Summer ’91 and The Giant Country Horns

Arrowhead Ranch July 1991

Arrowhead Ranch w/ GCH July 1991

If we were to travel back 18 years in time this week, we would find ourselves in July of 1991, right in the middle of Phish’s famous summer tour with The Giant Country Horns.  Spanning only sixteen shows, Phish took local musicians Dave Grippo (alto sax), Russell Remington (tenor sax), and Carl Gerhard (trumpet) on the road for what was an exciting and musically divergent few weeks.

phish-summertour-91Taking their moniker from Giant Country White Bread, a brand of bread from New Hampshire, The Giant Country Horns were born.  Spicing up many standard compositions with horn arrangements that sounded completely natural- like they were meant to be there- the horns gave songs like “Gumbo,” “Cavern,” and “Suzy Greenberg” new life for this summer run.  In more open improvisational pieces, like “Tweezer,” “Mike’s” and “Stash,” the horn ensemble lent a darker feel of fusion to the jams, enhancing the band’s interplay and adding another layer on top of the textured jams.  This well-loved tour of early-era Phish started in their home town of Burlington, and culminated at Amy Skelton’s Farm in Auburn, ME for what would be the earliest foreshadowing of the Phish festival.

In addition to enhancing songs already in the band’s rotation, the addition of The Giant Country Horns also allowed Phish to break out some jazz tunes that had been shelved such as “Caravan” and “Flat Fee,” some new covers in The Doors’ “Touch Me” and Charlie Parker’s “Moose the Mooch,” and breakouts like “Frankenstein.”  The horn lineup certainly lent a jazzier feel to Phish’s early music, which was rooted in jazz tradition, itself.

7.14.91 Townshend, VT (M. Gordon)

7.14.91 Townshend, VT (M. Gordon)

Largely contained to the Northeast corridor, Phish’s 1991 Horns Tour did stretch all the way to Atlanta during a four-show southern dip between the festival-like weekends at Arrowhead Ranch in Parksville, NY and their finale at Amy’s Farm.  Though the members of The Giant County Horns would reappear in various incarnations come 1994 and beyond, it was this sixteen-show collaboration that was the central focus of Phish’s experiments with their horn section.

With Grippo, Remington, and Gerhard on the bus for the tour, the band’s onstage dynamic took new form.  Trey and the horns played off of each other dynamically, and the band, as a whole, took on a new sonic shape for these shows.  Often adding rhythmic lines as well as complementary lead melodies and psychedelic backdrops, the horns brought a whole new element to Phish’s music.  Trained in the jazz tradition, Phish easily blended with their guests, playing off of their musical ideas amidst jams as well allowing space for their composed accompaniment.  What resulted over the abbreviated tour was some of the most memorable music of Phish’s early years.

Phish Update - Summer 1991

Phish Update - Summer 1991

The Giant Country Horns appeared as a six-piece ensemble with Phish for a couple more shows in 1994 at Burlington’s Flynn Theatre (4.4) and New York’s Beacon Theater (4.15), and the band periodically featured different horn lineups through the years.  The Cosmic Country Horns- a six-piece lineup led by New Orleans’ Michael Ray, included Grippo, Gerhard, and some of his own Cosmic Crewe- joined the band for a few shows in 1994.  This lineup gave the music a more free-jazz / Sun-Ra feel rather than the more classic swing style of accompaniment of The Giant Country Horns.  Additionally, individual members of both groups have appeared with Phish over the years, including their landmark Remain In Light performance in which Grippo and Cosmic trumpeter, Gary Gazaway, joined the band for their defining set.  Grippo and Russell Remington would go on to become integral members of Trey’s solo band in later years, and friendships between the musicians still exist.  Will we ever see the return of the horns-  who knows?  But just as always in this Phishy world- anything is possible.

Below is an all-SBD compilation of highlights from Summer ’91 with The Giant Country Horns.  Check it out to hear a wholly different vibe to our favorite band.



1. “The Landlady” 7.23 Washington, DC II

2. “Tweezer” 7.21 Arrowhead Ranch, NY II

3. “Cavern” 7.23 II

4. “Magilla” 7.14 Townshend, VT II

5. “Split Open and Melt” 7.14 II

6. “Bathtub Gin” 7.14 III

7,8. “Oh Kee Pa > Suzy” 7.23 I

9. “Stash” 7.15 New Music Seminar, NYC, NY

10. “AC/DC Bag” 7.21 II

11. “Flat Fee” 7.23 I

12,13. “Dinner and a Movie > Gumbo” 7.23 II

14. “Frankenstein” 7.15

15,16,17. “Mike’s > Hydrogen > Weekapaug” 7.21 I

18. “Contact” 7.11 Burlington, VT E

19. “Caravan” 7.15

20. “Touch Me” 7.21 E

21. “You Enjoy Myself” 7.20 Arrowhead Ranch, NY II

22. “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars” 7.14 E

Winged music note=====

Jam of the Day:

Tweezer” 4.21.92 Eureka, CA SBD


If you know this “Tweezer,” you love it, and if you don’t, take fifteen minutes of your time with some headphones and fall in love.  One of the most unique and sublime jams to come from the band’s amazing west coast run of Spring ’92, this “Tweezer” is musical nirvana- all surrounded by redwoods in Northern California.  This is an impeccable soundboard recording of one of my all- time favorite jams.



7.14.91 Townshend Family Park, Townshend, VT SBD < TORRENT

7.14.91 Townshend Family Park, Townshend, VT, SBD < MEGAUP.

7.14.91 Townshend, VT (

7.14.91 Townshend, VT (

Here we have a three setter from the Summer of ’91, showcasing Phish and The Giant Country Horns in all their glory.  The horns joined the band for most of the second and third sets of this marathon show.  While the compilation gives you snapshots of the era, this is a portrait of the band during a very special tour.

I: Reba, Llama, The Squirming Coil, Golgi Apparatus, Guelah Papyrus, My Sweet One, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Famous Mockingbird, The Sloth, I Didn’t Know, Possum

II: Suzy Greenberg, Caravan, The Divided Sky, Gumbo, Dinner and a Movie, Bouncing Around the Room, Split Open and Melt, Magilla, Cavern, Run Like an Antelope

III: AC/DC Bag, The Landlady, Esther, Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, HYHU > Touch Me, Harry Hood

E: Contact, Big Black Furry Creature From Mars

With The Giant Country Horns for most of set II and III


“Golgi” 7.20.91 Arrowhead Ranch, Parksville, NY (partial)

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279 Responses to “Summer ’91 and The Giant Country Horns”

  1. Jay Says:

    No midi horns please. Midi bees? Now that I want to hear live 🙂

  2. msbjivein Says:

    Jay,Me too.

  3. Jay Says:

    Or a Midi jet engine in quad surround!

  4. msbjivein Says:

    Maybe Trey will start using MIDI to play real whale calls…….

  5. pebbles Says:

    @msbejivein: My sources tell me NYE run is a pretty sure thing. Has anyone heard otherwise?

    At least one pretty well-connected friend has already bought his plane ticket from overseas to Miami for December 27, and smart, well-informed people don’t usually drop that kind of dough (he’s waaaay overseas) on groundless rumors.

    I don’t ask the guy how he knows what he knows, but he has never, in 10 years, fed me a false Phish story.

    Take it for what it’s worth.

  6. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Robear, MIDI is just digital sampling, you keep the “shape” of the note (its loudness, the attack and sustain etc) but replace the actual sound with a sample, which can be absolutely anything.

    Henry Kaiser is the only guitar player I’ve seen live who uses that stuff to the utmost. I didn’t really enjoy the show, but he really launched quite a barrage of sounds.

  7. msbjivein Says:

    Hopefully the NYE run is over the weekend…………

  8. Jay Says:

    sounds like NYE is 28th -> 31st

  9. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    msb, you moving NYE this year? It’s a Thursday.

  10. notkuroda Says:

    I have hotel reservations for miami, of course I’m in florida and hotels can be cancelled…
    I think the thing about rumors is that things can change. So Trey may tell you in July that NYE is in Miami, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to happen

  11. sumodie Says:

    Would love a full return of the GCH at Save the Date, not to mention performances by the solo projects (if that doesn’t wear the band out too much).

    Folks are still murmuring that this won’t be a phish only festie. Any more word if Les Claypool or others are coming?

    Still DLing today’s picks -can’t wait to crank the volume!

  12. Robear Says:

    sumodie, I was thinking Les Claypool the other day. DId any of you folks catch Laguna Seca Daze in ’94? Les Claypool jammed with the boys during the second set of night one.

  13. fat bastard Says:

    any chance of it being in austin texas? wsp is there too!

  14. msbjivein Says:

    Type III, I don’t think they’ve ever had a NYE run go after NYE. That means it will run up to Thurs. THAT SUCKS!!

  15. arbitropia Says:

    That 4/21/92 Tweezer is OUTSTANDING. Not only is it inspired playing, but I also like the old sound with all the reverb on the drums. A little ‘verb on the kit could probably help those shitty ’09 SBDs a great deal.

  16. sumodie Says:

    msbjivein: NYE ’02 continued on to Hampton: 1/2,3,4/2003 (the start of phish 2.0!). Not sure if folks count that as a complete NYE run or not.

  17. Selector J Says:

    “Type III, I don’t think they’ve ever had a NYE run go after NYE.”

    The ’03 MSG > Hampton 3x worked that way but of course that was a unique situation.

    And based solely on the fact that my life is not nearly that awesome…Austin, TX for Halloween definitely isn’t happening.

  18. fat bastard Says:

    that would be cool though, phish
    at zikler field

  19. msbjivein Says:

    Sumodie, Your right. My fingers are crossed

  20. Walfredo Says:

    Anyone got PTBM shipping confirmations yet? None of my Gorge tickets have been shipped yet- anyone else?

  21. Jay Says:

    phish at zilker would be sweet 🙂

  22. whole tour! Says:

    maybe the official announcement is later today and the hotel jumped the gun?

  23. Pence Says:

    I emailed about the hotel, so we should be seeing an anouncement any second now 😉

  24. Chalkdustin Says:

    Nice thinking, Pence.

    @Walfredo, I haven’t gotton any emails about my Gorge tix either. I would start to get worried if we haven’t heard by the end of the week.

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    FWIW, Stubhub came thru just now with 2 Gorge tickets for me, so yay for them. I shoulda waited and I could be getting them for face, probably, but I had to clear up the confusion…

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