25 years ago, Carl Gerhard (trumpet) and Dave Grippo (alto sax) performed their first show together in Burlington as a featured horns section with each member of the legendary jam band, Phish. After that hit performance, Trey Anastasio invited the duo with Russ Remington (tenor sax) to join their memorable 1991 tour, where the newly formed trio now known as The Giant Country Horns performed over 20 shows with Phish to provide fans with unique, fresh arrangements of Phish classics. Over a quarter century later, The Giant Country Horns are slated to reunite for the first time in 15 years as a featured horn section with The James Brown Dance Party. This incredibly rare performance will fittingly take place after Phish’s final show at Madison Square Garden after the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. For the die hard Phish Head, this special performance is a must-see, and tickets are currently on sale (and selling fast) at this link. To preface this performance at the Gramercy Theatre, we had the special opportunity to catch up with Carl Gerhard to discuss everything from the trio’s 1991 tour with Phish to future plans with The Giant Country Horns. For more information about this show, as well as other CEG Phish After (& Pre) Parties, visit www.phishafterparties.com.
CEG: Hey Carl, thanks for taking some time to answer some questions here ahead of your performance with The James Brown Dance Party on New Year’s. To start things off, can you tell us about the origins of The Giant Country Horns?
Carl Gerhard: In January of 1991, Dave Grippo and I played a gig with all four members of Phish in Burlington, VT. We were billing the gig at Nectar’s under a different name (The Johnny B. Fishman Jazz Ensemble) to attract a jazz audience. The gig went great, and the next day, Trey asked me to join Phish for their upcoming summer tour as part of a three-piece horn section with Dave and Russ Remington.
CEG: How did The Giant Country Horns first start performing with Phish?
CG: Once the performance dates were booked, Dave, Russ and I rehearsed with the band for two straight days before we headed out for the tour. As I remember it, we still didn’t have a name for the horn section. During one of our rehearsal breaks, we were hanging at the band’s house in the kitchen and Fish picked up a loaf of bread and read the name off the label: “Giant Country.” The name stuck.
CEG: What moments or experiences really stood out from that ’91 tour?
CG: Probably the most vivid memory I have actually was from our first rehearsal prior to the tour. The first tune we played together was “Suzy Greenberg.” When we came in with the horn line at the chorus, the band’s reaction was fantastic! I knew that the concert tour was going to be something special. The band and the audiences we played for along the way were really into it.
CEG: Did you have a sense that the band would become as big as they have, and that they would still be together after 33 years?
CG: Absolutely! And I’m not surprised at all that they are still together. They are not only great musicians, but really great people.
CEG: When was the last time you, Russell, and Dave performed together?
CG: With Trey’s band at the Virginia Beach Amphitheater in July of 2001. That show actually marked 10 years after our last gig with Phish during the ’91 horn tour.
CEG: Can you talk about reuniting with the guys for the upcoming New Year’s Eve show at Gramercy and performing with The James Brown Dance Party?
CG: It’s going to be really fun! We had such a blast touring together with Phish, so I’m really looking forward to sharing the stage with them again. Playing with Matt and Adam Chase and all the awesome musicians in The James Brown Dance Party again will certainly make for a memorable night!
CEG: Apart from New Year’s, do you have any goals or plans for The Giant Country Horns over the next few years?
CG: Nothing planned as of now for the very near future, but I can tell you we are discussing some possible musical options.
CEG: We like to end our interviews with an open forum. Anything else you’d like to share that we didn’t cover?
CG: Just want to thank you for reaching out to me, and especially for all you do to support live music!