Author: Varner, Mark

Utah Phillips

Dear friends,

Happy Saturday! I traded the traveling Rick Cornish today for my usual Monday Welcome. Looks like a beautiful spring like day, so Id better hustle with my literary duties and get out there and enjoy it.

Today I looked in my email inbox and found this:

Please join Snazzy Productions in sponsoring a benefit featuring KEITH GREENINGER & MANY SPECIAL GUESTS for the legendary story telling genius, UTAH PHILLIPS, who has performed for us all over so many years and now needs our help!

Monday, March 10th - 7:30 PM.
Don Quixote's Music Hall Downtown Felton.
Tickets are $25.00
(100% of proceeds will go to defray medical expenses)

For tickets and reservations call (831)-603-2294

I knew that Utah had been having health problems for years, but I thought Id better get details to make sure things are not too dire. Through the wonder of the internet I found info at Heres the skinny:

Sadly, Utah Phillips has recently been forced to quit performing due to a respiratory condition that causes severe disturbances in breathing and debilitating heart irregularities.

Fans and friends have begun a grassroots fundraising campaign. Benefit concerts are popping up across North America as the folk music community comes together to help one of their own, one who has done a lot for his community over the years. Concerts have already been held in Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Toronto and Winnipeg.

Everyone has heroes. I have a few, but Bruce is definitely at the top of the ladder for me. I have been a strong fan of his music, folk, bluegrass and activist since I was in my teens. (Thats a long time ago, fyi.) Hes nothing short of a genius at the pure craft of tale telling in the confines of a song. Hes always angry when hes not delightfully childlike in his love of life and appreciation for his fellow beings. I know hes been a wonderful friend and mentor to our own Anderson family.

I first met him at my first Strawberry Music Festival when he walked up to Allison and me and introduced himself. Wow. I have a photo of Utah and myself at the Millpond Festival from back in the 90s and he is looking at the camera with a piercing look that says it all: a man standing proud of his life, a man not to be messed with. I love that picture.

Heres one of my favorite Utah songs:

All Used Up
( U. Utah Phillips)

I spent my whole life making somebody rich
I busted my ass for that son of a bitch
He left me to die like a dog in a ditch
And told me I'm all used up

He used up my labor, he used up my time
He plundered my body and squandered my mind
Then he gave me a pension, some handouts and wine
And told me I'm all used up

My kids are in hock to a god you call Work
Slaving their lives out for some other jerk
And my youngest in 'Frisco just made shipping-clerk
He don't know I'm all used up

Some young people reach out for power and gold
And they don't have respect for anything old
For pennies they're bought, for promises sold
Someday they'll be used up

They use up the oil, they use up the trees
They use up the air and they use up the seas
But how about you, friend, and how about me
What's left, when we're all used up

I'll finish my life in this crummy hotel
It's lousy with bugs and my God, what a smell
But my plumbing still works and I'm clear as a bell
Don't tell me I'm all used up

Outside my window the world passes by
It gives me a handout, then spits in my eye
And no one can tell me, 'cause no one knows why
I'm still living, but I'm all used up

Sometimes in a dream I sit by a tree
My life is a book of how things used to be
And the kids gather 'round and they listen to me
They don't think I'm all used up

And there's songs and there's laughter and things I can do
And all that I've learned I can give back to you
And I'd give my last breath just to make it come true
And to know I'm not all used up

They use up the oil, they use up the trees
They use up the air and they use up the seas
But as long as I'm breathing they won't use up me
Don't tell me I'm all used up

The person starring in the Snazzy Productions show in Felton, Keith Greeninger is an abundantly talented singer songwriter (who loves bluegrass!). Im sure some of the best of the best in the Santa Cruz area will join him on stage. If youre in our area try and get down there for the tribute and benefit to a California icon. Hopefully these shows will sprout up all over the country.

Your pal,
Mark Varner
Posted:  3/1/2008

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email