On December 14th, 2021 the world lost a true bass legend with the passing of the great Phil Chen. Best known for his work with Rod Stewart (Foot Loose & Fancy Free, Blondes Have More Fun, Foolish Behavior), Jeff Beck (Blow by Blow) and later Manzarek - Krieger (Originally Doors of the 21st Century) from 2004-2013 when Ray Manzarek passed, Chen was a big influence in the world of bass. On June 27th at Westlake Village Inn, a celebration of Phil’s life was held for family and close friends with the event being live streamed. The attire was Hawaiian shirts for the men and Hawaiian dresses for the women as Phil was known for regularly sporting those. In the entry area there were pick-cards in honor of Phil. Phil would give out business cards that had 4 guitar picks that would pop out, one which I still have from 10 years ago. Guests were also encouraged to wear a name tag with their real name and nickname given by Phil which can be seen in the photos. There were some very humorous nicknames, and some shared how they got theirs.
The memorial began with emcee Verne Verona and speeches from Phil’s son David and keyboardist Ed Roth who had played with Phil for 30 years including alongside Robby Krieger most recently, and John Densmore. In honor of Phil’s Chinese heritage, Densmore took his shoes off before speaking and playing. Krieger shared how Phil was the reason the Doors of the 21st Century happened.
After the first series of speeches, there were songs performed by Roth, bassist/vocalist Dan Rothchild (Heart), Krieger, Kevin ‘Brandino’ Brandon (Aretha Franklin), Manzarek-Krieger drummer Ty Dennis, Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson, percussionists Rock Deadrick (The Jacksons/ Ben Harper) and Owen Goldman (Robby Krieger), drummer Chris Grainger, and guitarist Kenji Ota. Also in attendance were bass legend Jerry Jemmott and Cherie Currie (The Runaways).
There was a video montage spanning Phil’s life from childhood photos to family photos with his kids and grandkids and various musicians he played with. The video ended with Phil sitting on a couch telling his grandkids to never forget their Jamaican heritage, which was very important to him. The next set of speeches came from Robertson, actor Patrick Warburton, Seraphine, and the final speech came from Phil’s daughter Lindsey. Seraphine explained how he played with Phil for the first time back in 2006, and he was one of the few bassists he “really locked in with.”
The performance included songs Phil played on the original recording like Jeff Beck’s “Freeway Jam,” Rod Stewart’s “Hot Legs,” and songs he played with Krieger and Manzarek like “Riders on the Storm,” as well as songs by some of his favorite bass players like James Jamerson on The Temptations’ “My Girl.” One of Phil’s grandson’s could be seen in a little red suit like Phil wore at the Ox & The Loon concert honoring The Who’s John Entwistle and Keith Moon, which Phil received an award at. Phil was a big fan of Caribbean music, so following the first set of nine songs came another performance including steel drummer Einstein Brown and keyboardist Dorrell Salmon.
Speakers (in order)
- Verne Verona
- David Chen (Phil’s son)
- Chris Grainger (Son of Rod Stewart guitarist Gary Grainger)
- Ed Roth (Keyboardist, Robbie Krieger)
- Robby Krieger (The Doors)
- John Densmore (Doors)
- Rowan Robertson (Guitarist,Dio)
- Patrick Warburton (Actor, Family Guy/Seinfeld/ The Tick)
- Allan Slutsky aka Dr. Licks (Author of Standing in the Shadows of Motown)
- Danny Seraphine (Drummer, Chicago)
- Lindsey Chen (Phil’s Daughter)
- Be With Me (The Butts Band)
- Riders on the Storm (The Doors)
- Audio for slideshow beginning -Sleepwalk (Santo & Johnny)
- Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now (McFadden & Whitehead)
- My Girl (The Temptations)
- Mercy, Mercy Me (Marvin Gaye)
- Freeway Jam (Jeff Beck)
- Break on Through (To the Other Side) (The Doors)
- Hot Legs