The relationship between Blues Traveler and Phish has been a long and prosperous one. The bands have organized tours (such as H.O.R.D.E.) together, written a song together, and even collaborated for charity. And, of course, lead Traveler John Popper has appeared on stage with Phish multiple times, and the boys of Phish have often returned the favor. Trey, for example, has sat in with Blues Traveler at least six times: 9/8/90 (with Page), 10/6/90, 11/7/90 (with Page), 11/25/91, 5/30/93 (with Page) and 4/28/94.
The first known collaboration between Popper and Phish occurred during a co-bill in New York on 12/15/89. Popper joined in on two songs that would eventually become guest appearance staples, “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and “Funky Bitch.” Appearances were fairly common through 1990, with Popper perfecting his harmonica fills on such songs as “My Sweet One,” “You Enjoy Myself” and, of course, the three known appearances of the Popper/Anastasio song “Don’t Get Me Wrong.” Though less common in 1992 and 1993, Popper still managed to fill in on such songs as “Possum,” “Fire,” “Sleeping Monkey” and “Good Times Bad Times.” For one memorable stunt, on 7/27/93, a wheelchair-bound Popper played harmonica offstage while an effigy of him and his wheelchair was lowered to the stage. As a gag, the rope holding the fake Popper snapped, and sent the effigy tumbling to the stage, through a trampoline!
Unfortunately, Popper appearances have been limited since. He took the persona of “Mean Mr. Mustard” on 11/15/96 (his last guest spot and only appearance in costume). As both bands have achieved fame, their tours have coincided less and less, but Popper still manages to show his Phishy roots from time to time. In 1997, he borrowed part of “Divided Sky” for his track on A Very Special Christmas 4. In addition to Blues Traveler, Popper’s projects have included The Ritz Power Jam (with guest spots from Trey and Mike, among others), Frogwings, and a solo gig.
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