Tavares, Florida May 2012

Phil Haskins

I was born in Lake County, Florida in 1953 and have been a lifelong Florida resident. My father, Elmer Haskins, played in a band named the Five Owls. They were a very popular band all over Central Florida. I remember well the song, "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again," that my dad sang. I inherited dad's love of music and I have always had a passion to play.

My lifelong friend, Roy Baker, and I started playing guitars at the age of eleven. Roy and I found an amplifier and fixed it. When Roy learned a new chord he would show it to me. Roy's dad, Leighton Baker, would let us play on the second floor of his business, A.W. Peterson Gun Shop, in Mt. Dora, Florida. We formed our first band, The Burnt Crisp, in high school. We won the Tavares High School talent contest during our junior year.




Phil and The Untouchables
Phil and The Untouchables

Phil Haskins and Bill Carter - The Flint River Band
Phil Haskins and Bill Carter - The Flint River Band

I was in another band in high school called "The Untouchables". Members were Mark Ramey, Mike and Ricky Homelius and Lee Brinkley. Those were some great times and I have lots of memories playing at the Civic Center in Tavares, Florida for our high school dance parties.

I was the roadie for a local band, The Love Project. Those band members were Ed Dailey, Reverend Mike Foster and Bob Doe. I learned a great deal from these guys, and occasionally they would let me sit in and play. Later Bob Doe and I played as a duo for a year.

I met my friend Bill Carter in 1975 when I was playing in a band named the Flint River Band. Bill's band had broken up and we needed a bass player. Bill played bass and joined us. Shortly afterwards Bill became the lead guitarist and I became the bass player. I also met my wife Bonnie at this same time.


Throughout my musical career, spanning more than four decades, I have had many incredible positive experiences. As every longtime musician knows, however, it ain't all grits and gravy! There is an old musical saying, "You can't really play the blues unless you've lived the blues!". Well, I can honestly say that I can play the blues with the best of them.

I have paid my fair share of musical dues. I can recall on several occasions when I got to a gig and one of the band members never showed up. A couple of times, drummers that we used did not show up and the guitar player and I took turns playing sets on the drums. We could keep a beat but we were not drummers by any means, and our sound during those nights was terrible. Of course I played many the smoky bar rooms during the years. Back then, if you wanted to play in a band, that's where the gigs were. We dealt with many a drunk and plenty of bar fights. We had to slip out the back door several times because of bar brawls.


At one point finances were tough for all of our band members. We would take any gig we could get. Bill and I had day jobs, but the other band members did not. We took a gig in a town 50 miles away playing from 9:00 P.M. until 2:00 A.M., four nights a week. This was tough for the two of us because we were tired from working all day. On the way home we would pull over on the shoulder of the road and do jumping jacks and run around our cars a couple of times to enable us to be alert enough to make it home. Another gig we took was at a club 100 miles from home. We played five nights a week from 9:00 P.M. until 2:00 A.M. while working day jobs. After two nights of this we realized we could not continue this pace because of the fatigue. I paid my cousin Tony to drive us to and from the gigs so we could sleep on the way down and back.

One of my favorite stories involves a Nashville recording artist, Elizabeth Cook. Elizabeth was ten years old when my band, Southern Breeze began backing her. Elizabeth's father's name was Tom Cook. Tom had children whose ages were in the 40's when Elizabeth was surprisingly born. Tom and his wife had a musical group and Elizabeth started singing with them at an early age. By the time this little girl was 10 years old, Tom was certain that she was destined for stardom. Tom booked our band and his daughter in every venue he could find in Florida and Georgia. Other members of Southern Breeze, Ron Abbott (lead Guitar) and David Caudill (drums), were great musicians to tour with. Elizabeth Cook has since become a successful Nashville recording artist. She has appeared on the Grand Ole' Opry more than 300 times, more than any other female.

Phil Haskins and The Roy Baker Band
Phil Haskins and The Roy Baker
I have met many musicians through the years who have changed my life. In 2007 I attended the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention (CAAS) for the first time. After checking into our room, I walked downstairs to the registration area and met Bob Saxton. Bill Carter and I had watched Bob on just three days earlier. We have been close friends with Bob ever since. Bob invited my wife Bonnie, Bill and I to stop by his house in Mississippi in 2009 when we were on our way to James Burton's Birthday Bash in Shreveport, Louisiana. We went to Bob's house and played and sang with him all afternoon. He invited us to play a gig with him that night in Meridian, Mississippi, which we did. It was so much fun! Bob is an outstanding guitarist who has played with Patsy Cline, Perry Como, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Merle Travis and Chet Atkins. Bob also was the lead guitarist for singer Gene Vincent when he was on the road. Bob also listened to the song "My Hero Chet," that Bill Carter wrote and Bob invited Bill and I to play the song with him at the 2011 Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention. We accepted the invitation and felt thrilled to have played on the same stage where so many great guitarists have played for more than 25 years, including Chet Atkins. It was a special moment in my life playing on stage in Nashville and looking out in the audience and seeing my wife Bonnie, my brother Stan Haskins and my favorite sister-in-law Vicki. They drove all night from Florida to see Bill Carter and I perform. My brother Stan has always encouraged me to play music and I thank him.

I have also felt privileged to have met and learned from guitarists like Tommy Emmanuel, Doyle Dykes, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Albert Lee, Vince Gill, James Burton, Brent Mason and about 100 more musicians who amaze and inspire me and so many others.

Music is still a passion for me and I currently play in three different bands. One of the bands is the Roy Baker Band. Roy and I grew up together and played together in our first band in high school. We play classic rock.

Phil Haskins playing with The Roy Baker Band
Phil Haskins playing with The Roy Baker Band

Phil Haskins and his 12-string
Young Phil and his 12-string
The Just Cause Band is a group that I put together to benefit the American Cancer Society. The majority of the band members work for the same company that I do. We play exclusively for charitable groups, mainly the American Cancer Society. We have never accepted a dime and have raised more than $25,000 for this charity. Also, we have played to benefit The Special Olympics.

The third band that I play with is named the Shades. We play a wide variety of music and play most weekends. My longtime friend Bill Carter also plays in this band.

My musical journey has been long and exciting. I feel fortunate for all of the experiences I have had. Many thanks to my wife Bonnie and my picking buddy Bill Carter for being there for me and with me all these years.