Entering Organised Crime – The Music Industry

Phil TrippAfter applying for a job as Regional training manager of the Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Company with totally faked credentials and references that a friend printed up, he got to run the company store and teach new franchise buyers how to do everything from scoop cones to cook the books. He had success but one lazy Sunday afternoon, heard music emanating from the local Piedmont Park down the street and strolling down, discovered an incredible band playing in a gazebo, The Allman Brothers, just before they became huge. He started to make acquaintances with Southern Rock bands and promoters through a friend on his street, Ron Worsley, and started plotting his entrance into the Biz.

He’d also created a side business at the time importing Coors Beer from the West as it wasn’t available in Georgia or east of the Mississippi and he was able to use horse trailers made in Oklahoma that his sister in law sold to transport loads of bootleg beer back to Atlanta. This rare and trendy product soon opened doors to bands, record companies, promoters and others. He had a huge clientele.

It was an accident that a friend who worked on a sound truck broke his arm and needed to cover a set of concerts with Tony Orlando and Dawn and Argent in Atlanta and the next night in Kentucky. Knowing Phil’s ability from the import business to rapidly and securely pack trucks and drive long distances, the friend turned over the keys to the truck and Phil worked his first concert.

The company was run by Bill Hanley, who did the sound for Woodstock and much of the equipment had been used at that festival and others. There were heavy Macintosh valve amplifiers, huge telephone box sized W cabinets, wide horn arrays and the original Woodstock mixing board. The engineers flew in and out to the gigs while Phil drove. It soon became obvious where the humping ended and fun began.

Phil TrippSo Phil learned to mix sound and soon found himself doing a broad range of gigs from Aerosmith at the their start in New England to black artists throughout the South, the Gospel Tent and other concerts at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and Atlanta regional shows with rock promoters.

He soon became a stage manager, production manager, repped a sound and lighting company, erected indoor and outdoor stages and started working with three key promoters. Alex Cooley was the biggest promoter of white acts in the South. George Wein was the producer of the New Orleans, Houston, Newport, Hawaiian and other Jazz Fests which Phil worked in various capacities. And Detroit promoter Quentin Perry set up his Taurus Productions in Atlanta to become one of the biggest soul and R&B promoters.

Working with Cooley, he handled shows in the region for the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pink Floyd, Jeff Beck, Yes, Willie Nelson and many more top rock acts that he toured with on occasion. Phil also worked on the NOLA Jazz Fest under Quint Davis and stage managed the large outdoor stages as well as night shows on riverboats and arenas with a vast array of New Orleans artists. Through his work with George Wein, he met and worked with an incredible range of jazz artists including Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald in their later years, violinist Stephane Grappelli, Muddy Waters, Larry Coryell, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and many more.

Phil TrippBut it was his time with Taurus that was his zenith in the production biz. Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Earth Wind & Fire, The O’Jays, Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Al Green and many more were toured with Phil’s career ending with a Rick James tour where a massive crack lab went on the road for the singer (unbeknownst to Phil), riots started and Phil left the tour after three days. At 29 he decided not to go on the road again.

Following that, he spent time teaching live production at the US’ first music industry school, the Music Business Institute, and also became involved with the Jimmy Carter campaign to re-elect the president at that time. He worked on shows to raise money for the campaign, but when it became obvious that Reagan was going to win, Tripp vowed if he did, it was time to leave the US.

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