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Sweet Bitter Blues is a non-fiction book, a co-authorship between blues musician Phil Wiggins and scribe Frank Matheis, publisher of and a contributing writer to Living Blues magazine.

Details about the book, including how to place an order, are here.

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Read the Living Blues magazine review here.

Read the Living Blues magazine article about Phil Wiggins, On His Own But Not Alone, by Frank Matheis.

Traditional blues harmonica player, Phil Wiggins, is honored with the distinguished NEA National Heritage Fellowship.


Traditional blues harmonica player, teacher, and music director Phil Wiggins is bestowed the 2021 Maryland Heritage Award. Read about it here.

American University Radio interviews Phil Wiggins about his NEA Fellowship in a piece called "A Master of Blues Harmonica, D.C. Musician Phil Wiggins Gets National Honors" by Ally Schweitzer. Hear that interview and more here.

P H I L  W I G G I N S

The Washington, DC based Phil Wiggins is a versatile traditional harmonica player, continuing the Piedmont blues tradition, a gentle and melodic blues style of the mid-Atlantic region. He is a two time winner of the prestigious WC Handy award. Regularly ranked among the world’s top harmonica players in both Reader and Critics polls by Living Blues magazine, he is active as musician, teacher and music director. He was honored with both the National Endowment of the Arts 2017 National Heritage Fellowship and the 2021 Maryland Heritage Award, both the most prestigious awards for traditional arts.


As a teenager living in Washington D.C. in the 1970s, he played at the Smithsonian National Folklife Festival with street singer Flora Molton, sitting in with blues greats Johnny Shines, Sunnyland Slim, Sam Chatmon, Robert Belfour and Howard Armstrong. By the time he graduated from high school in 1973, D.C. blues elders John Jackson, John Cephas and Archie Edwards had embraced him. He joined the Barrelhouse Rockers, a band fronted by pianist and singer Wilbert “Big Chief” Ellis, where John Cephas played guitar. They toured regionally until Ellis retired in 1977, when John Cephas invited him to join in the duo ‘Cephas & Wiggins’.


With John Cephas as guitarist and primary singer, the duo performed together for 32 years as internationally renowned stars of the country blues, and a staple on blues radio, ever present on the concert and festival circuit – all with the help of National Council for Traditional Arts director Joe Wilson. Cephas & Wiggins played Carnegie Hall, Royal Prince Albert Hall in London and the Sydney Opera House, as well as small venues worldwide, touring every continent except Antarctica. They recorded more than a dozen critically acclaimed albums, including on Flying Fish and Alligator Records, winning the prestigious W.C. Handy Blues Award in 1984 for Best Traditional Album of the Year and in 1987 as Entertainers of the Year. They even performed at the White House with B.B. King. In 1989, his partner John Cephas received the National Heritage Fellowship Award.


Since the 2009 death of John Cephas, Phil has performed with numerous musicians including Nat Reese, Corey Harris, Australian guitarist Dom Turner, Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons, Sherman Holmes, the Rev. John Wilkins, Jerron Paxton, and longtime friends Eleanor Ellis and Rick Franklin. He fronts the acoustic swing/roots/blues ensemble, the Chesapeake Sheiks, and is actively engaged in reuniting the Piedmont blues with its origins of African American buck and tap dancing.


Phil Wiggins has taught thousands of burgeoning harmonica players and actively continues to teach and lead as artistic director in workshops, such as at the Augusta Heritage Center of Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia and the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Workshop in Washington State. Plus, he continues to play an active role in the National Council for Traditional Arts.

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