Phillips, Stu (Stuart). Country singer (baritone), songwriter, broadcaster, b St-Eustache, near Montréal, 19 Jan 1933. Known as 'The Travelling Balladeer,' Phillips sang as a youth on amateur radio shows in Montréal (CJAD and CFCF) and Verdun (CKVL) and at 16 worked his way west, appearing at rodeos and carnivals. He wrote many ballads based on Canadian history, including 'The Champlain and St Lawrence Line' and 'Dollard des Ormeaux.' Some were later heard on the LP Stu Phillips Sings Echoes of the Canadian Foothills (Rodeo 5-RLP-17) and were among 13 songs in a folio published by BMI Canada in 1963. Other Phillips folk recordings from this period appeared under Rodeo's Banff and Canadian Cavalcade labels.
During the 1950s he was a radio announcer-singer in Edmonton, in Vernon, BC, and in Calgary. He began his TV career in the mid-1950s on CHCT-TV, Calgary, and appeared 1960-1 on CBC-TV's 'The Outrider.' While host 1961-5 for CBC Winnipeg TV's 'Red River Jamboree,' Phillips performed in the USA and recorded for Columbia. Moving to Nashville in 1965, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1967 and had several hits with RCA including 'Bracero' (1966), 'The Great El Tigre' (1966), 'Vin Rosé' (1967), and 'Juanita Jones' (1967). He also made the LPs Singin' Stu Phillips (RCA LPM-3619), Grassroots Country (RCA LSP-3717), and Our Last Rendezvous (RCA LSP-4012). In the 1970s he continued his radio, TV, and personal appearances throughout the USA and, on occasion, in Canada.
In 1980 Phillips issued a Canadian LP, Born to Be a Man (CTL CTLS-5228/Pickwick PC-66003); and in the 1990s released further recordings including Don't Give Up On Me (Broadland 1293) and A Journey Through the Provinces, a compilation of early songs and previously recorded material (BCD 15721 AH). In 1993 he was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame and in 2002 became a member of the hall of fame of the North America Country Music Associations, International (NACMAI). Phillips continues to perform in the Nashville area, where he owns and operates a winery.
Montréal native Stu Phillips grew up in Calgary, Alberta, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, writing many of his early songs there. He grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry on a small crystal radio set and fell in love with the show and country music in general.
Stu formed his own band at an early age, establishing a following at local events as well as working part-time for a radio station. A position as a radio announcer led to other jobs, including producer, engineer, and disc jockey.
On the air, Stu was host to a variety of shows in Canada, including Stu for Breakfast, Town and Country, and Cowtown Jamboree. From radio, Stu moved to television, first as host of The Outrider, then to a stint on Red River Jamboree, a major Saturday-night show on the CBC network.
In addition to his TV work, Stu began to enjoy recording success, particularly with his Echoes of the Canadian Foothills album. After four more years with the CBC, Stu set his sights on Music City, moving to Nashville in 1965.
He got work doing a local morning TV show and that year signed with RCA Records. With Chet Atkins producing, Stu began hitting the country charts with such tunes as “Bracero,” “The Great El Tigre,” “Vin Rose,” and “Juanita Jones.”
He joined the Opry in 1967 after making some 20 guest appearances.
Stu has toured extensively in the Far East, Middle East, and Africa, where his records have received the equivalent of gold records.
In 1993, Germany’s Bear Family Records released a CD featuring 35 songs from early albums. That same year, Stu also released Don’t Give Up on Me on Broadland Records and was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.
Since 1998, Stu Phillips, Opry member, has been Stu Phillips, American citizen. Having lived in the U.S. longer than in his native Canada, Stu celebrated American citizenship with his wife, Aldona, on the Opry stage that Fourth of July weekend.
“Our lives simply evolved over the years and took a new direction,” he said. “Whenever I traveled overseas, I used to think of Canada as my home. After moving to Nashville, our lives became integrated into this land with all its comforts. Now, whenever I travel overseas, home is Tennessee, where I live.”
Lately, his music, including the single “Only God,” has been found on the Christian country charts. Stu Phillips still tours and performs on the Opry, although he has also become a minister in the Episcopal Church, receiving his divinity degree from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
-Richard Green, Sarah Church