Hello My Baby
Original Artist: Howard and Emerson
Historian: Ellis Godard (lemuria)
Phish performs only the chorus of “Hello My Baby,” in which the singer longs for his long-distance love to telephone him about her devotion. The verses, of course, add more detail, such as that the singer has “never seen ma honey, but she’s mine all right.” He calls her every morning, but only learns her name in the second verse: “This morning... she said her name was Bess, and now I kind of know where I am at.”
The song became especially popular during the 1970s when performed by folk artist Leon Redbone. But the lyrics were written in 1899, as the telephone replaced the telegraph. This new technology allowed virtually anyone (with little skill) to engage in real-time communications through a distributed network with virtually anyone else, even strangers. These were important steps from the centralized telegraph offices toward the Internet.
When Phish began singing the song 96 years later, more important steps had been taken towards the Internet (though with important parallels to the earlier shift). Meanwhile, by their debut of the song in 1995, Phish had emerged as a performance powerhouse. Their success was furthered and bolstered by a distributed network of fans, making liberal use of the Internet to express their devotion. Many of them were (or at least began as) strangers to each other, and some remain strangers even to the band, having never attended a live show. But their love is real nonetheless, and they check in every morning after a show for reports and reactions.
Relatively few mornings reported versions of this song, and few of those included glowing reactions. The debut came in a tour opener with four other debuts, after two years without a new a cappella tune, and made glorious use of the bulky radio mics introduced the previous summer but missing from some later versions (e.g. 10/6/95 and 3/18/97). "Hello My Baby" was performed once on New Year's Eve (12/31/95, MSG) and at one festival (8/16/96, Clifford Ball). The only time it opened a show was 10/18/98, preceding “Billy Breathes.” However, more than half of its appearances have closed a set or a show (e.g. 7/23/96 and 11/14/96), and after more than a decade it was busted out twice in June 2009. Other notable versions include 10/11/95 (crisply following a grand “Crossroads”), and 3/1/97 (which appeared on Slip, Stitch and Pass).
Phish, "Hello My Baby" – 6/22/97, Koblenz, Germany