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Utah Phillips Papers

 Collection
Identifier: LP002405
The Utah Phillips Papers document the personal, professional, and political activities of Utah Phillips. The papers include correspondence, interviews, writings, notes, contracts, flyers, publications, articles, clippings, photographs, audiovisual recordings, and other materials.

Materials found in the Personal series document numerous aspects of Utah Phillips' life and work, including biographical information, his folk music career, his involvement in anarchist and pacifist organizations, and his scholarly interests and pursuits. The Personal series includes transcripts of interviews that provide documentation in Utah's own words of his entry into folk music, his introduction to radical politics and the Industrial Workers of the World, his presidential and senatorial campaigns, and his thoughts on a wide range of topics documented throughout the rest of the collection. Also included in the Personal series are some of Utah's personal notes and notebooks that provide insight into his thoughts and writing processes.

Utah Phillips is perhaps best known for his career as a folk musician, performer, storyteller, and poet. Materials documenting several different aspects of his professional career can be found in Series 2: Career. The five subseries in Series 2 document Utah's recording career, his festival performances and solo tours, his involvement in various professional organizations, his non-music writing including storytelling, essays, and poetry, and his stint as the host of his own radio show. The materials provide a solid overview of his wide range of professional activities from the late 1960s until his death in 2008, and serve as documentary evidence of the impact that Utah Phillips had on a variety of folk traditions. Of note are hand written drafts of songs in Subseries A, tour folders containing set lists, itineraries, and contracts in Subseries B, hand written drafts and typed copies of his poetry, essays, and stories in Subseries D, and notes, agendas, and other texts for his radio show, Loafer's Glory, in Subseries E. Audiovisual materials, such as photographs, banners, flyers, audio and video recordings, and memorabilia related to topics found in Series 2, most notably Utah's recording and performance career, can be found in Series 5: Audiovisual and Oversize Materials.

In addition to his music and performance career, Utah Phillips dedicated his time and efforts to many political and social activist causes and organizations, evidence of which can be found in Series 3. The materials in Series 3 demonstrate Utah's commitment to organized labor, most notably the Industrial Workers of the World. The series also reflects Utah's pacifism, including his involvement with numerous national organizations and with the Peace Center of Nevada County. Also included are materials related to Utah's environmental activism, notably his participation in the Earth First! Redwood Summer project in the early 1990s. Series 3 also includes several folders of materials documenting Utah's candidacy for Senate in 1968, as the candidate for the state of Utah's Peace and Freedom Party, and his numerous candidacies for President of the United States, as a candidate for the Do-Nothing and the Sloth and Indolence Parties. Additionally, Series 3 documents Utah's advocacy for hoboes and the homeless, including his affiliation with the National Hobo Foundation and Convention and with the Burnside Community Council. Finally, Series 3 includes materials reflecting Utah's Unitarian Universalist faith, including texts and programs for sermons delivered by Utah to Unitarian Universality congregations.

Utah Phillips also collected materials containing information on a wide range of topics in which he was interested or actively involved. Series 4: Subject Files contains journals, zines, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, books, and other publications related to a variety of topics including folk music, anarchism, socialism, pacifism, labor, prison reform, environmentalism, the homeless, hoboes, railroads, and other subjects. The materials provide insight into the subjects and issues that were of importance to Utah, including those in which he was actively involved or for which he had a significant interest.

Series 1: Personal, 1943-2008 Correspondence, notes, interviews, memorial information, and calendars related to Utah Phillips' personal life. Also includes materials related to topics found in Series 2: Career and Series 3: Political and Social Activism but which do not relate to those series exclusively.

Series 2: Career, 1940-2008, bulk 1970-2005 Subseries A: Folk Music, 1940-2008, bulk 1964-2008 Correspondence, contracts, licensing information, notes, publicity materials, and newspaper clippings related to Utah Phillips' folk music career, excluding materials related to performances and public appearances (see Subseries B). This subseries also includes hand written and typed copies of songs written by Utah Phillips, as well as folk songs written by others and collected by Utah.

Subseries B: Performances and Public Appearances, 19702-2008 Correspondence, contracts, flyers, programs, set lists, itineraries, notes, and newspaper clippings related to Utah Phillips' performance career. This subseries documents Utah's appearances at folk festivals as well as his solo tours and appearances.

Subseries C: Affiliations, 1970-2005 Correspondence, newsletters, mailings, meeting information, and reports related to Utah Phillips' professional affiliations. This subseries documents Utah's involvement in folk music advocacy organizations, folk music periodicals, and traveling musician unions.

Subseries D: Writings, 1970-2005 Drafts, manuscripts, notes, and correspondence related to Utah Phillips' non-music writing. This subseries documents Utah's storytelling, essay writing, and poetry.

Subseries E: Radio, 1982-2005 Correspondence, notes, and agendas related to Utah Phillips' radio career and appearances. This subseries contains mostly records related to Utah's radio show, Loafer's Glory: The Hobo Jungle of the Mind, in addition to some records related to Utah's appearances on other radio shows and his involvement with public radio advocacy groups.

Series 3: Political and Social Activism, 1937-2008, bulk 1968-2008 Correspondence, flyers, newsletters, notes, publications, programs, agendas, newspaper clippings, and reference materials related to Utah Phillips' involvement in political and social activist causes and organizations. This series includes records demonstrating Utah's involvement in labor organizations such as the Industrial Workers of the World and other unions, environmental groups such as Earth First!, peace advocacy organizations including the Peace Center of Nevada County, and Unitarian Universalist congregations. Also included are materials related to Utah's 1968 Senate campaign and his various campaigns for President.

Series 4: Subject Files, 1915-2008, bulk 1973-2007 Newsletters, journals, books, pamphlets, zines, and other publications related to a wide range of Utah Phillips' personal interests, scholarly pursuits, professional involvement, and political and social activism.

Series 5: Audiovisual and Oversize Materials, 1940s-2008, bulk 1970s-2008 Photographs, negatives, slides, CDs, DVDs, audio cassettes, awards, banners, oversize flyers, oversize notes, ticket stubs, name tags, and other memorabilia.

Series 1: Personal, 1943-2008 Correspondence, notes, interviews, memorial information, and calendars related to Utah Phillips' personal life. Also includes materials related to topics found in Series 2: Career and Series 3: Political and Social Activism but which do not relate to those series exclusively.
Series 2: Career, 1940-2008, bulk 1970-2005 Subseries A: Folk Music, 1940-2008, bulk 1964-2008 Correspondence, contracts, licensing information, notes, publicity materials, and newspaper clippings related to Utah Phillips' folk music career, excluding materials related to performances and public appearances (see Subseries B). This subseries also includes hand written and typed copies of songs written by Utah Phillips, as well as folk songs written by others and collected by Utah.

Subseries B: Performances and Public Appearances, 19702-2008 Correspondence, contracts, flyers, programs, set lists, itineraries, notes, and newspaper clippings related to Utah Phillips' performance career. This subseries documents Utah's appearances at folk festivals as well as his solo tours and appearances.

Subseries C: Affiliations, 1970-2005 Correspondence, newsletters, mailings, meeting information, and reports related to Utah Phillips' professional affiliations. This subseries documents Utah's involvement in folk music advocacy organizations, folk music periodicals, and traveling musician unions.

Subseries D: Writings, 1970-2005 Drafts, manuscripts, notes, and correspondence related to Utah Phillips' non-music writing. This subseries documents Utah's storytelling, essay writing, and poetry.

Subseries E: Radio, 1982-2005 Correspondence, notes, and agendas related to Utah Phillips' radio career and appearances. This subseries contains mostly records related to Utah's radio show, Loafer's Glory: The Hobo Jungle of the Mind, in addition to some records related to Utah's appearances on other radio shows and his involvement with public radio advocacy groups.

Subseries A: Folk Music, 1940-2008, bulk 1964-2008 Correspondence, contracts, licensing information, notes, publicity materials, and newspaper clippings related to Utah Phillips' folk music career, excluding materials related to performances and public appearances (see Subseries B). This subseries also includes hand written and typed copies of songs written by Utah Phillips, as well as folk songs written by others and collected by Utah.
Subseries C: Affiliations, 1970-2005 Correspondence, newsletters, mailings, meeting information, and reports related to Utah Phillips' professional affiliations. This subseries documents Utah's involvement in folk music advocacy organizations, folk music periodicals, and traveling musician unions.
Subseries D: Writings, 1970-2005 Drafts, manuscripts, notes, and correspondence related to Utah Phillips' non-music writing. This subseries documents Utah's storytelling, essay writing, and poetry.
Subseries E: Radio, 1982-2005 Correspondence, notes, and agendas related to Utah Phillips' radio career and appearances. This subseries contains mostly records related to Utah's radio show, Loafer's Glory: The Hobo Jungle of the Mind, in addition to some records related to Utah's appearances on other radio shows and his involvement with public radio advocacy groups.
Series 3: Political and Social Activism, 1937-2008, bulk 1968-2008 Correspondence, flyers, newsletters, notes, publications, programs, agendas, newspaper clippings, and reference materials related to Utah Phillips' involvement in political and social activist causes and organizations. This series includes records demonstrating Utah's involvement in labor organizations such as the Industrial Workers of the World and other unions, environmental groups such as Earth First!, peace advocacy organizations including the Peace Center of Nevada County, and Unitarian Universalist congregations. Also included are materials related to Utah's 1968 Senate campaign and his various campaigns for President.
Series 4: Subject Files, 1915-2008, bulk 1973-2007 Newsletters, journals, books, pamphlets, zines, and other publications related to a wide range of Utah Phillips' personal interests, scholarly pursuits, professional involvement, and political and social activism.
Series 5: Audiovisual and Oversize Materials, 1940s-2008, bulk 1970s-2008 Photographs, negatives, slides, CDs, DVDs, audio cassettes, awards, banners, oversize flyers, oversize notes, ticket stubs, name tags, and other memorabilia.

Dates

  • 1915 - 2009
  • Majority of material found within 1968 - 2008

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.

Access

Collection is open for research. Restrictions: Boxes must stay at the reference desk. Researchers can only see one folder at a time.

Use

Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.

Extent

32 Linear Feet (51 MB, 2 SB, 4 OS)

Abstract

Bruce Duncan Phillips (1935-2008), better known as Utah Phillips, was born in Cleveland, Ohio on May 15, 1935. He became well known as a folk singer, performer, storyteller, poet, radio host, and activist beginning in the late 1960s and continued to be a prominent figure in the American folk and labor communities for the following four decades. He was a staple of folk festivals, a perennial touring musician, and ultimately became one of the distinguished elders of the folk music community. He was actively involved in numerous political and social activist causes and organizations, most notably the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), for which he was one of the most prominent modern advocates. Other causes and organizations to which he contributed include organized labor, peace and anti-war activism, environmental activism, and advocacy for hoboes and the homeless. The Utah Phillips Papers document the personal, professional, and political activities of Utah Phillips from mostly the late 1960s until his death in 2008. Included in the collection are records related to Utah's career as a folk musician, performer, songwriter, storyteller, poet, writer, and radio host. The papers also reflect his political and social activism, including his 1968 campaign for Senate and his involvement with the IWW, labor unions, environmental groups, peace advocacy organizations, and Unitarian Universalist congregations.

History

Bruce Duncan Phillips (1935-2008), better known as Utah Phillips, was born in Cleveland, Ohio on May 15, 1935. He became well known as a folk singer, performer, storyteller, and activist beginning in the late 1960s and continued to be a prominent figure in the American folk and labor communities for the following four decades.

Utah was born to a labor organizer father and a mother with radical politics. His family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah in the late 1940s, during which time Utah began learning to play the ukulele. He learned to play guitar in the early 1950s and wrote his first country-western style song in 1953 while working at Yellowstone. Utah joined the Army and served in Korea beginning in 1956 and continued to learn to play the guitar and write songs while playing in bands for military officers. His experiences in the Korean War had a significant impact on his political views, influencing his later commitment to pacifism.

After returning to the United States from Korea and being discharged from the Army, Utah spent some time riding railroads and continuing to hone his songwriting skills. He returned to Salt Lake City in the early 1960s and began writing songs for Rosalie Sorrels, with whom he had become friends in the early 1950s. It was during this time that Utah wrote several of his best known and most frequently covered songs, including Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia and Rock, Salt and Nails. He was also a member in several short-lived bluegrass bands, including Utah and the Valley Boys and Polly and the Valley Boys. It was also during this time that he met Catholic Worker Ammon Hennacy, became a committed anarchist and pacifist, and became more involved in political and social activism through working at the Joe Hill House of hospitality and establishing the Poor People's Party.

Utah Phillips was working for the Utah State Archives in 1968 when he was chosen as a candidate for Senate for the Peace and Freedom Party. He received around 2,000 votes, and after the campaign found that he no longer had his job at the State Archives and could not find employment in the state of Utah. He left Salt Lake City for Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1969 and started playing music at Caffé Lena. Utah's success at Caffé Lena, along with the encouragement of other singers and performers, convinced him to perform music professionally and he began his career as a traveling folk singer and storyteller in earnest.

For the next four decades, Utah Phillips was a staple at folk festivals, a perennial touring musician, and ultimately became one of the distinguished elders of the folk music community. He recorded several albums, including Good Though! and El Capitan, for Philo Records in the early 1970s. Utah was introduced to audiences outside of the traditional folk community in the late 1990s through two collaborations with Ani DiFranco: 1996's The Past Didn't Go Anywhere and 1999's Fellow Workers. He also collaborated on albums with fellow folk musicians Rosalie Sorrels, on 1996's The Long Memory, and Mark Ross, on 1997's Loafer's Glory. Utah released Starlight on the Rails: A Songbook, a 4-disc compilation featuring recordings of many of his songs along with introductions for each song, in 2005. He maintained the rights to most of his songs and worked exclusively with small independent labels, going so far as to turn down opportunities to license his songs to singers on major corporate labels.

In addition to being a successful folk singer, songwriter, and traveling performer, Utah's professional career branched into other kinds of writing, storytelling, public performance and other contributions to the American folk music community. From 1997-2002 Utah hosted 100 episodes of his own nationally syndicated radio show, Loafer's Glory: The Hobo Jungle of the Mind, based out of Nevada City's KVMR. He wrote several published works of poetry, including Coffee Ann, Cuyahoga and Other Poems, and The Old Guy Poems. His stories and essays became as essential to his persona as his songs, and he published articles and had columns in several newspapers and folk music periodicals. Utah's labor activism also had an influence in his professional activities; he started a performers' cooperative called Wildflowers in the early 1970s and was later a member of the American Federation of Musicians North American Traveling Musicians Union Local 1000.

Alongside his career as a folk singer, traveling musician, storyteller, poet, and writer, Utah Phillips was actively involved in a number of political and social activist causes. He became familiar with leftist politics and organized labor early in his life through the influence of his parents. He gravitated toward the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) while at Yellowstone in the early 1950s, and was a member from the time he returned from Korea until his death. Throughout his life and career, Utah was one of the most prominent modern advocates for the IWW and was oftentimes compared to early Wobbly troubadour Joe Hill for his ability to convey working class messages and support for the One Big Union through his songs and performances. In addition to being a steadfast member of the IWW, Utah was also involved in more general labor activism and organizing, peace and anti-war activism, environmental activism, advocacy for hoboes and the homeless, and other political and social causes and organizations. He was also a member of several Unitarian Universalist congregations and had numerous scholarly interests, among them Egyptology, linguistics, and history.

Utah Phillips was married several times throughout his life, including to Joanna Robinson with whom he was married from 1989 until his death. He had three children: two sons, Duncan and Brendan, and a daughter, Morrigan. He passed away on May 23, 2008 in Nevada City, California.

Arrangement of the Papers

Arranged in 5 series - Series 1 (Boxes 1-8), Series 2 (Boxes 8-33), Series 3 (Boxes 34-39), Series 4 (Boxes 39-45) and Series 5 (Boxes 46-57). Folders are arranged alphabetically by subject, title, record type or surname and then chronologically by calendar year, unless otherwise noted.

Series 2: Personal is further arranged into five subseries - Subseries A (Boxes 8-15), Subseries B (Boxes 15-26), Subseries C (Boxes 26-28), Subseries D (Boxes 28-32), and Subseries E (Boxes 32-33).

Acquisition

The Utah Phillips Papers were donated to the Walter P. Reuther Library by Joanna Robinson in October, 2013.

Other Copies

Paper copies of original digital files are available in Box 13, Folder 8.

A digitized photograph, showing Utah Phillips and Polly Stewart circa 1965, is available in the Reuther Library's digital repository.

Related Material

Topics covered in the Utah Phillips Papers are featured in several other Reuther Library collections, including the Folklore Archive, People's Song Library Records, Irwin Silber Papers, and Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) collections.

Transfers

Four boxes (Boxes 54-57) containing negatives, slides, CDs, DVDs, cassettes, audio reels, and film reels transferred to the Reuther's AV Department.

Originals of several letters and certificates have been moved to the vault and photocopies left in corresponding folders.

Folders containing a passport, a war ration book, an official ballot, and IWW membership cards have been moved to the vault.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Dallas Pillen on July 24, 2014.
Title
Guide to the Utah Phillips Papers
Status
completed
Author
Processed by Dallas Pillen.
Date
2014-07-24
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
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