The Little Drummer Boy

Originally Performed ByKatherine Davis, Henry Onorati & Harry Simeone
Music/LyricsKatherine Davis, Henry Onorati & Harry Simeone
VocalsInstrumental/Fish (7/3/99)
Phish Debut1986-12-06
Last Played2004-04-16
Current Gap528
HistorianEllis Godard


"Little Drummer Boy" is one of those tunes that is so overplayed that it has quickly become regarded as “traditional” although younger than most presume. Though its traditional structure and warm nature give it an old soul, the song wasn’t written until 1957.

Although the song is legally credited to Katherine Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone, their 1958 “Little Drummer Boy” differs only thinly from Jack Halloran’s composition “Carol of the Drum,” released in 1957 on Dot Records and repackaged under Simeone’s title in 1959. It has since garnered widespread attention through versions by top celebrities, notably a duet between David Bowie and Bing Crosby.

Phish has only performed the song thrice during December – the debut performance segueing out of “Mike’s Song” and into “Whipping Post,” a tease during the 12/28/94 “Weekapaug Groove,” and jammed out of the “YEM” vocal jam (12/2/99) (which melted down until Jon was left singing it to close the set). But the song was jammed out of season during “My Friend, My Friend” (3/18/93) and “Stash” (7/15/93), and teased during “Weekapaug Groove” and “Big Ball Jam” (4/9/94), “Wilson” (8/13/97), “Silent in the Morning” (7/4/99), and "Wilson" (4/16/04).

The most memorable version was Fishman’s 7/3/99 encore performance, solo on the snare drum with alternate (and ad hoc) lyrics about how he illustrates his love by playing his drum – including some cracking screeches during the “pa rum pum pum pum” refrains. 

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