Phish drummer Jon Fishman celebrates his 56th birthday today. Fish was born on February 19, 1965 in Philadelphia and went on to co-found Phish in 1983.
Guitarist Trey Anastasio laid eyes on Fishman during one of their first days attending the University of Vermont in Burlington. “It was love at first sight,” Trey told SiriusXM’s Ari Fink. The pair were in the same dorm compound and hit it off immediately on a musical level. Trey and Fish put together Phish with bassist Mike Gordon and guitarist Jeff Holdsworth soon thereafter. Keyboardist Page McConnell joined in 1985 while Holdsworth departed the group the following year. The quartet has remained together ever since outside of a hiatus and five-year breakup.
Fish is a one-of-a-kind drummer who plays in a compact style yet makes a powerful sound. He’s also a hilarious character who began fronting the band from time-to-time for performances that often incorporated Electrolux vacuum cleaner solos in their early days, a tradition that has become much rarer in recent years. In honor of Jon Fishman’s birthday, we compiled eight videos featuring Fish on lead vocals from 1990s Phish concerts via the JamBase Live Video Archive (JBLVA). The 1990s saw Phish grow from playing clubs to theaters to arenas to hosting their own festivals as they build a huge legion of devoted fans.
The JBLVA hosts an ever-growing collection of over 3,700 Phish videos spanning 1987 – 2020. See Fish lead Phish on seven covers and one original below:
Love You | April 29, 1990
Jon Fishman is a big fan of Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett. Fish has led Phish through a number of songs penned by Barrett including “Baby Lemonade,” “No Good Trying” and “Terrapin.” However, the Syd Barrett tune played most by the quartet over the years is “Love You.” Phish first performed “Love You,” which always features Fishman on lead vocals and vacuum, at Goddard College’s Sculpture Room on Halloween 1987. Ninety-five additional versions have followed through 2016 including this rendition from Woodbury Ski & Racquet Club in Woodbury, Connecticut on April 29, 1990.
Phish recruited the Giant Country Horns to join the band on their Summer Tour 1991. The Giant Country Horns consist of saxophonists Dave Grippo and Russ Remington and trumpeter Carl Gerhard. Fish learned The Doors’ “Touch Me” for the run, which was debuted on opening night at Battery Park in Burlington, Vermont. The drummer typically went without the vacuum on “Touch Me.” The Doors cover was played at eight of the tour’s 18 shows including this version from July 19, 1991 at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, Massachusetts. Phish revived “Touch Me” once more when the Giant Country Horns sat-in with the group on December 3, 1994 in San Jose, California.
On March 12, 1989, Phish premiered their take on “If I Only Had A Brain” from The Wizard Of Oz. Fish played trombone that night for the song penned by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg. He would play vacuum on the tune for most of the 40 versions that followed through its most recent play on November 16, 1995 in West Palm Beach, Florida. This “If I Only Had A Brain” was filmed at the New Haven Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New Haven, Connecticut on December 29, 1993 — the second night of Phish’s New Year’s Run.
Jon Fishman channeled the Purple One and showed off his sucking skills on covers of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Phish unveiled their take on the title track from Prince’s 1984 album at The Mann in Philadelphia on July 16, 1993. Fish led the group through 31 more “Purple Rain” covers over the years. While the tune was played occasionally through 1996 only two versions have followed including the most recent “Purple Rain” on July 4, 2012 at Jones Beach in Wantagh, New York. The drummer took center stage for the Prince cover at Phish’s Madison Square Garden debut on December 30, 1994 in New York City for the rendition featured here.
Phish made their Las Vegas debut on December 6, 1996 with one of the most memorable shows in their history. The band’s performance at The Aladdin Theatre was filled with incredible improv and a wild encore featuring a number of guests including Les Claypool and Larry LaLonde of Primus. Phish’s encore was mostly based around “Harpua” and contained the band’s 13th and final cover of the Elvis Presley-popularized “Suspicious Minds” within. The quartet was joined by four Elvis impersonators on “Suspicious Minds” in Vegas before Fish came out to put them all to shame.
In 1997, Phish premiered “Rock A William” and “Walfredo,” a pair of originals in which band members traded spots. “Rock A William” featured Fish on guitar, Page McConnell on bass, Mike Gordon on keys and Trey Anastasio on drums. Phish played “Rock A William” a mere five times in 1997 before shelving the tune. The only U.S. version, seen above, came at Deer Creek in Noblesville, Indiana on August 10, 1997.
Fish displayed the soulful qualities of his voice and vacuum playing on “Sexual Healing,” a song that scored Marvin Gaye a big hit in 1982. Phish premiered “Sexual Healing” on July 20, 1998 in Ventura, California. Three additional versions followed later that year including this “Sexual Healing” cover from August 16, 1998 at the band’s Lemonwheel festival in Limestone, Maine.
Phish played a pair of shows at the iconic Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia on November 20 and 21, 1998. The performances were immortalized on Hampton Comes Alive, a live album released the following year. Fish took center stage during the second set on November 20, 1998 to lead his mates through a one-time-only “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit’ It” cover. Will Smith released the original on his 1997 album, Big Willie Style.