In the early 1960s, a young Tasmanian guitar player named Phil Manning joined up with a British drummer named Charlie Watts to form the band Cocaine Spell.
For both musicians, it was the start of long and illustrious careers. Watts went on to join a UK quartet called the Rolling Stones. Manning founded an Australian outfit named Chain, the band credited for importing the music of American blacks to the land down under.
Four decades on, Manning is relaxing on the overcast shores of Sihanoukville, looking back over 40-plus years as a professional musician and looking forward, once again, to playing some low-key gigs around Cambodia, including The FCC Angkor on Oct 19.
“The past few years have been very good to me,” Manning says, “and as I’ve gotten older I’ve felt a lot more confident in my position as a sort of elder within the music industry. Generally music tends to be promoted as a young person’s game, but because I have chosen the blues/roots style I haven’t been too worried about that. That means I can age kind of gracefully and keep doing what I love — a mixture of original songs and the traditional styles that have affected me throughout the years. That is what I’ll aim to do at the FCC show, which I’m really looking forward to.”
From his perch as an industry elder, Manning looks back over a career highlighted by playing with some of the world’s foremost blues musicians.
“I toured with Bo [Didley]a few times, both supporting him and then backing him. A wonderful man and really respectful of me too, which was very nice. The best moment was at a gig in Melbourne when he took over the drums and just let me go for it. It was sensational. He was a great drummer, too.
“And I supported Muddy Waters for two complete tours – the greatest man I have ever met in the music industry. I could tell a lot of stories, but the best one to me is that he remembered my two daughters after 18 months, having only met them for five minutes or so.”
More recently, Manning has rekindled old spirits with Chain, and the band has been doing some major touring in recent years – not as easy as it once was in his earlier years.
“This time my wife and I are spending time in the Sihanoukville area, then Siem Reap and then back to Phnom Penh. We could be a bit more adventurous, but we really needed some laid-back time after working very hard for the past year.”
Phil Manning plays the FCC Angkor on Oct 19, 2013. Doors at 8:30 p.m. No cover.