Had Phillip Connors been born in Japan, he might have been a sumo wrestler. That’s how big he was. Instead, he was “lucky enough to hail from the great state of Hawaii.” Kauai, to be exact. His father was a professional fisherman with a love for playing the Ukulele. At the age of seven, Phillip approached his father with a desire to learn the instrument as well.
“Is this really something you want?” his father asked, “Playing an instrument is hard-work, and must be done out of love, and not for approval.” Phillip thought on this a second, and then nodded happily. History was made that day.
It was this decision, and the talent that blossomed from there, that led Phillip to take part in “Good Enough or Bad,” a nationally televised talent competition. On the air, each contestant was judged by three “celebrity” judges. The first judge, dubbed “The Pretty One,” was a famous singer with a lousy voice, but a kind attitude. The second judge, “The Smart One,” spoke entirely in double negatives. The third judge, “The Angry One,” was an ex-con with a green belt in karate. All were speechless when Phillip first took the stage with his Ukulele. Their mouths went wide at the sight of his over-weight body, and snaggily teeth.
“Here we go.” said The Angry One, and the audience laughed, “What’s your name, and what will you be playing for us?”
“Phillip Connors,” he said, “and I’m going to play you a short medley to show what this instrument can do.” Phillip lifted the ukulele to his chest, and began to strum. One would have thought that his broad fingers were a liability, but he maneuvered them without issue. For the next minute, he made the four strings sound mysterious, sad, joyous, adventurous, and everything in between. No one had ever heard such a range out of such an instrument.
To some members of the audience, Phillip appeared to transform. He remained just as large, with teeth just as crooked, but he looked more handsome. Phillip’s passionate playing allowed all who were willing to see directly into his heart, and the willing were grateful for the opportunity. When the medley was over, the willing applauded like never before. This included The Pretty One.
“Yes. Yes. Yes,” The Pretty One said, “All the way, ‘Yes.'” All Phillip could do was smile, and say “Thank you.” Next, The Angry One spoke…
“When you came out here, Phillip,–I have to be honest–you looked like a disaster waiting to happen,” The Angry One said, “And, even though I think you played beautifully, your look just isn’t what America is looking for. It’s a ‘no’ for me.” The proud audience members booed. Only The Smart One was left.
“I wouldn’t say I didn’t like your performance,'” he said, “but I found it spectacularly ordinary.” The booing came again. The Smart One took notice, “On the other hand, I think you have potential. It’s a ‘Yes’ for me. You’re going on to the finals!”
From there, as it turned out, Phillip didn’t make it past the first round of the finals. Apparently, the judges were right. Most of the viewers didn’t care for Phillip or his ukulele. This did not mean; however, that Phillip had failed. Over one million people still loved his music, and they were very vocal about it. A small record deal followed, and his fan base soon doubled.
“I guess my father was right,” Phillip said decades later when questioned about his success, “You have to do what you love. The rest just follows.”
Written by Alex Schattner (10/24/12)