Sources: Broward New Times – By Lee Zimmerman | All Things Michael
If the old saying is true, that you’re known by the company you keep, then Wesley Phillips ought to be one of the most famous musicians in the world. After all, this Broward-based singer and trumpet player has performed with some of the biggest legends in the biz — Michael Jackson, James Brown, and disco sensations Cameo chief among them. What’s even more remarkable is that his association with these stars began at an incredibly young age. By luck or simply by happenstance, Phillips has a career most musicians can only dream about.
His stint with Brown led him to Michael Jackson’s backing band in the late ’70s, including a credit on the Jacksons’ live album recorded during the group’s Triumph tour in 1981. “Michael would always talk in this really high voice,” he remembers. “But when he talked business, his voice would go down several octaves. He was a business genius, so much so that the business people were intimidated by him.”
In Phillips’ opinion, many of Michael’s problems could be attributed to those outside forces that tried to put themselves between him and his family. “He was a real Peter Pan,” Phillips maintains. “He never had a childhood. The people around him weren’t trustworthy, and in the end they sold him out.”
Contrary to the aloof image that Michael conveyed to the public, Phillips says that in person he was not only friendly and easy to talk to but a generous employer as well. He did seven tours with Jackson and says the singer was a really good guy and paid his musicians some of the highest salaries in the business. He describes the time Jackson took his band to Hawaii for what was supposed to be a three-week tour. After the first night, the singer treated them to a lavish dinner and then entertained them with a private show. “Suddenly the stage lights came on and there was Michael, singing and dancing just for us. Then he announced that the three-week tour of Hawaii was really a special gift for us, a three-week vacation at his expense.”
So did that make Jackson a tough taskmaster? Not necessarily Phillips says. “Michael would say, ‘If I need to tell you how to play something, I wouldn’t have hired you.’”
Phillips did seven tours with Jackson and was slated to do his European comeback tour, expressly titled This Is It, when he and the other musicians received word of the singer’s death. “It would have been a good payday,” he laments, adding that he remains suspicious of the circumstances surrounding Jackson’s death.
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