Approaching with a whisper, Rick Brodsky balanced his stand-up bass against the wall and said quietly, “They call him the Archduke of Dobro.” Smiling and standing close, he was pointing beyond the few steps leading to the Edmond Town Hall Alexandria Room’s stage, where musician Stacy Phillips laid his dobro flat on his lap, picking strings.
From his resonating guitar — Dobro is a trade name now owned by the Gibson Guitar Corporation and used for a particular design of resonator guitar; the term was originally coined by the Dopyera brothers when they formed the Dobro Manufacturing Company — with its ornate foil faceplate came sparkling notes in bursts or softer streams as Mr Phillips warmed his fingers on February 7, preparing for the opening tunes of the Flagpole Radio Café’s fourth edition.
The café is an ongoing variety show produced by residents Jim Allyn, Martin Blanco, Robyn Fitzgerald, and Barbara Gaines, in conjunction with the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission. Featuring guest musicians for the shows, Mr Blanco said he was “thrilled” to welcome Mr Phillips earlier this month.
Minutes earlier Mr Phillips stood in the backroom behind the stage, away from the crowds in the hallway waiting to take their seats, and got his ear in tune with Mr Brodsky’s deep bass notes, the crystal sounds of Howie Bujese’s violin crimped beneath his chin, and Dick Neal’s banjo notes sneaking in to add another thread to the music. The men played loosely for a few minutes, adjusted strings, glanced at one another with smiles, and swiftly broke for a sound check on stage.
Finding a seat in the awaiting audience seats, Mr Phillips — with picks made for plucking his dobro strings still on several fingers, spoke briefly about his career.
“I love it,” said the soft-spoken Grammy Award-winning musician. “I am not a singer per se; the dobro is my voice.” Music had not always been his pursuit, but was something he realized “late in [graduate] school,” he said. Smiling, he recalled, “I was in school for chemistry.” He heard the dobro and his interest grew.
He is not a commercial player, he said, but entertains through other venues.
“It could be for Aunt Tillie or it could be bigger,” said Mr Phillips, who shares the spotlight with several ensembles, has performed with acoustic musicians worldwide, and shares smaller stages including the recent Flagpole Radio Café show that filled the banquet hall with bluegrass and folk rhythms.
The room was also filled with people. The 168 available seats were filled with attendees, with others standing along the walls for at least part of the evening.
Newtown Arts Commission is planning on presenting its next editions of Flagpole Radio Café on March 7 and May 30. Artists wishing to participate in the café are invited to contact Newtown Cultural Arts Commission at info@NewtownArtsCommission.net.