It is with a deep sadness that I need to tell you of the passing of a very dear friend and a member of the extended Bloodshot family.
Phil Dürr died today, in the presence of family and friends, after a sudden and catastrophic heart attack on Sunday.
Phil was an ace-in-the-pocket guitarist for numerous Detroit area bands like Five Horse Johnson, Thornetta Davis, Luder, Giant Brain, and Big Chief. His first band was the earth-shatteringly ahead of their times The Wood Butchers—which, coincidentally, was my first band. Our long-suffering parents had to endure an unholy racket in their basements as we tried to learn our instruments. Phil succeeded in this. I certainly did not. As the saying goes, "Those that can, do. Those that cannot, start labels."
[Wood Butchers show flyer illustrated by Phil Dürr]
On a gorgeous summer day in 1997, Phil, myself, members of the Grievous Angels, and the Volebeats were mucking about the famed Ghetto Recorders studio in downtown Detroit with producer Jim Diamond. Beer was had. Someone had the bright idea to go to Tigers Stadium to catch an afternoon game. More beer was had. From 10 rows behind home plate, we watched Justin Thompson pitch a masterful game; his curve was snapping that day. A Tigers’ win. We adjourned to the studio where, perhaps, more beer was had. Noodling ensued. Tape started rolling. And, almost by accident or mystical conjuring, Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain” started to coalesce.
To backtrack a bit, when Phil loved a band, he LOVED a band. In junior high and high school, I hated Led Zeppelin. In college, Phil became obsessed with them, learning and dissecting the solos, playing tapes endlessly on road trips and flipping out over them. Because of that, well, I learned to hate Led Zeppelin all over again. BUT, another band he became obsessed with was Funkadelic. And Phil did drink deep from the Eddie Hazel chalice. Those were the road trips I really dug.
So when this ad hoc band settled into the groove that beery afternoon, Phil took to flight and soared.
Have a listen. Today, it fits my mood, and the mood of all the friends he made around the world. It is uplifting and elegiac. Joyful and longing. Ecstatic and mournful.
In a high school full of entitled, frat-boys-to-be Bugs Bunny types—the guys who always got the girl and always came out on top—Phil was my comrade in Daffy Duck-ism, as we exasperatedly railed against the vagaries and injustices of the world. We also saw no reason why someone couldn’t love the Misfits and Henry Mancini at the same time. He was there at the time of life when I was figuring out who I was. And these are the most cherished friends of all. They know you. They help make you who you are.
So, to my friend, my bandmate, my housemate, my frequent co-pilot on ridiculous and amazing road trips, thank you. I am so very sad I could not say that to your face before it was too late.
To the Bloodshot friends and family reading this, do me a favor:
After you’ve listened to “Maggot Brain,” reach out to someone like this from your past. Text them, give them a call, send an email or a stupid picture. Re-connect. Stay connected. Trust me, the time and the distances will just melt away.
If they seem surprised at hearing from you, tell them “Phil sent me.”
I think he would have liked that.