Nightline Playlist: Page McConnell

Page had listened to, admired and learned to play many of Elton John's hits of the day -- "Rocket Man," "Levon," "Tiny Dancer" -- and then, "I learned the song 'Amoreena,' which I think I heard for the first time when I saw 'Dog Day Afternoon.'"

The song covers the opening credits of the Oscar-winning film starring Al Pacino. McConnell calls "Amoreena" one of Elton John's "great songs. A really pretty and fun song to play. You never know where your influences are going to come from, or where you're going to find your inspiration."

Page includes the Beatles' "Lady Madonna" and the Who's "Gettin' in Tune," and the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" on his personal playlist. "I was probably most influenced by the music my brother was listening to as I was growing up," Page recalls. "He was a big Beatles fan and a big Stones fan, and eventually a fan of the Grateful Dead, and all these things sort of rubbed off on me and got passed down."

McConnell also found inspiration in the guitar legend Jimi Hendrix's "Axis: Bold as Love" album; the late, great jazz trumpeter Miles Davis' tribute to boxer Jack Johnson, "In a Silent Way;" and the truly original work of Frank Zappa, whose "Peaches en Regalia" should be included on any McConnell playlist.

As he grew as a rocker, Page says he was also influenced by the Southern rock sounds of the Allman Brothers' Band and, of course, the Grateful Dead, whose improvisational style was later adopted and adapted to the singular sound of Phish, which McConnell joined in 1984 when he moved to Vermont to attend Goddard College.

Among the early songs in the band's repertoire was a cover of the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post." But it is the Allman Brothers' "Jessica" that gets a spot on McConnell's playlist. "Growing up, the song 'Jessica' was … one of the first songs I learned of theirs. That had a big influence on me."

Years later, McConnell went to see the Allman Brothers and after Greg Allman took ill, McConnell sat in on his behalf for the last four or five songs, "which was kind of a thrill." When Page formed his own project band Vida Blue in 2001, it included Allman Brothers' Band bassist Oteil Burbridge and drummer Russell Batiste of the Meters.

McConnell is clearly fond of his two decades of work with Phish, which, though it started as a college bar band, evolved into one of the iconic jam bands of the last quarter-century. "We incorporated so many different styles of music into our improvisation," he says. "We studied them and then tried to digest them and let them come out in their own natural way. We all had slightly different tastes and we all appreciated each other's music."

In the band's early years, the musicians (McConnell, bassist Mike Gordon, drummer Jon Fishman and guitar wonder Trey Anastasio) played mostly covers of songs that blended jazz, country, bluegrass and rock. As the band developed and the members wrote more songs, there were many nights "where we wouldn't play any covers and just played original music," McConnell says. "Everybody brought something different and everybody always had suggestions of songs that we would try." When pressed, McConnell will list Phish's "You Enjoy Myself" as his favorite band song and a sure listing for his own personal playlist.

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