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Phillip Casillas – Local Treasure

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Not far off Kemp Street located at 3101 Grant Street (behind what used to be Stanley’s BBQ) sits a bustling, yet unassuming, little music store full of laughter, friends, stories, lessons, and yes, lots of music equipment and musicians. It’s called F and J Music.

The “J” in F and J is the very talented and very funny Joe Snyder. His business partner and the “F” in F and J is Felipe Casillas, known to me for years as Phillip. Some of you may know Phillip and Joe as members of the extremely popular local band, T Bone Road; a staple in area dance halls for thirty years. Many of you may know them through the music store, but however you know them, I believe you have been blessed to know these gentlemen. I’ll talk about Joe and the music store in more depth another day, but right now I’m going to share a bit of what I know about Phillip.

Back in the late 60’s Phillip would show up at school dances and battle of the bands with The Roaming Shadows, a great bunch of guys and a fine band. As the 70’s bore down, Phillip could be found with another talented group called Evergreen. This band was booked by the legendary Sam Gibbs, which would lead to a longtime friendship and working partnership between Phillip and Sam. A few years later, Phillip and I put a band together with Billy “Wildman” Grimes called Nice And Easy. We worked for Sam Gibbs for several years, traveling to New Mexico, Louisiana, North and South Dakota, Colorado, and, of course, Texas and Oklahoma. The Colorado bug hit Billy pretty hard, so he  eventually moved there and still lives there today, nearly forty years later. Phillip and I had a great working relationship so we hung in there together, and went looking for a drummer. Fortunately for us, at the same time, a local band called Our Contribution with Dick Stephens and Kyle Shelton (who I consider the best band to come from our area), was looking for a guitarist. Thankfully, they took me along with Phillip, and I became the multi-instrumentalist in the band. But Phillip was a shining star! His talent took the band to another level. This band was quite successful and cemented my friendship with Phillip even more. We continued to work together for several more years, never having a moment’s disagreement over anything… except maybe for the intro key to our version of Long Train Running! (that’s a little inside joke!)

I say all of that to say that I think I know Phillip quite well and I sincerely wanted to say something while I can about the man and the treasure that I think he is to our community. As I have mentioned, Phillip is one of the finest guitarists to come from within 150 miles of Wichita Falls. So many local musicians are not aware of Phillip’s abilities on his instrument-mainly because of his being on the road for so many years. But he controls those six strings like so few. His lack of ego has also kept him just to the side of the spotlight, as well. Besides his guitar playing, he also has a high and clear voice and is a wonderful singer (if you can get him to sing!) and a wonderful harmony singer. He is also a very hardworking and dedicated musician. He is always there to load and unload the equipment, he gives a 100% on stage, learns his parts to songs flawlessly, is always on time, and causes no drama at any time to the other musicians. He takes this same work ethic to his music store and his personal life.

Phillip has been married to his beautiful, sweet wife Jane for nearly forty-seven years. That is quite a record for a musician! Salute!

Phillip has entertained and mentored hundreds, if not thousands, of folks in our area through music lessons and being a store owner. I’ve talked to many, many, of his guitar students and they not only learn a tremendous amount about guitar and music, but they also love him dearly. So do his fans. So do I.

I don’t have enough space to give a detailed history of Phillip Casillas, a personal hero of mine, but I do hope I’ve at least presented a glimpse into the life, the musicianship, and the good things this man has done for so many in our community.

Bless you for blessing so many, Felipe. You are a treasure.

-Johnny Divine