Former ‘America’s Got Talent’ contestant Jay Jay Phillips passed away from COVID-19 at 30. Here are 5 things about the musician who made a memorable appearance on the show.
America’s Got Talent contestant Jay Jay Phillips just tragically passed away from complications of COVID-19, TMZ reported on Dec. 3. The news was shared by the musician’s family who revealed he was suffering from the virus during Thanksgiving break and, despite their checking in on him via phone all week, his health took a drastic turn just a day before the holiday.
They reportedly urged the keyboardist, who was unvaccinated, to check in to a hospital, but he told them he would try and sleep it off. Sadly, Jay Jay’s girlfriend and mother checked in on him on Thanksgiving and found him dead in his home.
“It is with great sadness we inform you all of the loss of our bandmate/brother/and friend @jayjayrocks,” his band, Metal Maffia, wrote in a Nov. 30 Instagram post. “It still doesn’t feel real and we would give anything to change it. Please respect the family, as well as our wishes as we take our time to grieve and process this detrimental loss.”
The band continued, “We miss you brother, every second of every minute, of every day. Thank you for teaching us all to laugh a little more.
Rock in Paradise.”
Below are five things about the charismatic talent who first made waves on our screens in the NBC competition show and later rocked out till his last days with his heavy metal band.
He appeared on ‘America’s Got Talent’ twice
The heavy metal rocker first appeared on the NBC show in 2009 when he played an original piece on his keyboard he referred to as “monster mama jam.” Judges at the time Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne, and David Hasselhoff unfortunately all voted “no,” but Jay Jay made his triumphant return during Season 12 with an audition playing Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ “I Hate Myself for Loving You” on the keyboard. Although judge Heidi Klum voted “no” for the act, Howie Mandel, Mel B, and Simon Cowell all put Jay Jay through to the next round.
For the Judge’s Cuts, Jay Jay then rocked out to “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” receiving a ton of fan appreciation. Although he was a major contender to move forward, he was ultimately cut before the quarterfinals.
He was in a metal band in high school & before his death
Jay Jay, who hailed from Cleveland, Ohio, got his musical beginnings as a keyboardist while attending Riverside High School. During his time in school, he competed in the Tri-C High School Rock Off with his metal band, Hysteria. He was also a still a student during the time he competed in AGT in 2009.
Post-high school and AGT, Jay Jay was a keyboardist in the band Metal Maffia, which, according to their Facebook page, is still located in the Cleveland/Youngstown area. “We are going to write a song for Jay Jay. With no intent on direction or business being involved,” the band wrote on Nov. 30 to their page. “Please leave only three words that describe Jay Jay to you for us to try to include in the lyrics and inspiration of the song. Thank you.”
He was known for his signature, wild hair & eccentric clothes
In addition to a slew of Instagram posts that pepper his feed that detail his unique, individual style, Jay Jay was known on America’s Got Talent for his fun, outrageous looks. The keyboardist captured both the audience and judge’s attention with his wild, teased-up hair and rocker chic outfits, with styles that included velvet, animal prints, and ripped up jeans. He surely knew how to entertain the audience!
He was living with his father before his death
According to TMZ, Jay Jay was planning on getting the COVID-19 vaccine just before he got sick. At the time, he was living with his father but his father was situated at the hospital and on a ventilator and therefore wasn’t present to check up on Jay Jay around his sickness.
He was continuing his music career post-‘AGT’
Although Jay Jay attracted a lot of attention and appreciation during his time on America’s Got Talent, he further flourished with his own metal band and his independent musical ventures. In his last Instagram post, the keyboardist expressed excitement about the progress his band was making and his goals moving forward.
“My band METTAL MAFFIA is making huge moves and anyone that’s a fan of me IT’S A MUST you check us out,” he wrote in the Instagram post. “[I]’m 50 million more times exited about this than the whole AGT thing and i’m so grateful to rock out with my brothers and sister and dude I love this band and them so much it’s rediculous [sic],” he wrote. sharing photos and videos of the band in action.