production issues, many of the album's songs remain concert favorties, including the title track, "Salvation Army Band," and "The Survivor." A gripping song sung from the perspective of an abortion survivor, "The Survivor" featured the recorded heartbeat of Phil's son Ian. The album also features "And On That Day," a stirring Advent song composed with Glass Harp drummer John Sferra.
The following year Keaggy released another critically acclaimed instrumental album, Acoustic Sketches. Comprised mainly of Keaggy originals, the album features a cover of "Swing Low, Sweet Chairot," and would later win Keaggy another Dove Award. A second instrumental album, 220, was also released. The album, titled after the 220 volt electric standard, featured a diverse mix of musical styles, ranging from blues to Celtic. The album's closer, "Ian's Groove," marks the recording debut of Phil's son on drums. Despite its stellar performances, as a collection of original instrumentals, the album was largely overlooked. Keaggy says, "that was a very cool album that?Christians and Christian bookstores and...the marketplace ...couldn?t make the connection, because it?s electric guitar music. So it kind of fell by the wayside." Also in 1996, Phil?s wife Bernadette published A Deeper Shade of Grace, a moving account of the emotional and spiritual struggles she experienced in losing their first five children via early infant death, miscarriage and stillbirth. Phil wrote the forward to the book.
Keaggy's musicianship was further highlighted on 1997's On the Fly, arguably his most ambitious instrumental album to date. Released through Canis Major Records, highlights includes the Spanish-flavored "Praise Dance," the hypnotic groove "Firewalker," and the six-part epic, "Way of the Pilgrim." Also in 1997, Phil teamed up with Wes King and Out of the Grey's Scott Dente for the mostly instrumental album Invention. The album would win a Dove Award the following year. Keaggy would then go on to sign with Word Records.
Phil Keaggy, Phil's last vocal album of the decade, came out in 1998. Lacking the slick production style of the previous vocal album, True Believer, Phil Keaggy was a strong return to form for Keaggy in terms of recapturing his usual organic, live sound. Several songs reflected a Beatles influence, including "Days Like You," his last single to receive considerable airplay as Christian radio has been moving towards a more youth-oriented format. Keaggy also appeared as a guest singer on the Ragamuffins' "All the Way to Kingdom Come," on his friend Rich Mullins' last original work, The Jesus Record (which contained demo tracks recorded by Mullins just before his 1997 death, and renditions of those songs by the Ragamuffins and other artists).
1999 saw a flurry of Keaggy instrumental releases. The double album Premium Jams is a stunning collection of previously unreleasd electric instrumentals dating back to the recording sessions for Crimson and Blue and 220. Majesty and Wonder, a Christmas album featuring the London Festival Orchestra, includes Keaggy's take on standards such as "Oh Holy Night" as well as a three part original, "Nativity Suite." Majesty and Wonder would also win Keaggy a Dove Award. Phil later released the four disc collection Music to Paint By. The project was comprised of Still Life, Electric Blue, Splash, and Brushstrokes.
The new decade has proved to be one of Keaggy's most prolific and creative periods. Re-Emerging, Keaggy's first album of the new millennium came out in April 2000. The disc was a reunion of the Phil Keaggy Band in which they updated their classic 1977 album, Emerging. With the exception of "Gentle Eyes," Re-Emerging retained the material from the original album and also introduced four brand new tracks: "My Auburn Lady," "Mighty Lord," "You're My Hero," and "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight."
In September, Phil released the instrumental album Zion. Recorded exclusively on a Zion Radicaster created by master guitarmaker Ken Hoover at Zion guitars, Zion features a mix of new songs such as "Z-Blues" and revamped versions of "Like an Island," "March of the Clouds" and the Glass Harp classic "Whatever Life Demands."
Having performed together occasionally since 1981, in October, Keaggy, John Sferra and Daniel Pecchio reunited as Glass Harp for a concert in their hometown of Youngstown, Ohio at a sold out Powers Auditorium. Joining the band for the occasion was conductor Isaiah Jackson and members of the Youngstown Symphony. The following year saw the commercial release of the reunion concert in the form of the live album Strings Attached. Although the album is largely devoted to the band's previous work, it also includes Glass Harp's take on several songs from Phil's solo career such as "Tender Love," "Chalice," "From the Beginning" and a solo acoustic version of "The True Believers."
October 2000 also marked the release of Inseparable, initially available in both single and double disc format, with the single disc version eventually going out of print. The album featured "Chalice," a collaboration with Glass Harp drummer John Sferra as well as a cover of Paul McCartney's "Motor of Love." That same month, Phil released Lights of Madrid, an album of Spanish-flavored instrumentals that included a re-recording of "Praise Dance" from 1996's On the Fly. Lights of Madrid also contains a PDF with guitar tabliature for the album's music. Lights of Madrid would go on to win Keaggy a Dove Award for best instrumental album.
In November, Phil released The Uncle Duke project, a collaboration with his uncle Dave "Duke" Keaggy, with Phil setting his uncle's eclectic poetry to music.
In 2001 Keaggy released the albums In the Quiet Hours and Cinemascapes. Both consisted of selections from the 1999 four disc project Music to Paint By. In the Quiet Hours showcased a new composition "As It Is In Heaven," while Cinemascapes includes three previously unreleased songs: "The Road Home," "Lighthouse," and "For the Love." The song "Spring" was previously released on 2000's Uncle Duke as "Interlude." The year also saw the release of What Matters, a nine song compilation drawing mostly from the albums Phil Keaggy and Crimson and Blue. "Tell Me How You Feel" from Sunday's Child is also included as is a brand new song "What Matters." The album was exclusively produced for and released through the International Bible Society.
2002 saw the release of Hymnsongs. Primarily a collection of classic hymns, the album also includes a Keaggy original composition that is centered around the Lord's Prayer. This track, "Our Daily Bread," as well as the entire album, are dedicated to Todd Beamer (a hero of 9-11's Flight 93), a devoted Christian and a great fan of Keaggy's music. Describing the concept of the project, Keaggy says, "I've always loved hymns. They're great melodies that still stand on their own, and are still sung, even after centuries have passed. And those melodies are even more appreciated when you know the lyrics. The writers of the hymns were great wordsmiths; they could be so concise and so eloquent in their expression of truth. And theirs is music that speaks to every generation." Yet Keaggy's then label, Word Records, did not share his vision for the project and asked that it be an instrumental album: "it's the oddest thing...to me, hymns should be really sung. I had a conflict with it because, here I am, I can sing, and yet they didn't want me to sing...I offered--I went to management about it and it was pretty much, "No, don't do that. That's not want they want." Hymnsongs would be Keaggy's last album with Word Records.
That same year, Phil also participated on Randy Stonehill's Edge of the World album, singing a duet "That's the Way It Goes" as well as appearing on "We Were All So Young" with other veteran musicians such as Larry Norman. Additionally, Phil?s wife Bernadette published Losing You Too Soon, an updated version of A Deeper Shade of Grace, her 1996 book on losing her first five children through early infant death, miscarriage and stillbirth.
The next year Keaggy released It's Personal, an album in which he set poetry by Keith Moore to music. Keaggy and Moore had previously collaborated on the song "A Little Bit of Light" that appeared on the guitarist's 1998 self-titled album. Also in 2003 Keaggy released Special Occasions, an eclectic collection of music focusing on birthdays, weddings and graduations. The album consisted primarily of Keaggy originals and also featured a re-recording of "Here and Now" from 1986's Way Back Home, as well as covers of the Beatles tune "When I'm 64" and Elton John's "The Greatest Discovery." That same year, Sparrow Records, Phil's former record label (1980-1983, 1994-1997), released a 15 track compilation History Makers. It features standards such as "Let Everything Else Go," "Morning Light," and "The True Believers." 2003 also saw the release of Hourglass, the first album of new material by Glass Harp since 1972. Additionally, guitarist Muriel Anderson released an album with Keaggy entitled Uncut Gems. A collection primarily consisting of instrumental improvisations recorded in 2001 and 2003, the two also perform Keaggy's "Tennessee Morning" from his 1996 album 220. Guitarist Stanley Jordan appears on several songs. Portions of the album's earnings go towards Anderson's Music for Life Alliance fundraiser.
The following year, Glass Harp released Stark Raving Jams, a triple disc thirty-nine song collection of material spanning from 1970 to 2003. The collection focused primarily on live performances but also includes a few unreleased studio recordings. Like Strings Attached, this Glass Harp album includes live renditions of some Keaggy solo material.
In 2004 Keaggy guest performed with the indie band Dispatch for several songs during The Last Dispatch. It was to be the band's last performance together and became the largest concert in independent music history. Phil also released two live DVDS: Phil Keaggy in Concert: St. Charles IL, and Philly Live!
In 2005, after thirty years of being out of print, Glass Harp's first three studio albums were reissued on CD by Music Mill Entertainment. The albums were digitally remastered and include previously unreleased bonus tracks. In July, Keaggy also released an expanded edition of Uncle Duke. First released in 2000, this new edition was entitled The Uncle Duke Project and included the original album plus a bonus disc of new songs, alternate versions and an interview with Phil and his uncle.
The following year, Keaggy released Freehand, the sequel to Acoustic Sketches. That same year Keaggy and longtime friend Randy Stonehill released Together Live! in both album and DVD format. In addition to including acoustic renditions of Keaggy and Stonehill's solo material, the project includes versions of their previous collaborations such as "Sunday's Child," "Who Will Save the Children?" and "That's the Way It Goes." Keaggy later guest performed on two songs of Rufus Tree's album Dying To Live.
2006 saw Keaggy release three additional instrumental albums: Jammed! was a one disc collection of songs featured previously on 1999's double album Premium Jams. The album also included a new rendering of "Ode to Joy" titled "Joyphil" and "Prehistrobie K-18," a previously unreleased song that Phil wrote and recorded as a teenager. The acoustic instrumental album Roundabout, was a collection of pre-concert warm up jams from various soundchecks. The songs were comprised of looped pieces. Keaggy explains that the songs "began with me messing around at my soundchecks before the audience came in. I?d typically just come from taking a nap at a hotel, so my mind would be fresh, and I?d improvise loops that would be recorded by my soundman, Brian Persall. The loops have rhythm, lead, bass, and even percussion parts along with textures created using an EBow and placing plastic between the strings, which creates koto, banjo, and steel drum-type sounds. After I returned home, I imported all of the loops into Pro Tools and edited some sections, but no overdubs were added either after the initial recording or while in the studio. If a song was too long, I might edit some measures or repeated sections to make it a little less repetitious, or maybe move some bits around."
Phil Keaggy and guitarist Mike Pachelli released an accoustic instrumental project titled Two of Us. Also in 2006 Phil released a vocal album, Dream Again. Highlights included collaborations with two of his talented children. Son Ian co-wrote, sings and plays guitar on "Why" while daughter Alicia sings a duet with her father on "Micah 6:8." In 2006, Glass Harp reunited for a concert to celebrate the release of their first DVD, Circa 72. The DVD is the first official release of their 1972 PBS concert, and includes rare outtakes, home movie footage, and a commentary by the band.
On October 29, 2007 Keaggy was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame by P.O.D. guitarist Jason Truby. Highlights of the evening included a performance of Keaggy's song "Let Everything Else Go", performed by his son Ian, Wes King and Scott Dente. He also released Acoustic Cafe, an album, that with the exception of "You Have My Heart," is a collection of covers ranging from Bob Dylan ("If Not For You," "Make You Feel My Love") to Cyndi Lauper ("Time After Time"). Many of the songs are duets, such as the Beatles' "In My Life" with Randy Stonehill and the Everly Brothers "All I Have to Do is Dream" with Jeremy Casella. Later that year Keaggy released another acoustic instrumental album: The Song Within. Recorded using a McPherson acoustic guitar, the album revamped two Keaggy classics, with "What a Day" being transformed as "Water Day" and "Noah's Song" undergoing significant revision as "Noah's Shuffle." 2007 also marked the 30th anniversary of the landmark instrumental album, 1978's The Master and the Musician. The album was re-released with a bonus disc of outtakes, alternate versions and a recent interview. Keaggy also toured in support of the album's anniversary with a band that featured Glass Harp drummer John Sferra. The tour was chronicled on the subsequent live DVD: The Master & the Musician: 30 Years Later Tour. The next year Keaggy released the album Phantasmagorical: Master and Musician 2, the sequel to his 1978 masterpiece.
In January 2009, Keaggy received the Gold Level Award as the "Best Spiritual / Worship Guitarist", as voted by readers of Acoustic Guitar Magazine In June, Keaggy and Randy Stonehill released a new studio album titled Mystery Highway. Highlights include a remake of the Keaggy/Stonehill classic "Sunday's Child," a cover of Mark Heard's "Love is Not the Only Thing," and "We'll Meet Again"--a song that Phil wrote and recorded as a teenager. In support of the album, the two musicians, along with guitarist Mike Pachelli and Glass Harp's Daniel Pecchio and John Sferra, have played several concerts as "The Keaggy-Stonehill Band." This year has also seen Keaggy contribute a soaring re-recorded version of "Passport" on the album CPR 3; a compilation of musicians from the Christian Progressive Rock (CPR) scene. The original version of "Passport" appeared on Keaggy's 1985 album Getting Closer. In August, Keaggy announced that he had recently completed an instrumental album with keyboardist Jeff Johnson titled Frio Suite. The album is slated for release on October 6.
In addition to recording and touring regularly, Keaggy also hosts a Podcast that is available for free subscription through iTunes and is currently working on a record with former P.O.D. guitarist Jason Truby.
The Question: "Who is the Best Guitarist in the World?"
For a number of years, a story has widely circulated concerning Phil Keaggy and the late Jimi Hendrix. It has been said that during an episode of The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson asked Hendrix, "Who is the best guitarist in the world?" Hendrix is allegedly said to have answered, "Phil Keaggy." Another version of the story has Hendrix being asked, "Jimi, how does it feel to be the world's greatest guitar player?" To which Hendrix supposedly replied, "I don't know, you'll have to ask Phil Keaggy!" This account is sometimes attributed to a magazine interview in either Rolling Stone or Guitar Player. Occasionally the story has the setting for the question being the Dick Cavett Show. Other versions have the question being posed to Eric Clapton. A more recent variant has Eddie Van Halen being asked the question by either David Letterman or Barbara Walters. Keaggy has long insisted that such stories are completely unfounded, noting that "it was impossible that Jimi Hendrix could ever have heard me... would never have said anything about a guy who, at the time, was only nineteen years old. We actually recorded our first album at Electric Lady Studios two weeks after his unfortunate death, so I just can?t imagine how he could?ve heard me. I think it?s just a rumor that someone?s kept alive, and it must be titillating enough to keep an interest there...So I don?t think it was said?and that?s it for that!"