As the frontman of the Blasters during the early '80s, singer/guitarist Phil Alvin spearheaded the underground's return to American music traditions ranging from blues to rockabilly to country, predating the roots rock movement that bloomed in the years to follow. Born March 6, 1953, in Los Angeles, Alvin and his younger brother Dave were raised on the music of Elvis Presley, T-Bone Walker, and Big Joe Turner; together they formed the Blasters in 1979, borrowing the name from Jimmy McCracklin's Blues Blasters.

Their debut LP, 1980's American Music, created a major buzz among insiders for its gritty, rootsy sound, and their self-titled 1981 follow-up even cracked the Top 40. However, Dave Alvin left the Blasters in 1985, at which time the group went on hiatus as Phil returned to grad school to pursue his master's degree in mathematics and artificial intelligence. (He later earned his Ph.D. from UCLA.) Alvin resurfaced in 1986 with his solo debut, Un "Sung" Stories, which featured cameos by everyone from Sun Ra & His Arkestra to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band; he reconvened the Blasters a short time later, and the group continued with a revolving lineup into the following decade. A second solo effort, County Fair 2000, appeared in 1994, and featured members of the Alvin side project the Faultline Syncopators, a traditional jazz combo. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi