City of Columbus to Honor Local Rocker Willie Phoenix
16th Avenue at High Street to Become Willie Phoenix Way in Virtual Dedication Event
[COLUMBUS, OH] One of the legends of Columbus rock-n-roll is about to get his name enshrined on the Columbus streets. "It's so easy to find me/Wherever good love can be found," wailed local singer and guitarist Willie Phoenix on the song Still a Bad Boy from the album Blues My Soul. Now we can find him at the corner of 16th Avenue and High Street.
On Thursday, October 15, 2020, Columbus City Council and the Columbus Music Commission will conduct a virtual event at 1pm to dedicate Willie Phoenix Way and celebrate the guitar-shredding Columbus rocker. The dedication will air on Council's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ColsCouncil and WOSU's Broad and High page at www.facebook.com/broadandhigh.
Columbus City Council and a collection of local artists, fans and admirers will come together to acknowledge and commemorate Phoenix's long-standing contribution to the cultural arts in Central Ohio.
"This is a great honor that I accept with humble soul and bones," said Phoenix. "Thank you City Council, Mayor Ginther and fans. Love you all! Oh yeah, and Columbus Rocks!"
"Willie Phoenix is a unique creative force of nature and Columbus is proud to call him our own," said Columbus City Council President Shannon G. Hardin. "It is our hope that this street marker will inspire young musicians who walk down High Street to pick up a guitar, sit behind a keyboard or rock a turntable to write the next chapter of Columbus Ohio rock, roll and soul."
For decades, the stretch of High Street across from Ohio State University was the center of the capital City's music scene. The Agora (later The Newport), Zacharia's, Mr. Brown's Descent and more have all thrived on High Street, opening their doors to local artists. Phoenix played and ruled them all. Bernie's Bagels, located right 16th Avenue, was Willie's office, his playground, his musical laboratory, his home away from home.
Those buildings are largely all gone now, but Willie is still here, doing what he does best, doing what he was born to do - perform and record music. He has never stopped. Not for a month, not for a week, not for a day.
"The only reason myself and my bandmates in Watershed chose to attend Ohio State was so we could see Willie Phoenix as much as possible," said Colin Gawel, lead singer and guitarist of the rock band. "Seeing him at Bernie's was the Columbus version of seeing Springsteen at the Stone Pony. It was as good as rock-n-roll had ever been or ever would be. He raised the bar for not only us, but for every band playing on High Street."
Phoenix has released 29 full-length records and his secret vault is rumored to contain three times that amount. Jumping genres from rock-n-roll to pop, to blues, to psychedelia, to acoustic – from album to album and sometimes in the same set – he is a master of the science of the six-string guitar. And his incendiary live performances are equal parts Muddy Waters, Wilson Pickett and Elvis Costello.
"As the music city of Columbus grows, it is important for us to annually honor and commemorate our musical pioneers. It is they who have embraced us with their talent and set the tempo for the future," said Bruce Garfield, Executive Director of the Columbus Music Commission.
"Willie is only focused on the next song, the next show. He has no time for nostalgia. He is also too humble to seek any accolades,” Gawel continued. "That doesn't motivate him. So the fans started the petition for Willie Phoenix Way to give something back to Willie after all he has given to us and the City of Columbus."