The late Phil Emmanuel named in Queen’s Birthday 2018 Honours List

The late Phil Emmanuel, one of the world’s greatest lead guitarists who called Parkes home, has posthumously been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday 2018 Honours List.

Phil – who passed away in Parkes on May 24 after a sudden asthma attack, aged 65 – has been awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for his service to the performing arts, particularly through music.

He and his brother Tommy, playing together as the Emmanuel Brothers, had graced stages all over the world with names such as Chet Atkins, Duanne Eddy, America, Hank B Marvin, John Farnham, Jimmy Barnes, INXS, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.

Phil had also performed alongside Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, James Morrison, Lee Kernaghan, Slim Dusty and Midnight Oil.

And had released a number of albums – E.G.P. - Electric Guitar Player, 2003; The Miracle, 2002; In the Shadows of the Beatles, 1999; Terra Firma, 1995 with Tommy Emmanuel; and Kakadu Sunrise, 1992.

Younger brother Darcy Emmanuel said Phil lived and breathed playing his guitar.

He’d hop on stage to back anyone, from rock stars to amateur Elvis impersonators at the Star Hotel in Parkes during the Parkes Elvis Festival.

“That was just who Phil was, he wouldn’t have wanted the fuss,” he said of Phil’s OAM.

“He’d want someone else to have it, he’d say ‘give it to someone who’s done something, I’m just a guitarist’.” 

At a young age, recognising the musical talents of Phil and his younger brother, their father Hugh Emmanuel created a family band, sold the home, and took his family on the road.

With the family living in two Holden FC station wagons, much of Phil’s childhood was spent touring Australia, playing rhythm guitar and schooling on the road. 

The Emmanuel family arrived and settled in Parkes as a family band in April 1967, following the passing of their father in 1966. 

2017 marked 50 years since their arrival in town, where Phil had called home until he was 18 or 19.

In 2000 the Emmanuel brothers played at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympics, an event that was televised worldwide with an estimated 2.85 billion viewers.

Phil was inducted into the Hands of Fame in the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Roll of Renown, also Australian Country Music Hall of Fame, in 2011.

Over the years, Phil had been involved in a number of bands:

  • Emmanuel Quartet, 1960-1963 – Chris Emmanuel, Tommy Emmanuel, Virginia Emmanuel.
  • The Midget Surfaries, 1963 – Chris Emmanuel, Tommy Emmanuel, Virginia Emmanuel.
  • The Trailblazers, 1967-1970 – Tommy Emmanuel, Frank Jones, Paul Carruthers.
  • Gillian Eastoe and King Dog, 1978 – Rob Brown, Jon Cooke, Geoff Dawes, Gillian Eastoe, Peter Kekel, Greg Plimmer, Chris Haigh.
  • Goldrush, 1980 – Tommy Emmanuel, Doug Bligh, Mark Collins, Guy Dickerson, Chris Haigh, David Mare, Tony Slavich, John Spence, Bruce Worrell.
  • Emmanuel Brothers Wiz Band, 1982 – Tommy Emmanuel, Chris Haigh, Steve Hope, Shauna Jensen, Graham Nepia.
  • Rapid Fire, 1985 – Allan Carr, Steve Gilpin, Chris Haigh.
  • Kakadu, 1988 – Peter Bolton, Chris Haigh, Peter McFarlane, John McKinnon, Shane Reed, Scott Whatman, Ray Young.
  • Emmanuel Brothers Band, 1992 – Tommy Emmanuel, Mitch Farmer, Mike Gubb, Ian Lees.
  • Catfish, 1992.
  • Phil Emmanuel Band, 2000-present – Rohan Hems, Rob O'Sullivan, Julia Parker, Chris Hartley.

Phil and Tommy attended the 2018 Parkes Elvis Festival launch at Hotel Gracelands last September, during which the pair were announced as this year’s Elvis Wall of Fame inductees, joining 22 other rock and roll greats.

This year’s Elvis Festival was Phil’s first, which saw the guitar legend attend the Wall of Fame ceremony on day one of the festival and the Wall of Famers tribute show that followed, as well as host his own performance called the Guitars of the Era on day three.

Brother Tommy was appointed a member of the OAM in 2010. 

Phil had been living in Buderim, Queensland until his passing. His funeral was on the Sunshine Coast on June 5, where he was buried at Kulangoor Lawn Cemetery.