Interview Phill Stokes
by Y. Philippot-Degand et P. Archambeau for Road To Jacksonville
RTJ : First, Phill, can you introduce yourself to our readers ? What were your first musical steps ?
Phill Stokes : I am a bassist/vocalist for THE GHOSTRIDERS, SOUTHERN ROCK’S FINEST, ELLIE LEE BLUES FURY, and THE PHILL STOKES BAND. I first started playing in teenage cover bands doing everything from British invasion. Motown soul, psychedelic, blues and some country, I had a lot of different influences living in the Mid West. And I'm glad that happened.
RTJ : What were your first influences ? Why did you choose the bass ?
Phill Stokes : Duck Dunn, James Jamerson, David Hood, Jack Bruce, Jack Cassidy, Joe Osbourne, Bill Wyman, Paul McCartney. I got a bass cause there weren't many bass players around when I was a teenager. A lot of bands just didn’t use them.When I got one my phone never stopped ringing. LOL
RTJ : Can you tell us more about your first well known band, Pure Prairie League ?
Phill Stokes : That group evolved from a group called J/D. Blackfoot (Mercury Records). Craig Fuller and I were in that band and we had an album called « Ultimate Prophecy » . That did fairly well in the States. We left that and started PPL in late 1970 with George Powell, John David Call, and Tom McGrail. Got signed by RCA in 1971 and eventually had a smash with the song « AMIE ». The band went through many personell changes through the years including Vince Gill who got his first break with PPL and later became a solo superstar. Also Craig Fuller was lead singer for Little Feat for 5 years after Lowell George died.
RTJ : For our readers who wouldn't know you yet good enough, can you introduce to us the members of Ghost Riders ?
Phill Stokes : Steve Grisham(guitar–voc), Barry Rapp(keyboard–voc),Pug Baker (drums), Jimmy Sexton(guitar–voc) and myself (bass-voc.).
RTJ : On this album, you wrote two tunes among the most appreciated. Can you tell us about those two tunes, namely « Gettin’ My Love » which is a classic rock and « Long Live Southern Rock », typical southern rock tune ?
Phill Stokes : « GETTIN MY LOVE » is AC-DC and MC5 influenced. Two of my favourite rock bands of all time. I wrote that years ago but this version is a rewrite. Steve did some nice guitar chops on that and the drummer was Dave Challenger from Nashville. « LONG LIVE SOUTHERN ROCK » is an anthem for the genre. Telling where it came from and all the bands that made it great. And how it still stands up today and in the future. New bands like Blackberry Smoke and Swamp da wamp seem to be carrying that torch on today !
RTJ : Because of the quality of the songwriters in the band, is it difficult to place a tune in Ghost Riders?
Phill Stokes : I usually get one on every album but this time I got two.
RTJ : Are you a prolific songwriter inside Ghost Riders ? Can you tell us more about the writing process inside Ghost Riders ?
Phill Stokes : Steve and Barry are the main writers but Pug and I also contribute and collaborate with them. And we both write.
RTJ : When you bring your tunes, are they later very modified by the band regarding the arrangements, or are they generally true to the idea that you had in mind at the start ?
Phill Stokes : Both, depending on the song.
RTJ : We have in the album quiet diversified tunes in the style, like « Cajun Jesus » with an Otis Rush feeling, is it a will of the band ?
Phill Stokes : We all have so many diverse influences. I think it brings everything into the mix. I love it all.
RTJ : You don't play bass on every tune. Diary problem or, quiet simply, did you keep the tracks of the musicians who played on the demos ?
Phill Stokes : Yes we used a few guest players on the last two albums. It is cool to have these people on some tracks and an honor.
RTJ : How do you arrange and share the vocal parts between Steve, Barry and you ?
Phill Stokes : We tend to split it up to keep it interesting.
RTJ : On this album, you get the significant support of Dave Muse (Marshall Tucker Band), whose contribution on some tunes brings a lot to the arrangements. Do you know him for a long time ? How went this collaboration ?
Will he join the band on stage ?
Phill Stokes : I have known Dave for a few years now and he has played with GRB a few times. He is a very in demand musician.
RTJ : Can you talk about your involvement in Southern Rock's Finest, in which Dave Muse is also a member ?
Phill Stokes : Yes. SRF is a southern rock all star group playin the hits from Skynyrd, MTB, Blackfoot,Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Pure Prairie League and Firefall. Dave Muse plays Keyboard, Sax , Harmonica and Flute. He is an amazing player. SRF is a fun show and I hope we get back to Europe soon.
RTJ : Who are the musicians with whom you played that let you the the biggest impact ?
Phill Stokes : George McCorkle, Dan Toler, Bob Burns, Artimus Pyle. So many more...
RTJ : From which band would you put Ghost Riders' music closer ? Marshall Tucker Band or Outlaws ?
Or a little of both ?
Phill Stokes : Both but more Outlaws energy.
RTJ : Regarding the gear, we often saw you with a Fender, but also with more modern basses and a Music Man.
Are you a collector ? Are you stable in your gear choices, bass like amp ? What are your favourite instruments ?
Is there still a bass that makes you dream of ?
Phill Stokes : Yes I play 64 Fender Precision, 65 Fender Jazz, and a Music Man Stingray. I used to collect more than I do now but I can't get it out of my blood. My favourite would be a 54 original Fender Precision.
RTJ : Is it easy at that time for a band with a good reputation like Ghost Riders to tour in the U.S.A. ?
Phill Stokes : It is fairly easy with the right agents booking you. Yes.
RTJ : How went your coming in Hambourg two years ago ? Did you play one or several gigs ? Do you keep in mind some anecdotes, some details ?
Phill Stokes : Played several small venue shows in Hamburg and had a great time jamming with some GOOD German Southern rockers called Nocturn. Had a great time partying in the Reeperbahn but I can't tell you the details. LOL
RTJ : Do you think that you would come back in Germany, or even generally in Europe ?
Phill Stokes : Yes we want to come back and promote this new album called « FIVE » and play some shows.
RTJ : Traditional question in Road to Jacksonville, if you have to stay on a desert island, what records would you take with you ?
Phill Stokes : MC-5 . AC-DC, SKYNYRD, ALLMAN BROS, BEATLES, STONES…
RTJ : Thanks Phill.