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Rocky Top

Rocky Top has not been seen in 134 Phish shows.
It was last played: 2019-12-28.
It was played at 10.26% of live shows.
It has been performed live 205 time(s).

Music/Lyrics: Boudleaux Bryant/Felice Bryant

Original Artist: Osborne Brothers

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

Debut: 1987-09-21

Historian: Grant Calof

Guaranteed to shoot bolts of blissful energy through Hatfields, McCoys and moonshiners everywhere, “Rocky Top” is always a kick up your heels shotgun blast of bluegrass music whenever it rears its head on a setlist. 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 singing cowboys from Vermont had their way with this bluegrass classic, it was never to be the same again. The song is best known by the version performed by the Osborne Brothers, although they sing it four keys higher than Cactus.

Watch Rocky Top on YouTube Osborne Brothers, "Rocky Top"

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 “Sample” and “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 8/16/97).

Watch Rocky Top on YouTube Phish, "Rocky Top"– 4/5/91, Portland, OR

The song was originally penned by the husband and wife songwriting team of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant and reflects on the good old-fashioned simple life of real-life destination, Rocky Top, Tennessee. In 1982 “Rocky Top” was adopted as Tennessee’s state song, and it also happens to be the University of Tennessee Fight Song. Phish has paid homage to the Volunteer State during many of their visits, performing “Rocky Top” – while in Rocky Top – on 2/27/91, 2/18/93, 7/29/93, 6/14/95, 11/6/96, 11/15/98, and 6/10/12 at Bonnaroo.

“Rocky Top” had its heyday in the Phish repertoire in the early 90s, reaching a peak of a whopping forty-two performances in 1991 alone. In the early days it could show up at any given time during either set, though over time its role solidified to that of set-closer or encore. Turning the clock to the new millennium, “Rocky Top” has become a relative rarity with at most three appearances per year, most recently on 12/30/16 in New York. 

Watch Rocky Top on YouTube Phish, "Rocky Top"– 7/19/03, East Troy, WI

Albums: Live Phish 12, Live Phish 19, Amsterdam


(Boudleaux Bryant/Felice Bryant)
� 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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