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. larry bird flu Says:

    @ mitch i think your thinking of trey premiering it with i believe the baltimore symphony orchestra

  2. Mitch Says:

    Well he premiered it with Orchestra Nashville. I dunno.

    Also, Am I the only one that thinks it might be fun to be dosed at a show not knowing it was coming? Mr C? Anybody? haha

  3. Mr.Miner Says:

    so I am just reading through the comments today…..I am all for Trey and MIDI….makes a guitar so verstile….turns it into friend Jon in the Disco Biscuits has experimented with one live, and has used it as just another rhythmic layer to their mixture.

    That being said, it could be used as anything….Trey seems like a purist to me though, and I doubt we’ll see him do this now– though I’m all for it…I almost think Trey is past the point in his career where he might of tried that- but what do I know, the future is now…

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    not knowing what was coming?

  5. Mitch Says:

    Without knowing the trip was coming. I’d be like “uhhhh things just got a lot weirder” although when the going gets weird the weird turn pro!

  6. Mitch Says:

    People were talking how bad it is to be dosed unexpectedly and I was thinking how much fun Mr. C’s game “dose your friend” would have been. Waking up from being dosed would be nuts tho.

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    well Mitch I enjoyed it at the time. And if you knew it *might* happen and were cool with it and then it did happen you’d be like, “bonus dose! whee!”

    but doing it to anyone that hasn’t explicitly signed off on it is some of the worst karma I can imagine. you never know where someone’s head is at or what they have on their plate that day, even assuming it’s someone you know could generally handle it

    that’s why we had it as a closed circle…kind of an “opt-in” system you know

  8. Mr.Miner Says:

    “but doing it to anyone that hasn’t explicitly signed off on it is some of the worst karma I can imagine.”

    ^ fact….and I heart L….

  9. Mitch Says:

    Yeah I guess if it were completely out of left field on a random day it might be intense. I was mainly thinking “bous dose! whee!” haha

    even still… if I weren’t going to work or in one of those home run situations you mentioned, it could still be cool. just depends on the person / day.

  10. Prince Nabby Says:

    I was dosed at a festival in England in the 1970s, and the experience was utterly terrifying, even though I had tripped before. The psychiatric trauma that came out of that experience haunted me for years trauma. We were talking about how appalling it is to dose kids yesterday, but I want to say, for the record, that to dose anyone, at any time, without their explicit and prior consent is a violation of their person on a level with rape. It is totally unacceptable. If you wanna drop acid, drop it, but it is never, ever cool to compromise anyone else’s psychic integrity without say so. Ever.

  11. larry bird flu Says:

    i think i come down more on the side of nabby, mr. c et al. the one time i can remeber being dosed was on the car ride to the 20th anniversery show, we had a vial of liquid and i was planning on doing some anyways so that was no biggie for me but to do so without ones consent is unconcianable(sp?).
    @miner your comment about the midi, i dont think anyone expected trey to start using the mini keyboard or the litttle drum kit he had either, not that their same thing as a MIDI.

  12. sumodie Says:

    “People were talking how bad it is to be dosed unexpectedly and I was thinking how much fun Mr. C’s game “dose your friend” would have been.”

    I hope everyone knows their U.S. history: our very own CIA started this trend back in the ’50s when they were trying to develop L as a mind control drug. CIA staff would never know if they were going to be dosed until after it happened, then they would be monitored. Things got out of hand, of course, leading to at least one death. This predates Kesey & Leary by several years.

    A great book on the topic: “Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond”

  13. sumodie Says:

    Somewhat back on topic:

    I came across this great write-up about the 8/3/91 show at Amy’s Farm, written by Amy herself:

    How innocent were those days!?! Anyone make it to that show?

  14. T. Leo Says:

    I know this is way off subject, but I was just thinking of this while I am downloading 12/31/94. Does anyone who uses itunes make album art for the various live recordings in your catalog? I have found myself spending hours using MS Paint and image search from google to make album art for all the shows I have. I am probably anal, but I like the shows to have some identity when I am searching through show by show on my ipod.

    On another note, how do you all sort your shows, mine usually look like:

    1991-04-11 – Carlton College, Northfeild, MN [SBD]

    but recently, I changed the “sort by” criteria to the date (ie 1991-04-11) so I could look at them a little more friendlier. So no my library is organized as:

    4/11/91 – Carlton College, Northfield, MN [SBD]

  15. sumodie Says:

    Before I sign off, one last comment:

    Thanks to Miner and the great musical discussion here, I have been inspired to track down the Europe winter ’97 shows I attended. Looks like ALL 1997 shows (AUDs) are available for download here as mp3s:

    Here’s hoping there’s only one state left tomorrow!

  16. Leo Weaver Says:

    @sumodie…had that one on XLII back in the day. I’ll have to dig out my cases to see if it’s still around.

  17. Mitch Says:

    Hey all, I was in no way saying it was a good thing to dose people who weren’t expecting it. I was just saying that Mr C’s game if amongst friends could be fun. I wouldn’t just do it to mess with people so don’t sweat. I’m not lurking around the corner trying to get you.

    Sorry about your bad trip Prince Nabby.

  18. Bandnana Says:

    @T.Leo I have art for all my shows on itunes. In the case of live phish releases I just try to find a photo online of the artwork, copy, and paste it in the folder for the specified show/disc. Then go into itunes right click on a song for that show, select get info, go to album artwork, click add, then once you add it once just right click on the image, copy, go to the next track and paste. You have to do this for every track, it is sooo tedious, but I am anal and I had to do it. If there is a better system for getting whatever image you want to be the album artwork on all tracks, let me know. I’ve had to do this for more than 10,000 songs. If you do it and keep up on it, it is managable. Hope that helped

  19. Mitch Says:

    @sumodie, I know my US history on that topic but were not talking about pioneers who had never experienced the drug… I was talking with friends who are all “experienced” so its a diff scenario.

    anyway back to phish!

    i aint gonna work on amys farm no more.

  20. Mr. V Says:

    My apologies if this has been mentioned earlier. Carrie Brownstein from NPR was not familiar with Phish at all so she decided to immerse herself in the band. For one week she listened to nothing but Phish. Here is her blog about her experience.

    You need to scroll down a bit to get to the beginning.

  21. Mitch Says:

    you can select multiple tracks and change it for whole shows.

    did i just rock your world? you are gonna save hours of your life now!

  22. Bandnana Says:

    YES YOU DID! I’m technologically behind my own generation.

  23. Bandnana Says:

    @Mitch I’m just one of those people that will go with what is working, even if it makes it tougher on me. Thanks so much!

  24. T. Leo Says:

    Bandnana, If you select the whole album, and then right click, get info, there is an album artwork column on the bottom right, just paste there and you are good to go.

  25. Mitch Says:

    theres also software that will search for the artwork for you and embed it. i like inserting pics i took at the show if i dont have artwork from the band.

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