Press Release

Phil Emmanuel Thank you for the music

Airlie Beach Festival of Music pays tribute to Phil Emmanuel

Tributes continue to flow throughout the Whitsunday community for legendary guitarist Phil Emmanuel.


A regular visitor to the region and staple performer at the Airlie Beach Festival of Music, Phil was respected, loved and idolised within the North Queensland music scene.

Airlie Beach Festival of Music founder Gavin “Butto” Butlin described himself as deeply saddened by the news of his dear friend’s death following a sudden asthma attack on May 24.

“He’s been a part of the festival since the beginning and it won’t be the same without him,” he said.

“I’ve worked with Phil for the past 25 years and he wasn’t just the best guitarist in Australia, he was the most beautiful person inside and out.”

Music fans familiar with Phil’s guitar riffs and irreverent sense of humour have taken to the festival’s Facebook page to pay their respects.

Memories have ranged from “a lovely guy who was always up for a chat” to a “music legend” and “amazing performer” who would be greatly missed.

From modest beginnings in the family band ‘The Emmanuel Quartet’, Phil rose to fame with The Trailblazers, playing guitar alongside his brothers Tommy and Chris and sister Virginia.

Phil’s family have described him as living a humble life, saying: “Phil did not chase fame, fame chased him”.

Mr Butlin said there was no doubt the music world had lost “one of its greats.”