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McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters

McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters has not been seen in 11 Phish shows.
It was last played: 2023-12-31.
It was played at 5.87% of live shows.
It has been performed live 118 time(s).

Music/Lyrics: Anastasio/Marshall

Vocals: Trey

Debut: 1985-04-06

Historian: lumpblockclod, Mark Toscano

The lyrics for this song are derived from a Tom Marshall poem that remains more or less unchanged from its original form. Tom had sent Trey an envelope containing only this poem some time during Trey’s fall 1985 semester at Goddard College. Trey was intrigued by the poem and affixed it to his door, where he left it undisturbed for a year or so. The poem occasionally made its way into the live Phish show around this time, though primarily in a spoken-word context. In early 1986 “McGrupp” usurped the music that originally accompanied “Skippy the Wondermouse” when that tune was retired from the band’s repertoire. 1986 and 1987 versions of “McGrupp” sound almost as they do today, although the lyrics were chanted disturbingly and the piano solo section didn’t exist just yet. But there were other, larger plans for this song brewing in Trey’s head.

During Trey’s fall 1986 semester, the poem “McGrupp” – along with a song he had written a few years earlier with Tom Marshall and Aaron Woolfe (“Wilson, Can You Still Have Fun?” a.k.a.“Wilson”) – served as the inspiration for Trey’s Senior Study at Goddard. By extrapolating a detailed narrative from the myriad characters and events found in “McGrupp” and “Wilson,” Trey constructed The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, subsequently known as the Gamehendge saga. McGrupp is Colonel Forbin’s dog, a seldom-mentioned character in the story.

Watch McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters on YouTube "McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters" – 11/1/09, Indio, CA

After some tweaking and experimentation with “McGrupp” over the two years following its live debut, the song finally found compositional repose in 1988. The tune’s structure is fairly straightforward: a brief musical intro is followed by all of the song’s lyrics, which lead to a brief 5-part instrumental suite, usually followed by a Page solo (or sometimes full band improv), with an encore of the last part of the suite and (usually) an outro that echoes the song’s intro. With few exceptions this format has persisted to the present day.

One remarkable exception occurred in the fall of 1989. When "Fluffhead" went into the shop for potential retooling (only to emerge three months later with no changes made), several of the components of "Fluff's Travels" were performed on their own. While most of those pieces were performed haphazardly, one segment – "Who Do? We Do!" – immediately found a temporary home appended to "McGrupp." Check out 10/1/89 or 11/2/89 for examples. Was the plan to make "Who Do? We Do!" a part of "McGrupp" or was this simply a pairing of two songs that fit well together? It's hard to say for sure, though they did fit very well together. Unfortunately Trey hasn't returned my phone calls, so it's possible we'll never know.

With that one exception, until 1997 the band rarely did more than spotlight Page during the post-composition section of the tune. Standout versions of “McGrupp” during this period include 3/22/935/3/9312/30/937/2/946/26/94, and 12/29/95. Beginning in 1997, though, the band seemed to be eager to communally explore this part of the song, rather than let Page alone show his skills. Some really nice post-1996 versions include 6/25/977/31/9712/30/97, 7/5/98, 7/19/98 and 9/18/00 (the funk and reggae infused 6/25/97 version deserves special mention, as it is a truly unique reading of the song). "McGrupp" made only one appearance during Phish 2.0 (during the legendary 7/29/03 show) and remains relatively rare in the 3.0 era.  Two latter day versions are especially vital and should not be missed by serious "McGrupp" fans: the acoustic version from Festival 8 on 11/1/09 and the sublime “Plinko”-infused 6/28/12 rendition from Deer Creek.

Watch McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters on YouTube "McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters" – 7/9/14, Philadelphia, PA

Though Trey ended up leaving “McGrupp” out of The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, its importance to the project has been credited – for the 3/22/936/26/94, and 7/8/94 performances of The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Trey replaced “Possum” with “McGrupp.” In the Gamehendge story context, the song is generally understood as a summary of the events of the rest of the story, as seen through the unbiased eyes of a shepherd who tends his flock on the outskirts of Gamehendge.

One more thing: in case you’re wondering about the “Dave” that Rutherford looks too much like – it’s Dave Abrahams, another longtime friend and music writing partner of both Tom and Trey, who wrote and lent his name to the infamous “Dave’s Energy Guide.”

Albums: Colorado '88, Live In Utica, Chicago '94


Who Is She? Music, BMI

I've alternated my meager flock to the shores of the Baltic Sea
The teeth of time have stowed the rhyme of how things shouldn't be
My cave, my house,
My turning wheel... my little docking pup
The march of Colonel Forbin and his fleet hound called

The grime of countless work dogs, has collected in my sink
I tie my nose with spandex hose before I get a drink
We lie on frozen wart hogs, with its poison in our minds
While the ferns that spot our children are encased in orange rinds

All times and seasons are the reasons people and their clans
Have stowed the Famous Mockingbird with glue and rubber bands
They writhe and cry in agony, as Rutherford the Brave
Chokes Tela and the Unit Monster, managing to save
The spotted stripers, multi-beast, and thereby cheat his grave
I'd like to get his autograph, but he looks too much like...

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