It looks like there's a Phish show in progress! You can discuss it here x

Phish.net: a Project of the Mockingbird Foundation


Performances Song History Lyrics

Ginseng Sullivan

Music/Lyrics: Norman Blake

Vocals: Mike

Original Artist: Norman Blake

Original Album: Back Home in Sulphur Springs (1971)

Albums: Star Lake 98, Live Phish Downloads 6-20-1995

Debut: 1993-08-11

Historian: Dan Mielcarz (ColForbin)

Last Update: 2014-06-19

"Ginseng Sullivan" is a tale of woe concerning a man searching for his big break in the ginseng industry so he can return to his “muddy water Mississippi Delta home.” Possibly the most popular of the bluegrass covers due to its references to the touring ethos, it enjoyed a steady spot in the rotation since its 1993 debut until the hiatus. 

Phish’s cover contains a number of lyrical changes to the chorus. Norman Blake’s version is: “It’s a long way to the Delta from the North Georgia Hills/And a tote sack full of ginseng won’t pay no travelin’ bills/And I’m too old to ride the rails or thumb the road alone”; Phish changes it to “It’s a long way from the Delta to the North Georgia hills/And a coal sack full of ginseng won’t pay no travelin’ bills/And I’m too old to ride the rails off on the road alone.” Given that the protagonist of the song is wistfully longing to get back to the Delta from Georgia, the “from/to” switch is a fairly big mistake. The following video features Norman Blake explaining the origin of the song, and playing the outstanding original version:



Norman Blake, “Ginseng Sullivan”

The debut of "Ginseng" on 8/11/93 and a later appearance on 8/20/93 (and possibly others) featured Trey on amplified acoustic guitar and Fish on the Madonna washboard with Page and Mike on their normal instruments. Later that month, on 8/25/93 in Seattle, the band played an all-acoustic version, followed by an all-acoustic version of "Nellie Kane." This acoustic trend continued in spring/summer 1994 (4/13/944/23/94, and 6/16/94, for example). The 10/10/94 version includes Steve Cooley as a guest on banjo.



Phish, “Ginseng Sullivan” - 2/16/97 Cologne, Germany

Following 1994, "Ginseng" has been played electric, and most versions are similar. As such, a “Ginseng” fan should seek out versions from shows that have other reasons to recommend them, like The Great Went, or 11/29/97. If you are interested in hearing Mike flub the vocals, check out 7/21/99.  "Ginseng" has been played much less frequently since the hiatus, appearing only on 4/17/04, and then remaining in limited rotation after its first appearance following the breakup on 11/21/09.

Submit notes/corrections

You must be logged in to leave a comment!

Username

Password




Register | Forgot Password

ColForbin Phish.net Staff Reply
ColForbin @dick_tatertot said:
@Jeff_Goldberg said:
For whatever it's worth, Phish has never used the lyrics �It�s a long way to the Delta from the north Georgia hills" in any version that they have ever played, as the description above states. They have always sung it correctly as "It's a long way from the Delta to the north Georgia hills." The rest of the lyrical errors are debatable.
Let's clear this up once and for all.

The correct lyrics are:"It's a long way TO the delta, FROM the north Georgia hills", as the song is about someone trying to get back to their "muddy water Mississippi DELTA home".

Norman blake sings it like this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJuhaNY9fqk

Every Phish version I've listened to (from '93 til 10/20/13) is incorrect: "It's a long way FROM the delta TO the north Georgia hills".

Is this intentional? There must be some deeper story going on here . . .
Thanks for your comments, guys. I have updated the info to be correct, and yes Phish sings it wrong.
Score: 0
dick_tatertot Reply
dick_tatertot @Jeff_Goldberg said:
For whatever it's worth, Phish has never used the lyrics �It�s a long way to the Delta from the north Georgia hills" in any version that they have ever played, as the description above states. They have always sung it correctly as �It�s a long way from the Delta to the north Georgia hills." The rest of the lyrical errors are debatable.
Let's clear this up once and for all.

The correct lyrics are:"It's a long way TO the delta, FROM the north Georgia hills", as the song is about someone trying to get back to their "muddy water Mississippi DELTA home".

Norman blake sings it like this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJuhaNY9fqk

Every Phish version I've listened to (from '93 til 10/20/13) is incorrect: "It's a long way FROM the delta TO the north Georgia hills".

Is this intentional? There must be some deeper story going on here . . .
Score: 0
Jeff_Goldberg Reply
For whatever it's worth, Phish has never used the lyrics Its a long way to the Delta from the north Georgia hills" in any version that they have ever played, as the description above states. They have always sung it correctly as Its a long way from the Delta to the north Georgia hills." The rest of the lyrical errors are debatable.
Score: 0
Login Register