24 May 2020

Roy Phillips still going strong 50 years after 'Girlie'

From Sunday Morning, 11:47 am on 24 May 2020

Fifty years’ ago this week, British-born musician Roy Phillips was on top of the New Zealand music charts with his band The Peddlers and their hit 'Girlie'.

Phillips now lives in Christchurch, having lived previously in Auckland, the Bay of Islands and Queenstown.

Roy Phillips of The Peddlers

Roy Phillips of The Peddlers Photo: Supplied

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The Peddlers were a major act in the 1960s and 1970s with their jazz infused music featuring Phillips front and centre on Hammond Organ and vocals.

The Peddlers music was introduced to a whole new audience with the arrangement of 'On A Clear Day' featuring on the hit TV show Breaking Bad.

That Hammond Organ got a lot of punishment over many years touring, Phillips told Jim Mora.

“It was my baby for many, many years. In the end that organ of mine was held together by gaffer tape it was smashed, dropped and goodness knows what and still played.”

When 'Girlie' hit the charts in New Zealand the band were playing shows in the United States, he says.

“We’d just finished a stint in the States and a call came through to say that 'Girlie' was number 1, we were on our way home and Phillip Warren our promoter here offered us 12-week tour of just about everywhere in New Zealand.

“We played every place imaginable and thoroughly loved it.”

That trip to New Zealand was turning point for Phillips, who says he fell in love with the country.

“I loved the whole place and in 1981 I came over here to live and lived in Lynfield in Auckland for a while then moved up to the Bay of islands and lived there for 12 years.”

The Peddlers

The Peddlers Photo: Supplied

‘Girlie’ started life as a poem, he says.

“I was just embarking upon my song writing career and I took this poem to a guy called Ken Clancy who was the head of CBS and he said can you put some music to it?”

The song was recorded at IBC studios in London, he says.

“IBC was next door to the Chinese embassy and at 9 o’clock the Chinese Embassy used to send Morse Code back to wherever and it would come through the studio electronics.”

The band took a break and repaired to the BBC bar in Portland Place near the studios.

“We had to stop so we used to go down to the BBC bar, which was the best bar in London … we had an hour down there and the world was beautifully hazy and we went back into the studio and believe it or not we did three takes of ‘Girlie’ and that was it.”

Phillips is still recording and playing and has a trilogy of standards coming out this year.

 “It’s three albums, 27 numbers, recorded here in our home studio which we’ve entitled the Groove Room.

“Fans started writing to me via my website suggesting that I relive some of the old Peddlers styles and songs.

“Because in those days we were known for taking standards and adding orchestral things and quite unusual things with these songs.”

‘On a Clear Day’ used in Breaking Bad being just such an example.

“Most people thought The Peddlers were a brand-new band,” Phillips says.

The Peddlers broke up in the late seventies and since then Phillips has pursued a solo career and has no regrets settling in New Zealand.

“I’m so very happy to have chosen New Zealand as my home and I thank people for making me very, very welcome as they have done.”