Over the years, I have gotten many emails about people who met Phil. I saved these messages, as it seemed a shame to just keep them in my archives, or, worse yet, delete them. Some of them fill in details missing in the bios. So, I thought it would be nice to share these stories.
I have done minimal editing and have omitted last names or email addresses.
I saw Phil Ochs perform in a Washington, D.C. park in the Spring of 1969, the night before one of the major anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. It was shortly after the revelations of the bombing in Cambodia. There were hundreds of us camped out in the park, organized by geographic area and ready to march (and take other actions) the next morning. Hearing him in that setting was exactly right. The D.C. police rousted everyone around dawn the next morning, supposedly something about not having a permit.
The famine verse from "There but for a Fortune", He sang that at his last N.Y.C. concert at Lincoln Center either 75 or 76. It was right after his performance on Don Kirschners Rock (whatever) where he sang "Changes" During the concert he shared with the audience that he had been on Kirschners Rock Concert. Some started to applaud. We started to boo. Phil looked over to us and said "thanks, some one still cares." During that concert he also expounded his theory that a military coup took over the government in 63 and ever since than they held the president hostage. He said we should all get machine guns, and do as the dictator in Argentina did fight til the death.
In 68 I was at the republican national convention in Chicago. I saw Phil perform numerous times at the fountain.
I was in college from 1963 - 1971. I had the opportunity to see Phil Ochs many, many time; particularly in 1969 thru 1971. Also saw him every night while he performed at the Troubadour, in West Hollywood. As a college student of the time, I truly loved the genius of the man and the artist.
I used to follow him to various concerts that he would sing at, or at least where I thought he would be at. I wasn't disappointed!
My career has been on the Los Angeles Fire Department, from which I just retired after 32 years. As a field paramedic in 1974 -76, I once picked up Phil as a patient. It was at this time that I had the opportunity to talk to a man of whom I respected greatly and helped to change my life forever. I'll never forget that night.
I met Phil, if only for a brief moment, during the Democratic National Convention in front of the Conrad Hilton Hotel in 1968. We were sort of trapped by the Chicago Police in a pocket with about a half dozen others in front of the plate glass windows of the hotel on the Michigan Ave. side. I asked him if he was getting used to situations like this, and, with an unmistakable voice, smiled and said "not really!"
I got to meet him in the Spring of 1974 in New Paltz, NY where I attended college. The quick story is that he performed at the college on a Friday night and after the second show (he missed the first show to watch the Knicks in the NBA playoffs!) my roommate rushed to the stage and invited Phil to watch himself on the "Midnight Special" airing on NBC shortly after the concert's end.
Phil accepted and showed up at my apartment with entourage. I remember impertinently stepping over the coffee table to sit right next to him on the couch and while he smoked cigars and drank Heinekin on the rocks we discussed the NBA and other topics as the crowd sat silent and dumbfounded. I wasn't shy and I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to speak with him. Besides it was my apartment!
He clearly loved the experience of watching himself on commercial TV - I've read it was his one and only time on a network show - and he was thrilled when a leftist song he taped actually aired. "I can't believe they left this in," he remarked with delight and amazement as we watched his 19 inch image on the screen.
Phil was introduced on the show that night by Curtis Mayfield who was hosting!
I last saw Phil Ochs perform in Ann Arbor about 1973, with a broken hand supposedly broken punching a wall. That was the contemporaneous story anyway.
I saw him when I was 14 on the Murray The K weekend program on Channel 5 in NYC in the Fall of 1968. I remember Phil sitting there looking like a "greaser" and I almost changed the channel. Then he spoke. The sound of his voice stopped me. Then he sang "I Ain't Marching Anymore" and "Cannons of Christianity."
In April, 1971 I produced a benefit concert featuring Phil at Brophy Prep, a Catholic High School in Phoenix. The benefit was for Arizonans for Peace, for which I was the Assistant Director of at the time.
Working with Phil was an adventure to say the least. Within a couple of hours of landing in Phoenix he convinced my boss to drive him to Sedona and the Grand Canyon. On the morning of the concert he walked into our office very hungover and sat down at an old out-of-tune upright piano which he requested be transported to the concert venue so he could use it. After several sprained backs and complaints we managed to get the piano set up.
When I returned to our office I was informed Phil had talked our sound engineer to drive him out to the Superstition Mountains to hike around.
At the beginning of the concert there was no Phil and no sound engineer to be found. Fortunately we drafted Dave Oxman, the sound engineer for Celebrity Theatre to work the board for the warm-up acts, the second of which, played for ninety minutes until Phil stumbled in completely smashed and looking like he had crawled through a cactus field. Our errant sound engineer advised me that there had been numerous pit stops to and from the Superstitions so Phil could buy half-gallons of Rheinskeller wine to quench his thirst.
We finally got Phil on stage where he put on an excellent concert and used our beat up old piano to do a beautiful version of "James Dean of Indiana". ( the only song he used the piano for, by the way). We delivered Phil to the airport the next morning where he flew straight to the Mayday demonstration in Washington, where I understand he had further adventures involving David Dellinger and several federal marshals.
In the '60s, I happened to be walking past the Folklore Center at 110 McDougal St. one evening and went into the coffee shop almost directly underneath; can't remember the name at the moment (it was not the Bitter End, which was a couple of blocks away on Bleecker). But there was a concert that night set up by and for Dutch television with Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton and perhaps the third person was Len Chandler. Dave Van Ronk was emcee (and he frequently left, by his own admission, to get a drink at the bar next door). There were only 10-15 people in the audience, as I recall, but it was a fabulous concert! I once asked some people I knew in Holland to try to track it down, but to no avail.
I also got Phil to sing at one of the earliest anti-Vietnam War rallies in December 1964 on Thompson St., just south of Washington Square. It was organized by the Committee of Public Conscience, which was a short-lived offshoot of the War Resisters League. Dave McReynolds was probably the key person in the Committee and was for 40 years a key person in the WRL. Phil arrived a bit late but eventually climbed to the top of our soundtruck and did "Talking Vietnam Blues." Because he was late, my fellow organizers and I did a couple of songs first, so we "opened for Phil." We probably only had 25-40 people in the audience. But thanks to that demonstration, we ended the war only 8 years later! Well, maybe it was 9.
I remember seeing Phil on the local PBS station in San Francisco around the time that "Pleasures From The Harbor" came out. It was just Phil, a stool and his guitar. I saw Phil perform a few times (a couple of times in '69 and a few times in '73 &'74. I met him once and we talked about Marty Robins. I had requested that he sing some Marty Robins(Robbins?) one night in Cambridge, Mass. while he was deciding what to sing next. A big smile came across his face and he broke into "the Masters Call" remembering most of the lyrics. I went back stage to thank him!
He was very heavy at this time of his life and his voice was pretty shot. Before the show(at a small bar) he made arrangements to spend sometime with two twins!