b. Nicholas Stephen Phillips, 18 February 1948, London, England. The son of sculptor Harry Phillips, Steve first started playing guitar in 1961, at the time emulating rockabilly artists from the Sun Records label. From the age of eight he had been enthralled by Elvis Presley, when others of his age were just discovering Hank B. Marvin and the Shadows. Phillips was also influenced by artists such as Robert Johnson and Scotty Moore, which became apparent later in his country blues playing. Up until 1964, Phillips had played piano in a jug band, Easy Mr. Steve’s Bootleggers, but by 1965 he switched to blues. By the end of 1968, he was being booked regularly in the folk and blues clubs of his local area. During 1968, Phillips met Mark Knopfler, at the time a junior reporter in Leeds, and together they formed a duo, the Duolian String Pickers. This lasted until Knopfler moved to London, later to form Dire Straits. From 1974-76 Phillips fronted the Steve Phillips Juke Band, which included his brother on bass. He met Brendan Croker in 1976, and they played occasionally as the duo Nev And Norris.
During this time, Phillips had been supporting his music working as a guitar repairer and a furniture and picture restorer. Following a brief period of unemployment, he took up landscape painting. Long-time friend Croker coaxed Phillips out of his ‘retirement’ by organizing bookings. BBC disc jockey Andy Kershaw, using the growing popularity of roots music, helped create a demand that enabled Phillips to turn professional in 1986. Phillips achieved a higher profile with his appearances as support to acts such as the Blues Band and Nanci Griffith. He was then approached by Knopfler, who offered to produce an album by Phillips. The project developed into the Notting Hillbillies, which included Guy Fletcher from Dire Straits, and Brendan Croker. Steve Phillips’ recorded output is limited and is no reflection on his obvious talent. In 1991, he recorded two tracks, ‘Stones In My Passway’ and ‘When You Got A Good Friend’, for a Robert Johnson compilation.