By the summer of 1991, Phish had just finished a national tour that spanned nearly four months from the beginning of February to the end of May and had recorded A Picture of Nectar in Burlington. Throughout that time period, Dave "The Truth" Grippo and Russell Remington had been playing together around Burlington with acts including James Harvey and the Sneakers Jazz Band. A number of notable Phish shows in years past had featured Grippo and Remington together and separately as guest saxophonists. Among those pre-"Horn Tour" formative performances were shows at The Front in Burlington on 10/21/89 and 3/9/90.
That summer, the band decided to officially add a full horn section known as "The Giant Country Horns" for a mini-tour of the East and South spanning July 11 through July 27. Grippo and Remington were to play saxophone and a high-school friend of Page’s, Carl "Gears" Gerhard, was chosen as the group’s trumpet player. The band, with the newly-formed horn section, practiced 7 hours a day for weeks learning many Phish songs and jazz standards to perform on the tour. Dave Grippo recalls, "The most memorable part of the "Horn Tour" was forming the Giant Country Horns. I remember the practices at the band house in Winooski. There was sweat on the floor of that house. Specifically, I remember that learning Divided Sky was a real challenge. There was no written music and the nuances of the fugue were especially tough. Since there was no written score, I learned Mike’s bass part, Russell learned Trey’s guitar part and Carl played off Page’s keyboard part."
By the time the band played the first show of the tour at Burlington’s downtown Battery Park Summer Concert Series on July 11, the hours of practice had paid off. New cover tunes such as Touch Me and Moose the Mooche were unveiled and older Phish songs such as Gumbo, Magilla, Alumni Blues, Cavern, Mike’s Song, Suzy Greenberg, Divided Sky, Contact, David Bowie, The Landlady and Split Open and Melt reverberated with new vitality as the horns settled into the groove. Older Phish covers like Frankenstein, Take the A-Train and Donna Lee were also standards in the "Horn Tour" sets.
As the "Horn Tour" continued, stops were made at a number of favorite indoor venues such as the Colonial Theatre in Keene, NH and The Academy in New York City (where Surrender to the Air played in April 1996 on the Academy’s final two nights). The Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom was the band’s first "casino" gig — and its last until their performance 5 years later at Las Vegas’ Aladdin Theatre. The tour progressed through the Northeast, hitting a number of beautiful outdoor venues such as Vermont’s Townshend Family Park (the band’s third and final performance there) and the tour’s only two-night stand at the Arrowhead Ranch in Parksville, NY on July 20 and 21. According to Grippo, "I recall Parksville and Atlanta as being especially good shows. At the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta I got my first opportunity to meet and sit in with Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit. I even got to trade mouthpiece solos with the Colonel!"
The July, 1991 stint found the band travelling in two vans and as the the tour progressed toward the South, the summer heat really kicked in. Grippo described the 100 degree plus summer heatwave "outside and inside Fish’s caravan, which overheated whenever the air conditioning was turned on." He continued, "The Giant Country Horns really bonded while riding through the country without air conditioning. We (the horn players) always rode in Fishman’s Caravan and to keep it from overheating we drove with the heat on. That experience really tightened the core of the horn section. Somewhere around the Carolinas, Russell finally abandoned ship and went into the air conditioned van." he laughs. The heat was a predominant factor in the later part of the tour. Grippo described having the horn players’ dyed pink tuxedo jackets bleed through their clothes onto their skin. "I remember seeing Russell or Carl’s skin turn pink in North Carolina."