Meeting of the Phish Author Minds

Over on the HeadCount blog, Phish: The Biography author Richard Gehr recently posted the highlights of his conversation with Phish: The Biography author Parke Puterbaugh. These fine writers have probably spent more time interviewing the band and the extended Phish family than anyone else and they have both covered music for Rolling Stone and other publications, so it’s no surprise that they seemed to have hit it off.


One topic we hit on a bunch in 2009 was the mainstream media’s coverage of Phish. While the mainstream was much more accepting of the band upon their return, back in the mid and late ’90s they were generally ignored. Richard’s first question touches on this…

Richard Gehr: You write in Phish: The Biography that Rolling Stone didn’t run the Phish feature that they’d assigned you for nearly two years, which must have been frustrating. Why do you think the mainstream music press resisted reporting on the band for so long, despite their obvious popularity?

Parke Puterbaugh: I got the assignment in 1995, at which point they were ready to do something big on the band. Between assignment and delivery, however, there was a shakeup in the music department and the new guys who came in – Keith Moerer and Jim DeRogatis – their orientation was much more indie-rock. I think Phish were somewhat of a victim of indie-rock snobbery. Even so, they realized they had to run something on them, and every half-year or so Moerer would call up and say, “Hey, I think we’re going to run that Phish feature after all. Can you freshen it up for us?” And I’d be sent off to some big event of theirs, like a New Year’s Eve concert, and totally redo the story and bring it up to date.

It was a blessing in disguise, as it turned out, because I really got to know them and it laid the groundwork for doing the book by giving me the opportunity to write for them. Every so often their management would call me to write an album bio or “Phishbill” or something along those lines. I did that two or three times a year starting in ‘96, and basically continued through the breakup and even afterward with some of the solo projects. So I have no complaints about how that Rolling Stone episode turned out, because when the piece ran, it was an enormous story. It may have been one of the last huge rock ‘n’ roll features in the magazine. It all worked out, oddly enough.

Richard also chats with Parke about his first Phish show, adventures in covering the band, whether certain topics were off-limits and much more. About the only thing they didn’t discuss was the biography’s terrible cover. The conversation makes for a fascinating read, so check it out.

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