Jay Jay Phillips, ‘America’s Got Talent’ Keyboardist, Dies of COVID at 30

The performer, who appeared on the show in 2009 and 2017, was known for his huge hair

Jay Jay Phillips, a rock musician who competed on “America’s Got Talent” in 2009 and 2017, has died. He was 30.

The big-haired musician died from COVID-19, which he was battling over Thanksgiving week.

The Instagram account of Phillips’ band posted a tribute to the keyboardist earlier this week.


A close friend of Phillips named Seph Lawless also confirmed the news to TheWrap in an email after deleting a Tweet that hailed the performer.

“I deleted the tweet about Jay Jay after some anti-vaxxers started commenting it, but yes unfortunately it’s true,” Lawless wrote.

“His gf found him 5 days ago unresponsive in a fetal position died in his sleep. He was battling covid like so many quietly at home the only difference was his soul was larger than most and so we all knew he was struggling,” he continued. “His father was recently hospitalized for covid as well. We are unsure how he is doing through all of this. JJ was only 30 and always seemed healthy to me decade I knew him, so this is a shock to most of us. “

“I knew JJ since he was 20,” Lawless added. “He was known through out the Cleveland area where he would regularly perform songs using a variety of instruments at local fairs and park gatherings. Always smiling, incredibly kind and music was his life. The kid could play any instrument and in my opinion was a child prodigy in that respect.”

“JJ was a rock star in his mind and spirit,” Lawless said. “Even at 20 he resembled a glam rock star I always referred to him as Nikki Sixx, one of our favorite Motley Crue members. “He had the same hair style ever since. ” 

“I told my wife this morning. that I think a tremendous amount of good will come from [Jay Jay’s] life that effected so many,” Lawless finished. “For one, he was hugely inspirational to hundreds of people under the age of 30 who unfortunately are probably unvaccinated today. Watching such a horrible virus steal such an amazing person at his age is morally reprehensible to me. I’m currently vaccinated but no so many around me are not because of the amount of disinformation out there or because people under 30 feel as though they will never be hospitalized or face death from Covid19. Unfortunately, JJ reminds us just how careful we all must trend as we navigate through the rest of this pandemic.”  

TMZ first reported the news of Phillips death.

Phillips lived with his father outside of Cleveland, and his father is now hospitalized and on a ventilator. A student when he first performed on “AGT,” Phillips competed in the Tri-C High School Rock Off with his metal band, Hysteria, in 2009 and 2010, from Riverside High School as the keyboardist of the band.

He first appeared on Season 4 of “AGT” as a keyboardist act, but was eliminated early. He came back during Season 12 but was eliminated in the judge cuts just before the quarterfinals.

Phillips is survived by his mother, father and girlfriend.