In the history of Phish fans making shirts, posters and other art that was inspired by the band, the starting point for much of the early art is Sean ‘Waldo’ Knight. Well known on tour throughout the ’90s and well into the 2.0 and 3.0 eras, Knight was the founder of Knighthood Tees, which made an extensive line of Phish-themed shirts, including Glide/Tide, 2001/Uno Cards and It’s Ice/ICEE, among many others. Knight’s designs were the most prevalent on Phish tour throughout the 1990s and provided the basis for the wider community of Phish fan art that developed in later years.
Now, living in Humboldt, California, Knight is working on a new venture, MyRespects, while reflecting on his extensive history touring with Phish and setting the stage for the Phish lot and art scene we are so familiar with today. Sean talked with me about his history with Phish, Knighthood Tees and looking back on his years on the road.
Pete Mason: So when was your first Phish show?
Sean Knight: The first show where I got ‘it’ was a few after my first, May 13th, 1989
PM: You started out going to quite a few shows early on. What was the lot scene like in the early ’90s?
SK: The lot scene was kind of mixed. There was only just me for the most part being chased around by Amy Skelton, but there were a few of us out there, all being chased. It kind of blew up right around 1993.
PM: What were some of the early lot shirts and posters you recall seeing, other than your own?
SK: Not so much on posters but I do remember the Jesus Phish and the Christ Phish (car decals) and the Fish Vacuum (sticker). I was rocking the Antelope and the Glide tee. My earliest design was the Phish Maze, but that one was a no-no… Fishman was wearing a bunch of my shirts, then one night in Rochester he said he couldn’t where them anymore and that I should stop making them. So I did.
PM: How did that process get started by which you made shirts of your own? Was it just a random idea and a shirt press? Was there more to it than that?
SK: It was more out of need to go see a show on the clean vibe angle. I made a shirt designed by my buddy Jeremiah, with tourdates on the back for Fall ’93, and one with all of the song titles in fishes, but not the logo. Later on, we would make tees on the road. I would by blank white tees, dye them light purple at a laundromat and we would print them in the hotel. Then I would have to dry them to set them. It was a lot of fun.
PM: When did Knighthood Tees first take off?
SK: From 1993 to 1996, my business was called Glide Clothing, and in 1996 it became Knighthood. I closed up Knighthood after the last hiatus in 2004. I put all of it away to work in Florida and help with my mom during hurricane season. When they came back in 2009, I started up Jamgoods.com. The lot sales were just so over-saturated so I decided in the last two years to not to really pursue the artwork. The Jamgoods.com brand will develop into another project some day.
PM: When did you take on the moniker Waldo? How did that get started?
SK: It started over 20 years ago. I didn’t know what the (Where’s) Waldo book was all about but when I stopped by a friend’s house on the last day before I did my laundry… BOOM! Waldo was born. My first show as Waldo was a Merl Saunders show in Binghamton, New York, where I grew up. The first Phish show as Waldo was in Worcester in 1993. Back then, you would see Phish and people wanted to dress up in costumes for New Years Eve. It went over amazingly, so I decided to wear the shirt and cap at all Phish shows and Dead shows. It was an amazing experience.
In 2001, Knighthood tees was sued by Phish for infringing on intellectual property, including song names and lyrics that were featured on shirts, stickers and other merchandise sold on the company website. Phish alleged that lyrics and song titles were copyrighted, while Knighthood tees did not. In the end, the parties settled out of court and the suits were dropped. He was also sent Cease and Desist letters by a variety of companies, most notably, Firestone Tires, for his First Tube design. Sean declined to comment on these matters.
PM: What were the years like for you from 2003-04, leading up to Coventry? As a fan who had seem them since 1989, the impact of seeing the last Phish must have had an impact.
SK: As an artist it had an intense impact. I moved from Vermont to clear my head and closed down the shop after having a sale. What I found though was that it was a freeing experience. You see I had this hobby that turned into business and as fun as it may sound, there can be a lot of pressure. By the end of Coventry, it was not as much fun as the early days. “Waldo. Can you still have fun?” used to roll through my head back then.
PM: What did you do between Coventry and Hampton in 2009?
SK: I started a graphic web design company Edoorz.
PM: Where are you now and what’s the next chapter of Sean Knight’s life?
SK: I am currently living in Northern California. I moved out here right after the Phish show in Atlantic City, 2010, when they did the Little Feat album Waiting for Columbus. I do a lot of non-profit websites and volunteer at my local community radio station, KMUD. The next chapter in my life will always be affected by the Phish scene.
I am currently developing an facebook app called MyRespects. The app was conceived by the loss of friend from tour over the years. I have seen a lot of loss of phans and we lost a good friend that summer (2011) named Scotty. I was not friends with him on Facebook and living in a new area, it was really hard to grieve with friends. I couldn’t post on his Facebook page and as I am going through all this, Phish delivers like they always do- the ‘S’ show for Scotty. This really helped me heal from the loss of a friend.
So on Veterans Day that year, we decided to create this app. The big team on this project is mostly comprised of Phishheads. The My Respects Facebook Memorial Pages Application will allow you to create an interactive Memorial Page which will serve as a digital tribute and legacy for your loved ones, a deceased pet or even yourself. These Memorial Pages are specifically designed to be interactive and wide reaching; encouraging family, friends and acquaintances around the world, to share their memories and feelings with other grievers, creating a respectful community of grievers facilitating understanding, communication and healing.
We decided to launch an IndieGoGo campaign and we are raising $6,500 in funds to finish the app development phase and bring it to Facebook sometime in 2014. To see more about this app and receive updates on Facebook, visit the My Respects page.