Born in Chicago, IL, on July 19, 1941, Phil Upchurch is a prolific guitarist equally comfortable playing blues, soul, R&B, and jazz, Upchurch has been a prominent figure in Chicago music circles since the mid-'50s.
He initially did freelance sessions with such musicians as Jerry Butler before becoming house guitarist for Chess. Upchurch's sensitive, often funky chording, riffs, and licks were heard on numerous releases by such artists as the Dells, Howlin' Wolf, Gene Chandler, and Muddy Waters. He frequently teamed with drummer Maurice White, who later headed Earth, Wind & Fire.
In the early '60s he formed the Phil Upchurch Combo and had a hit with the instrumental "You Can't Sit Down" in 1961. They did some follow-up singles, but none equaled the initial record's success. Upchurch did several soul-jazz and funk dates for such labels as Sue and Cadet in the mid- and late '60s.