Died 2012 at age 62
Greetings from Portland. Sweater weather is here. Every day this month I’m telling a story that bridges the gap between this world, and the next. I’m resurrecting the memory of Portlanders who’ve crossed over to the other side by posting one video each day, relating the tale of one, interesting “permanent Portlander.”
Phil Swegart was born in Iowa, went to school in Massachusetts and came to Maine to hike the Appalachian Trail south from Mt. Katahdin. He didn’t get far on the trail, though, and decided to settle down in Portland where he became known as Fiddlin’ Phil from Munjoy Hill.
By day, he was a carpenter, hammering away at houses around town. After dark, he played his fiddle for dancers, drinkers and folks trying to forget their daily woes — an unfiltered Lucky Strike dangling from his lip, all the while.
I wish you could have heard him play.
He had a bottomless mind, stuffed full of old movie trivia, fiddle tunes and stories of the old days.
But he was also troubled. He drank too much and died too soon. He was my friend, my bandmate, and I’ll always miss him.
A few years back, I wrote a song about Phil called “Up Jumped the Dancers” and recorded it with The Squid Jiggers. Maybe it will shed a little bit more light on who he was.
Disclaimer: I’m not a historian. I owe everything I know to the dedicated research of those who have come before me. These character sketches are assembled from multiple (often antique) sources and sprinkled with my own conjecture. I’m happy to be set straight or to learn more.