This email today from my friend Marvin Granger, former GM of Yellowstone Public Radio:
It is with more than a little sadness that I report the death of Bruce ‘Utah’ Phillips. He died in his sleep at 11:30 last night following a long battle with heart disease.
Over the past 25 years I benefited from his music and his stories in person, his recordings and on his public radio program, Loafers’ Glory. Utah was a proud, card-carrying member of the International Workers of the World (IWW). I learned the meaning of ‘oral tradition’ largely from his stories of American labor history; that ‘truth’ is not a accurate account of facts so much as personal human experiences that are felt as much as known.
Bruce Phillips was a native of Cleveland, spent many years living and working in Utah, later in Spokane and Nevada City, California. He was a unique entertainer, folklorist, human being.
From Starlight On The Rails : A Songbook, Utah talks about his song “Talking NPR Blues” (1:15 mp3):
“Talking NPR Blues” (2:07 mp3):
From Utah’s recent letter to family and friends:
The folk music family took me in, carried me along, and taught me the value of song far beyond making a living. It taught me that I don’t need wealth, I don’t need power, and I don’t need fame. What I need is friends, and that’s what I found—everywhere—and not just among those on the stage, but among those in front of the stage as well.