New Beginning for Phil Wiggins
by Cesca Janece Waterfield
Renown blues musician Phil Wiggins was born and raised in Washington, D.C. He spent summers with his grandmother in Alabama where church hymns were the first music he heard. He picked up the harmonica after hearing blues harp players including Big Walter Horton, Sonny Boy Williamson and Junior Wells. In 1977, he met Piedmont Blues great, John Cephas. They shared a musical chemistry and formed the duo Cephas and Wiggins, where Phil showed talent not only as a harmonica player, but also as a vocalist and songwriter.
In more than 32 years of playing, Cephas and Wiggins brought the Piedmont Blues to every continent except Antarctica. Piedmont Blues is noted for using a guitar style in which the musician’s thumb plays alternating rhythm on bass strings while other fingers pick out a syncopated melody. It was developed in the Piedmont plateau, which extends from around Washington D.C. to Georgia. Last March, shortly after being named a 2009 African American Trailblazer by the Commonwealth of Virginia, John died.