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Phil Driscoll

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  • Years Active: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s


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CCM trumpeter/singer Phil Driscoll was born November 9, 1947 in Seattle, and by the age of three was already playing a plastic trombone and Hawaiian slack guitar. While a freshman at Baylor University he formed the school's first jazz band, and as a sophomore recorded his first album, 1969's A Touch of Trumpet, with the Stockholm Symphony Orchestra. During his senior year, Driscoll took top honors on the CBS television talent-search series The All American College Bowl for a dozen weeks running, once even beating the aspiring pop duo of siblings Karen and Richard Carpenter; after completing 1970's Blowin' a New Mind he moved into secular pop music, composing material for acts including Joe Cocker, Stephen Stills, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Leon Russell. Driscoll returned to the Christian music fold with 1981's Ten Years After, and with 1983's I Exalt Thee scored a Dove Award for Instrumental Album Of the Year as well as Grammy nomination in the Best Gospel/Pop Album category. Both 1985's Power of Praise and 1987's Make Us One took home Dove Awards as well, and in the years to follow Driscoll lent his soulful, pop-influenced sound to everything from children's songs (1989's Gabe and the Good News Gang) to patriotic material (1990's Celebrate Freedom) to R&B (1990's Innerman) to seasonal favorites (1993's The Sound of Christmas). In 1996 he expanded into the television ministry with the show The Voice of Praise; that same year, the album A Different Man launched the hit "Christ Remains." Driscoll even turned to country music with 1997's Shine the Light; Simple Song followed two years later, and in the spring of 2000 he issued two new LPs, Plugged In and Quiet.


Phil Driscoll (born November 9, 1947) is a virtuosic trumpeter, singer, composer, and producer. He performs in widely varying music genres and styles which include rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and patriotic music, and is best known for his work in Christian music and his longterm Christian ministry. In 1985, Driscoll won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance – Duo/Group for a duet with Debby Boone on "Keep the Flame Burning", and he has been nominated for three additional Grammys, two for Best Gospel Performance – Male and one for Best Gospel/Pop Album. He has also won three Dove Awards for his music, and the 1999 Christian Country Music Association Award for Best Musician. Driscoll is most noted for his virtuosic trumpet playing, his gravelly bluesy voice, and his songwriting.Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).

Early life and education[edit]

Phil Driscoll was born in Seattle, Washington, and when he was a small child his family moved to Spokane, where his father pastored a small church and his mother played hymns on the piano and organ. Phil played a small plastic trumpet to accompany his father's preaching. When he was five the family moved to Dallas, Texas, where his parents continued their ministry. At six Phil was given a steel guitar, and won many talent contests while still a child.

The family subsequently moved to Lancaster, Texas, where Phil's father became chief of maintenance for the Lancaster school system. Phil began playing the trumpet, and by the sixth grade was performing in the Lancaster High School band. The family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1959, where Phil's father resumed the ministry. Phil became principal trumpet and featured soloist in the Tulsa Youth Symphony. In high school, he competed in the World Music Festival in Amsterdam, where his trumpet section won best in the world. After high-school graduation, he was lead trumpet in the gospel touring band The Spurrlows. Driscoll then attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas under a music scholarship, where he formed the university's first jazz band.Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).


Career1.1 Early career1.2 National recognition1.3 Inspirational and other genres1.3.1 1980s1.3.2 1990s1.3.3 2000s1.4 Historic and ceremonial national performances


Early career[edit]

Driscoll won numerous financial awards as a musician by winning talent shows beginning in early childhood, and after high school he toured with a jazz band for a year. While a sophomore at Baylor University, he was offered a contract by Word Records and recorded his first album, A Touch of Trumpet in 1969, accompanied by the Stockholm Symphony Orchestra. He also won the All American College Show musical competition on CBS, beating out even The Carpenters, and was booked on a USO show touring in Asia. Driscoll also performed and ministered with Billy Graham in Europe. He signed with A&R Records for his secular music, and released the album Blowin' a New Mind in 1970.

National recognition[edit]

During the 1970s, Driscoll performed on national television on the Ed Sullivan, Merv Griffin, Steve Allen, Della Reese, and Arthur Godfrey shows. On The Ed Sullivan Show, he landed an unprecedented eight-minute spot, and received a standing ovation.

In 1972 CBS Records purchased Driscoll's song catalog and gave him a job writing music for Blood Sweat & Tears (for whom he wrote "Rock & Roll Queen" and other songs) and other bands. He also began touring, performing, and songwriting for nearly five years with rock legend Joe Cocker, and authored three of Cocker's hits – "Southern Lady", "Wasted Years", and "Boogie Baby". Driscoll also wrote for and collaborated with artists such as Steven Stills, Leon Russell, Billy Preston, and .38 Special, and performed with ensembles including the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1974 he moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where he stayed four and a half years and opened two nightclubs, Driscoll's Disco Nite Club and Driscoll's Nice Place.

Inspirational and other genres[edit]

Driscoll eventually became increasingly dissatisfied with his rock and roll lifestyle, and on Christmas morning in 1977, he and his fiancee accepted Christ. He then focused his talents towards Christian ministry.


In 1980, Driscoll and his family moved to Cleveland, Tennessee. Beginning with Ten Years After (1981), he began recording in the inspirational genre, producing soulful albums whose sound had an appeal to both black and white audiences. He established Mighty Horn Ministries, his contemporary Christian music business, which he also shared on television. In the 1980s Driscoll also played and sang at many of Kenneth Copeland’s ministry conventions.

After several more albums, Driscoll won his first GMA Dove Award in 1984 for Instrumentalist of the Year, and his album I Exalt Thee (1983) received a Grammy nomination in the Best Gospel Performance – Male category. In 1985 he won a Grammy Award with singer Debby Boone for Best Gospel Performance – Duo/Group, for the song "Keep the Flame Burning" from Boone's album Surrender. In 1985 he signed with Benson Records, and in 1986, Billboard magazine ranked him No. 9 in the Top 10 Inspirational Artists.

Driscoll garnered two more Dove Award wins in the mid-1980s – for Instrumental Album of the Year for Celebrate Freedom (1985) and Instrument of Praise (1987). He released an instrumental-only album of hymns, Classic Hymns, in 1988, backed by the London National Philharmonic Orchestra.


In the 1990s Driscoll produced more than a dozen new albums, mainly in the contemporary Christian genre. He was voted the Readers' Choice Favorite Instrumentalist in both 1990 and 1991 by Charisma magazine. In 1993 he appeared on TNN's Music City Tonight, and he performed and sang in the 1995 film America: A Call to Greatness, which chronicles in story, drama, and music the history of America from its founding inception to its rise to prominence.

In 1996 Driscoll built a recording studio, Most High Studios, on a farm in Tennessee. He also began The Voice of Praise, a television ministry broadcast on the Inspiration Network, and released the album A Different Man, which included the hit ballad "Christ Remains". His 1997 release, Live! With Friends, recorded live and with several other singers and musicians, included a variety of styles, moods, and genres. The album features covers of mainstream hits like "Bridge Over Troubled Water", "You Are So Beautiful", and Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody", as well as gospel and praise songs including "His Eye Is on the Sparrow".

Driscoll turned to country music with his 1998 album, Shine the Light. In 1999, he formed his own music label, Phil Driscoll Music Group, with an aim to focus on a wide variety of music styles and crossover appeal in both mainstream and Christian music communities. That same year he was honored as Best Musician of the Year by the Christian Country Music Awards. In the late 1990s, Driscoll's varied touring performances included playing and singing for a tour of Handel's Young Messiah to packed stadiums which seated up to 20,000.


In the early 2000s Driscoll began a new music and ministry television show, The Phil Driscoll Connection. His early 2000s albums included Spirit of America (2000), One Nation Under God (2003), Classic Hymns (2004), and Drops of Praise (2006). In 2006 he also released Vintage, which included Driscoll's versions of over a dozen classic mainstream singles such as "The Power of Love", "Old Time Rock and Roll", "The Dock of the Bay", "Lean on Me", "Stand by Me", "When a Man Loves a Woman", and "Try a Little Tenderness".

In 2006 Driscoll was found guilty of failing to pay between $30,000 and $80,000 of income tax in the late 1990s, and served a one-year sentence ending in 2008. Following his release, Driscoll wrote and co-produced an autobiographical film about his experiences, starring Danny Glover and Brian Dennehy.

In 2008, Driscoll released the album Songs in the Key of Worship, which includes his vocal and trumpet performance of the classic hymn "I Surrender All", accompanied by guitar. He also released the album Here and Now in 2008. Driscoll continues to perform, minister, and work in a variety of media and locations, including completing his film. In December 2009, he performed in Lagos, Nigeria in a 12-hour night of music and worship, with an audience of over 500,000. In addition to his autobiographical film, Driscoll is also completing a music feature film, Symphony of the Universe.

Historic and ceremonial national performances[edit]

Driscoll has performed at the White House for Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. He performed at Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1993, and at the 1993 lighting of the National Christmas Tree, and sang and played "America the Beautiful" at the dedication ceremony for the Clinton Presidential Center presidential library in Little Rock. Driscoll also performed at the Democratic National Conventions in 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000.

In the 1980s, Driscoll performed for, made presentations and speeches for, and composed the theme song for President Reagan's Just Say No campaign against drugs. In 1999, at the personal request of Vice President Al Gore, he accepted a key ministry role at the nationally televised memorial services following the Columbine High School massacre; at the memorial, he performed and sang two songs, one of which he wrote specifically for the service. On Presidents Day in 2000, Driscoll sang and played "God Bless America" at the Congressional Medal of Honor ceremony, at the request of Secretary of Defense William Cohen.

At the 1984 Grammy Awards he played and sang "Amazing Grace", receiving a "deafening" ovation. And at the emotional post-9/11 Emmy Awards ceremony in November 2001, he received a standing ovation after he played and sang "America the Beautiful".Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).

Musical style[edit]

Driscoll is known for his bluesy and varied style, which he also infuses into gospel, inspirational, and patriotic songs. Driscoll's raspy, blues-like voice has been compared to Ray Charles and Joe Cocker. His sound ranges from classic rock to country, gospel, patriotic, R&B, pop, and classical styles. He is widely known as being a rare white singer who sings in a convincing black gospel style. As one independent 2006 analysis puts it, "Driscoll has a bluesy-gospel ('soul') style and sings in a course, guttural voice that sounds very much like Ray Charles."

He is noted for incorporating the sound of soul, R&B, rock 'n' roll, jazz, and blues into the inspirational genre. "God's funky too", he said in a 1980s interview, noting that he was keen on eliminating stereotyped opinions about inspirational music. In a 1999 interview for Billboard magazine, he reiterated this, saying, "If you're a football player and you become a Christian, you don't suddenly start playing Christian football." Driscoll incorporated his bluesy, soulful jazz horn-playing and singing into Christmas music in his 2000 album, The Spirit of Christmas, which includes a jazz version of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" played on muted flugelhorn and sung in a slow improvisational jazz style.Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).


Driscoll is celebrated for his virtuosic, inspirational, and quite varied trumpet playing. He is also known as one of the few trumpeters who can reach and play well in the very highest of notes and ranges. His combination trumpet and singing performances are noted for their smooth transitions from trumpet playing to singing to glossolalia, and back again. And in addition to his well-known trumpet playing and his distinctive style of singing, Driscoll is also skilled on the keyboard, and on the flugelhorn, and he also performs on the shofar, cornet, and flumpet.

Driscoll's performances and recordings include many mainstream and bluesy works such as "The Long and Winding Road", "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me", "You Are So Beautiful", "You Don't Know Me", "Georgia on My Mind", "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?", "You Raise Me Up", and "Amazing Grace". In ceremonial and patriotic performances he is known for his virtuosic and inspirational trumpet and vocal renditions of "America the Beautiful", "God Bless America", "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", and other patriotic favorites.Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).

Personal life[edit]

Driscoll married his wife Lynne in 1978. He and Lynne have two children, Jamie and Danielle, and Driscoll has a son, Shawn, from his previous marriage. Driscoll has four grandchildren.

Driscoll lived in Cleveland, Tennessee from the early 1980s. In the mid-2000s he relocated to Greensboro, Georgia.Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist}} template (see the help page).


1985 Grammy Award for Best Gospel Performance – Duo/Group for "Keep The Flame Burning" with Debby Boone1984 GMA Dove Award for Instrumentalist of the Year1985 GMA Dove Award for Instrumental Album of the Year for Celebrate Freedom1987 GMA Dove Award for Instrumental Album of the Year for Instrument of Praise1999 Christian Country Music Award for Best Musician

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