Guyute And Your Local Forecast: The Story Behind Phish on the Weather Channel
Places where you are likely to hear the music of Phish: college dorm rooms, hippie bars, through car stereos while sitting in traffic, and now, during your local forecast. While checking Alpharetta, Georgia's forecast in early April, Jennifer Akromis, 26, heard the instrumental section of the Story of the Ghost track, "Guyute," as the background music to the forecast. She immediately posted a message to the Phish newsgroup, rec.music.phish (RMP). "Your local forecast plays Guyute!'" she wrote. "I love The Weather Channel, dood."
Nathan Mount agreed. He was watching the forecast for West Lafayette, Indiana at Purdue University when he heard the song. "I also heard "Guyute" this morning, and it made my day!" he responded.
Over the following weeks, more and more people posted that they had heard the "Guyute," and speculation arose as to whether there were Phish fans working for The Weather Channel. Manhattan resident Steve Behan wrote, "They know that tourheads want to know what the weather will be like so they can pack up for the road."
In the midst of the band’s hiatus, Andrew Kulich from East Lansing, Michigan suggested that maybe Phish was sending a "hidden code" through the Weather Channel. "Phish will return with a huge festival during a hurricane in southern Florida. That was the cue to start getting the stage set up," he wrote.
Rumors festered and the truth became blurry. However, one common idea was shared amongst those who had heard the "Guyute." As Chris Warren of Cos Cob, Connecticut put it, "Someone at The Weather Channel knows what’s up."
That person is Steve Hurst, producer and music programmer at The Weather Channel. While shopping for Local Forecast music (that which is licensed by BMI, the only guideline that the 2-minute cut must follow), Hurst, 34, says, "I wandered across the Phish section and thought, this would be cool.’"
While the readers of RMP agreed, many did not believe that Phish would ever be played during a local forecast. Paul Bishop of Doylestown, PA said, "What weather channel is this? The music I get on mine is the kind of music you hear when one is strolling through Macy’s or waiting in the dentist’s office."
Hurst says that one of his goals is to steer the Local Forecast music away from "Muzak," the trade name for the new age background music that you might hear in a department store, otherwise known as elevator music. A fan of music from the likes of The Doors, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and John Lee Hooker, Hurst hopes that one day, people will not equate The Weather Channel with Muzak. "That’s why in the past I’ve played Moby, Derek and the Dominos, Pink Floyd, the Allman Brothers, etc," he says. "Hopefully Phish will never make good Muzak." Recently, viewers could even hear tracks from B Fleck and the Flecktones, Funktelligence, and Widespread Panic. The playlist, which changes once a month, is the same in every area, and the music reaches roughly 85 million homes.
Hearing a Phish song on The Weather Channel encouraged some fans to take making the Local Forecast playlist into their own hands. "I want to hear a phatty YEM while I’m checking the local forecast," posted 20-year-old Michael Hartshorne from Exton, PA in his thread with the subject "Let’s all request YEM on The Weather Channel!" Some readers followed Hartshorne’s lead and used the request form on the channel’s website, www.weather.com.
Hurst says that The Weather Channel gets all kinds of requests, "anything from speed metal to rap. Mostly I receive homemade CDs from people who are just starting out and want to get their music played on air. I listen to all the CDs I receive and have actually used a few." The strangest request he’s ever gotten? "Pantera… no kidding."
Hurst admits that he gets a lot of complaints about his music choices. "The Weather Channel faithful are not afraid to let us know when they do not like a song. But strangely enough," he says, "the songs I think will create the most complaints actually generate the most compliments." Last August, for example, Hurst played Pink Floyd’s "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and received only a handful of complaints, while the positive responses numbered in the thousands. "Same thing applies to Phish’s Guyute.’ I have a lot people in their 70s and 80s that call wanting me to identify that song. A couple of them called back and told me they bought the record’ and really like it."
Originally from Smyrna, GA, Hurst has been at The Weather Channel for the past six and a half years. The 1992 University of Georgia graduate majored in English and worked at TCI Cable in Athens, GA, before starting at The Weather Channel as a temp in the Research Department. From there, with the help of the Vice President of Programming, Hurst "weaseled" his way into production. He says, "My main priority as a producer is the Weekend Now program," which is produced at 2 a.m. in The Weather Channel studio in Atlanta. He also puts together the afternoon shows during the week with a few other producers. "As a programmer," he continues, "my only job is to program the Local Forecast music." While he doesn’t have much interest in meteorology, he says he has learned a great deal about weather from working with the meteorologists at the station. "Our mets are really cool people and extremely smart," Hurst says.
While Hurst does not read the Phish newsgroup, he is "starting to realize a buzz within the Phish community. I have received a lot of voice mails from Phish fans over the past month. They are extremely nice and very happy to hear their favorite band on The Weather Channel." He adds, "The fans can expect to hear more Phish on the Local Forecast in the future."
And he's held true to his word. Listen this month to catch "The Squirming Coil" or "You Enjoy Myself" during your forecast.—-