Local musician sticks to his roots, hopes for success

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Some musicians simply play country music. Randy Phillips, "Coondawg" to his friends, says he lives it.

Though he got his start in gospel, he said country music has always been a passion and part of his life.

"I don't want to lose the ideals of country music and who I am," he said. "I love to hunt, fish and spend time with the kids. My favorite thing to do is coon hunt. That's where I got the nickname."

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From age 9, Phillips, a 40-year-old Ironton resident, has been singing and playing pretty much any instrument he could get his hands on including drums, bass, keyboards and guitar.

"My mom has a bachelor's degree in music from Rio Grande University, but I taught most of it to myself," Phillips said.

With their first album "Coondawg" ready to be released in January and a cover of Merle Haggard's "Big City" ready to hit the radio any time, Phillips is excited about the 5-month-old band "Coondawg and the Southbound Express."

The group plays a mixture of classic country and southern rock songs that include Merle Haggard, George Strait, Jimmy Buffett, Lynyrd Skynyrd and more. They also have at least 14 originals that will be on the new album.

"Southbound Express" consists of Phillip Osborne on lead guitar, Doug Fisher on rhythm and Shawn Davidson on drums. Phillips has been playing bass until he can find a full-time player.

Country music enthusiasts may think Phillips looks familiar because he played keyboards for local country star Lee McCormack for a while.

"They got me back in the swing of country and what I love to do," he said. "Lee was a big inspiration for me because he taught me to go for my heart's dream."

The band has a lot of dates scheduled for next year including a charity event for Holzer Medical Center in Gallipolis and Fanfare June 10-13. Phillips is working with Rigsby Management of Ironton to get a Web site up and going soon.

The band's popularity continues to grow. Ronda Phillips runs the 3-month-old fan club that has grown to include 350 people.

"We have got a lot of enthusiasm about the band - a lot of energy," Randy said. "We put on a clean show and you will get treated with respect. We treat everyone the same."