Phish: The Biography (Hardcover)

The Biography

By Parke Puterbaugh

Da Capo Press, 9780306814846, 352pp.

Publication Date: November 1, 2009



Phish rank among the greatest live bands in rock history, and a sizable subculture of Phishheads would argue there's been none better. Formed in Burlington, Vermont, this determined foursome of high-IQ misfits developed their uniquely telepathic chemistry playing that college town's club scene. Vermont's best-kept secret rose to national prominence in the nineties, when they became the most obvious heirs to the Grateful Dead's legacy as onstage improvisers and touring Pied Pipers. With a raft of self-imposed challenges, Phish mapped out much new territory, as well. Wildly eclectic, endlessly resourceful, and ever unpredictable, Phish were at the forefront of the jam-band movement, an organic alternative to the mainstream status quo that caught the ears and imagination of millions.
Drawing upon nearly 15 years of exclusive interviews with the members of Phish and those in their employ, veteran music journalist Parke Puterbaugh delivers an insightful and authoritative biography of this beloved band and their quixotic career. Phish: The Biography thoroughly traces the quartet's history from their formative years to their spectacular success as a prolific touring phenomenon. Puterbaugh examines the colorful chemistry the unique mix of personalities, backgrounds and talents that inspired the members of Phish to push their four-way experiment to the limit. He documents their rigorous work ethic, boundless creativity, and all of the resulting innovations, including a series of one-band festivals that served as the blueprint for Bonnaroo and a slew of latter-day rock festivals. Moreover, he details how Phish distilled classical discipline, jazz improvisation, and rock instrumentation and attitude into an intoxicating brew that kept hordes of fans coming back show after show, encouraging them to digest and debate every note and nuance.
The book also candidly addresses the bumps in the road that followed Phish's ascent to popularity, as rock's hardest-working band also became one of its hardest-partying entities. Mounting excesses and internal dissent led to a two-year hiatus, a dramatic breakup, and a well-documented drug bust and courageous recovery from addiction for guitarist Trey Anastasio. The tale concludes with Phish's triumphant reunion in 2009, marking one of the greatest comebacks in music history. An intimate and fascinating portrait, Phish: The Biography is the definitive story of these Vermont jamband legends.

About the Author

Parke Puterbaugh has written or cowritten numerous books and magazine articles on music, travel, the environment and other subjects. A former senior editor for Rolling Stone magazine, he lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Praise For Phish: The Biography

Publishers Weekly
“A consistently lucid and revelatory look” at the band, and complimenting “Puterbaugh’s solid and intelligent take” that “will satisfy newcomers as well as the band’s obsessively knowledgeable fans.”

“An even-keeled evaluation of an important American band—a must for Phishheads.”

Booklist Online
“Puterbaugh serves up everything one could want to know about jam-band supreme Phish…Valuable enough as a comprehensive Phish file, this book is greatly enhanced by Puterbaugh’s depth of knowledge.”

“What sets [the book] apart are rare, first-hand accounts and details provided by Phish’s inner circle…Phish: The Biography’s entertaining stories and colorful pictures of key events in the band’s remarkable history make it a must-read for fans.” 

Glide Magazine
“[A] good read for those who love the band.”

New York Post, 12/6/09
“Check out this authoritative Phish-ography…From the guys’ early days at a Princeton prep school and the University of Vermont to success, fame, drug busts, breakup and reunion, it’s all covered.”

Rolling Stone, 1/21/2010
“The real story...Though he’s clearly a fan…Puterbaugh is frank.”

New York Times Book Review, 2/28/10
“The important story is how Phish…prophetically anticipated the zeitgeist of today….Knowing Phish’s story will enrich anyone’s understanding of the American scene over the past quarter century.”

Cleveland Scene, 2/19/10
“[This] book is stuffed with insider details.”

Vermont Life, Spring 2010
“Puterbaugh’s book provides a fascinating glimpse at how a successful band implodes in spite of its noble intentions.”