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Rocky Top

Rocky Top has not been seen in 150 Phish shows.
It was last played: 2019-12-28.
It was played at 10.2% of live shows.
It has been performed live 205 time(s).

Music/Lyrics: Boudleaux and Felice Bryant

Original Artist: Osborne Brothers

Original Album: Yesterday, Today, and the Osborne Brothers (1967)

Vocals: Mike (lead); Trey, Page, Fish (backing)

Debut: 1987-09-21

Historian: Grant Calof (That_Guy)

Guaranteed to shoot bolts of blissful energy through Hatfields, McCoys, moonshiners, and volunteers from coast to coast, “Rocky Top” is always a kick-up-your-heels shotgun blast of bluegrass music any time it rears its head. When Phish debuted the song during the fall of 1987, its lightning quick, blistering pace provided the perfect showcase for the band to push the envelope of yet another, less obvious musical arena… bluegrass. And after four minstrels from Vermont had their way with this Osborne Brothers’ classic, penned by the husband-and-wife songwriting team Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, it was never the same again.

Watch Rocky Top on YouTube Osborne Brothers “Rocky Top” Video by Bluegrass Library

With no true formula for success in what's left of the music “business,” most bands spend their careers playing and perfecting just one style of music. But as we all know, Phish isn’t like other bands. Rather than play one type of music, they play every type of music. And they don’t just play it, they redefine, reinvent, and repackage it, recreating it as their own. 

Phish is able to shift in and out of styles (let alone songs) so effortlessly and seamlessly that to the uninitiated eye it might look easy. It’s not surprising to hear straight-ahead rock and roll, lighter than air ballads, earth-shaking hard-core, a country tune, and a couple of funk-filled grooves all in one set. Yet what makes it all the more incredible-- and one of the main reasons people still trek across the globe to see Phish again and again-- is that it’s never the same show twice.

Sameness, however, is the only criticism occasionally leveled at "Rocky Top." Like “Bouncing,” the arrangement of “Rocky Top” has remained the same over the years, and it’s for this reason that the song is both loved and loathed by fans. The only aspect of Phish's rendition of “Rocky Top” that really changes is the speed at which it’s played-- it's either incredibly fast or obscenely, ridiculously fast (blink, and you just might miss the explosive “Rocky Top” from The Great Went on 08/16/97).

Watch Rocky Top on YouTube Phish "Rocky Top" – 07/20/91, Parksville, NY

“Rocky Top” had its heyday in the Phish repertoire in the early 90s, reaching a peak of a whopping 42 performances in 1991 alone.  Phish has also paid homage to the Volunteer State during many of their visits, performing “Rocky Top”– while in Rocky Top-- on 02/27/91, 02/18/93, 07/29/93, 06/14/95, 11/6/96, 11/15/98, and 06/10/12 at Bonnaroo.

In the early days, the song could show up at any given slot during either set, though over time its role solidified to that of set-closer or encore (like 12/30/16 or 12/28/19 in New York). Turning the clock to the new millennium, “Rocky Top” started to become a relative rarity, making at most three appearances per year from 2000-2019.  Along with a smattering of tunes from earlier eras,  “Rocky Top” has yet to re-emerge from post-pandemic hibernation.

Watch Rocky Top on YouTube Phish "Rocky Top"– 12/28/11, New York, NY

Last significant update: 12/19/23

Albums: Live Phish 12, Live Phish 19, Amsterdam


© House of Bryant Publications, LLC (BMI)

Wish that I was on ole rocky top
Down in the Tennessee hills
Ain't no smoggy smoke on rocky top
Ain't no telephone bills

Once there was a girl on rocky top
Half bear the other half cat
Wild as a mink, sweet as soda pop
I still dream about that

Rocky top, you'll always be
Home sweet home to me
Good ole rocky top
Rocky top Tennessee, rocky top Tennessee

Once two strangers climbed on rocky top
Lookin' for a moonshine still
Strangers ain't come back from rocky top
Guess they never will

Corn won't grow at all on rocky top
Dirt's too rocky by far
That's why all the folks on rocky top
Get their corn from a jar

Rocky top, you'll always be
Home sweet home to me
Good ole rocky top
Rocky top Tennessee, rocky top Tennessee

Now I've had years of cramped up city life
Trapped like a duck in a pen
Now all I know is it's a pity life
Can't be simple again

Rocky top, you'll always be
Home sweet home to me
Good ole rocky top
Rocky top Tennessee, rocky top Tennessee

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