Phil Emmanuel, an exceptional, award-winning guitarist who mentored his younger brother and regular bandmate Tommy Emmanuel, died last Thursday (May 24) in the Australian town of Parkes after a sudden asthma attack. He was 65.
Revered for his versatility on the electric guitar, Emmanuel shared a stage with the greats of country, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll over 50-year-plus career, from Dolly Parton to Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, Dire Straits, The Shadows, Midnight Oil, Jimmy Barnes, Carlos Santana and many more.
From the moment he could lift his instrument, he was playing it for family and friends. At age nine, he was already a professional musician in his family band, known variously as The Emmanuel Quartet, The Midget Surfaries and The Trailblazers. Phil took lead guitar duties, with Tommy on rhythm their brother Chris on drums and their sister Virginia on slide guitar. The young siblings toured the country for six years from 1960, and for several years their talents were the family’s sole income.