Phil Wiggins was born on the 8th of May, 1954 in Washington, D.C. His parents had moved to Washington from Titusville, Alabama in 1941. "The closer the time came for 'going home', the stronger my mother's southern brogue got. Whenever my mother used the word 'home' she was talking about Titusville." Phil spent many of his childhood summers in Titusville and cites the time he spent there as one of the main reasons for his strong connection with blues. "I would walk my grandmother around the corner to the church on Thursday evenings for prayer meeting. I would wait outside and hear the elder women of the church singing prayers and praises. The context was religious, but the sound was deep blues."
During the early years of his development as a musician, Phil was constantly playing with and learning from some of the most notable acoustic blues musicians that made their homes in the Washington area: Flora Molten, Mother Ester Mae Scott, Wilbur "Chief" Ellis, John Jackson, Archie Edwards, John Cephas, and others.
John Cephas passed on March 4, 2009. Phil Wiggins is determined to carry on with his music, his harp playing, his singing, his songwriting, his teaching….. "staying rooted in my past, thriving in the present, and constantly reaching toward the future".
A feature length film about the coal mining wars in West Virginia, written and directed by John Sayles. Phil appears in the film and contributed music to the soundtrack.
A documentary film produced by Eleanor Ellis that captures a wonderful celebration of music and culture that takes place at the home of John Jackson. Phil appears in the film and supplies the voiceover narration.
Written and produced by Bob Lietch, a documentary film about the blues scene in Portland, Oregon, narrated by Phil.
A documentary film about the establishment of a community health center for the rural community of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Produced by an activist group in Washington, D.C. called Video Action, Phil wrote and performed the music for the soundtrack.
The first professional production of this play, written by Zora Neale Hurston. It ran from March 29-May 12, 2002. It won the Charles McArthur Award for Outstanding New Musical. Phil had a role as a harmonica player in the production and was also the band leader.
The NCTA and its former executive director, Joe Wilson, have done more to advance the career of Cephas and Wiggins than any other person or organization. “The amazing thing is there are many, many other traditional musicians that can make the exact same statement.” Phil now sits on the board of NCTA.
An alternative theatre company in Washington, D.C. that was contracted by the D.C. government to work with “youth at risk”. Phil worked with the youth on everything from singing and songwriting to methods for collecting oral histories. Phil was also musical director for several theatrical productions by the company.
An amazing facility for adults with intellectual disabilities. The clients at this facility spend their days immersed in music, art, and theatre. Phil taught the clients how to play harmonica, taught them songs, and led them in songwriting workshops. Phil also led the clients in several blues performances for the facility and the Washington community at large.
A weeklong celebration of blues music that takes place on the campus of Davis and Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia. Phil has taught all levels of harmonica there every summer for almost 30 years.
Centrum provides participants with a unique opportunity to spend a week immersed in the music and culture of the acoustic pre-war blues by providing a staff of musicians that are excellent teachers as well as old masters and tradition bearers. Phil has taught all levels of blues harmonica at Centrum for over 15 years and was Artistic Director for 5 of those years. “Being Artistic Director at Centrum has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career as a musician.”
For two years Phil taught harmonica and songwriting to the young men incarcerated at Lorton Youth Center. “This was another rewarding endeavor. We were making great progress until the administration noticed me and booted me out. I guess they couldn't stand to see anything good happen there.”