I went to see Phil playing with Ronnie Scott’s nine-piece band when they played at the Royal Albert Hall. It was on Sunday 13 th February 1955. New Musical Express put on their All-Star Poll-Winners Concert. It was in daylight. They did two sell-out shows and I went to the first one. Phil did a drum duet ‘Lester Leaps In’ with Victor Feldman. I already knew about Phil then. He changed my playing. There had been a half page article in Melody Maker about the Matched Grip. Jack Parnell claimed it was his idea, but it obviously wasn’t. Phil had been playing like that for years. Jack adopted it after Phil joined his band. Phil was right, it does gives a more even beat. Jack claimed he taught Phil.
Later, in 1963, I was at St. John’s College, Cambridge. Phil played there with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. It was after our examinations and was called the May Ball, but it was actually in the first week of June every year. They were on with a West Indian band who cleared off playing around the City Centre. Phil wasn’t a well man and he was bringing his drums in. I said: ‘Can I help you?’ He said: ‘Oh yeah mate, yeah, give us a hand, give us a hand.’ His large tom-tom stand was rattling. What had happened I guessed, was the seating where the floor tom-tom leg is, had had a knock and had loosened the bolt inside and it had finally come off. I always carried a few tools, so I put the leg back on and Phil appreciated that. He was a smashing guy. Dick Heckstall-Smith and Art Theman were in the band. Phil played like a bloody dream. Put him behind the kit and he was away!
Copyright – Peter Dawn