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HomeNewsArchivesA BIT OF ST. THOMAS MUSICAL HISTORY RESURFACES

A BIT OF ST. THOMAS MUSICAL HISTORY RESURFACES

A bit of St. Thomas musical history has resurfaced with the death Sunday in Los Angeles of songwriter and singer John Phillips.
As a member of the famous 1960s pop group the Mamas and the Papas, Phillips wrote "Creeque Alley," a song memorializing the quartet's stay on St. Thomas in 1964.
The song, one of Phillips' many hits recorded by the group, also commemorated Creque's Alley, a narrow street connecting the waterfront and Main Street, between Trompeter Gade and Royal Dane Mall. No one seems to know why Phillips inserted the extra "e" in Creque.
In 1964, Hugh Duffy, then 43, operated Duffy's, which consisted of an 11-room guesthouse, three bars and a discotheque on the Main Street end of Creque's Alley.
In New York City, Phillips, his wife, Michelle, and Denny Doherty, all members of an unsuccessful singing group, decided to cool out. According to musical legend, they closed their eyes and stuck a pin on a map of the Caribbean. The pin came to rest near St. Thomas/St. John.
As recounted in the words of "Creeque Alley," the trio wound up in tents on a St. John beach. With them was another female singer, Cass Elliot, who wanted to make the trio a quartet.
When they ran out of money, they came to St. Thomas, where they encountered the bohemian Duffy. It was the off-season; he put the hippie congregation up.
"It just wasn't the four of them," Duffy remembers. "There were 21 or 22 of them, including some children. There were some dogs and some of those small motorcycles."
When the season started, John, Michelle and Denny talked Duffy into letting them perform in the discotheque. They sang on the tiny stage while "Mama Cass" Elliot waited on tables (she was a terrible waitress, Duffy recalls) and from the back of the room contributed the distinctive high harmony that was to bring her fame a year later.
Restless once again, they left St. Thomas for Los Angeles, where they landed a recording contract. Fame quickly followed, fueled by Cass Elliot's unique voice and Phillips' songs, including "Monday, Monday," "I Saw Her Again Last Night" and "Dream a Little Dream of Me."
Duffy's son, Timothy, who was 11 at the time, remembers the thrill of receiving in the mail from the Mamas and the Papas their demonstration recording of another Phillips song, "California Dreamin'."
By 1968, the Mamas and the Papas had disbanded, following the divorce of Michelle and John Phillips. She became a film actress. He continued to write songs. Cass Elliot toured on her own until her death at the age of 32 in a London apartment in 1974.
In 1992, John Phillips received a liver transplant after years of alcohol and drug abuse. A spokesman for the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center said he died of heart failure. He was 65.
Hugh Duffy, the Creque's Alley bohemian, is now 80 and lives on Vieques, where he owns a popular restaurant, Chez Shack. His son, Timothy, and Tim's wife, Liz, own and operate Duffy's Love Shack at Red Hook Plaza on the East End.
"You have to understand how important their stay on St. Thomas was to the Mamas and Papas," Tim Duffy told the Source. "They really shaped their sound here as they got used to John Phillips' songs."
He thought a while and then said:
"Remember, the Beatles developed their sound in Hamburg, Germany, before returning to England and fame. St. Thomas was Hamburg for the Mamas and the Papas."

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A bit of St. Thomas musical history has resurfaced with the death Sunday in Los Angeles of songwriter and singer John Phillips.
As a member of the famous 1960s pop group the Mamas and the Papas, Phillips wrote "Creeque Alley," a song memorializing the quartet's stay on St. Thomas in 1964.
The song, one of Phillips' many hits recorded by the group, also commemorated Creque's Alley, a narrow street connecting the waterfront and Main Street, between Trompeter Gade and Royal Dane Mall. No one seems to know why Phillips inserted the extra "e" in Creque.
In 1964, Hugh Duffy, then 43, operated Duffy's, which consisted of an 11-room guesthouse, three bars and a discotheque on the Main Street end of Creque's Alley.
In New York City, Phillips, his wife, Michelle, and Denny Doherty, all members of an unsuccessful singing group, decided to cool out. According to musical legend, they closed their eyes and stuck a pin on a map of the Caribbean. The pin came to rest near St. Thomas/St. John.
As recounted in the words of "Creeque Alley," the trio wound up in tents on a St. John beach. With them was another female singer, Cass Elliot, who wanted to make the trio a quartet.
When they ran out of money, they came to St. Thomas, where they encountered the bohemian Duffy. It was the off-season; he put the hippie congregation up.
"It just wasn't the four of them," Duffy remembers. "There were 21 or 22 of them, including some children. There were some dogs and some of those small motorcycles."
When the season started, John, Michelle and Denny talked Duffy into letting them perform in the discotheque. They sang on the tiny stage while "Mama Cass" Elliot waited on tables (she was a terrible waitress, Duffy recalls) and from the back of the room contributed the distinctive high harmony that was to bring her fame a year later.
Restless once again, they left St. Thomas for Los Angeles, where they landed a recording contract. Fame quickly followed, fueled by Cass Elliot's unique voice and Phillips' songs, including "Monday, Monday," "I Saw Her Again Last Night" and "Dream a Little Dream of Me."
Duffy's son, Timothy, who was 11 at the time, remembers the thrill of receiving in the mail from the Mamas and the Papas their demonstration recording of another Phillips song, "California Dreamin'."
By 1968, the Mamas and the Papas had disbanded, following the divorce of Michelle and John Phillips. She became a film actress. He continued to write songs. Cass Elliot toured on her own until her death at the age of 32 in a London apartment in 1974.
In 1992, John Phillips received a liver transplant after years of alcohol and drug abuse. A spokesman for the University of California at Los Angeles Medical Center said he died of heart failure. He was 65.
Hugh Duffy, the Creque's Alley bohemian, is now 80 and lives on Vieques, where he owns a popular restaurant, Chez Shack. His son, Timothy, and Tim's wife, Liz, own and operate Duffy's Love Shack at Red Hook Plaza on the East End.
"You have to understand how important their stay on St. Thomas was to the Mamas and Papas," Tim Duffy told the Source. "They really shaped their sound here as they got used to John Phillips' songs."
He thought a while and then said:
"Remember, the Beatles developed their sound in Hamburg, Germany, before returning to England and fame. St. Thomas was Hamburg for the Mamas and the Papas."