Originally Performed ByHot Rize
Original AlbumHot Rize (1979)
Appears On
Music/LyricsTim O’Brien
Recommended Versions1993-07-24, 1993-08-21, 1994-05-27, 1994-10-10, 1994-10-18, 1998-11-21, 1999-12-07, 2010-10-19, 2012-06-08
HistorianDan Mielcarz (ColForbin)
Last Update2012-06-23


First appearing in February 1993, “Nellie Kane” added to the pantheon of Phish bluegrass tunes. The traditional song – originally by Tim O'Brien and Hot Rize – tells an earnest story of a cowboy who falls for a single mother and decides to settle down with her. “Nellie Kane” was in heavy rotation through 1994, and played acoustic for most of those appearances. After a final acoustic performance on 12/8/94 in San Diego, Phish dropped “Nellie” from their repertoire for the next four years. Since her welcome return in 1998, “Nellie” has been performed exclusively electric, and far less frequently. The song seemed to be shelved for good once again following the 7/1/00 show, but is back with Phish 3.0 as a rare first set bluegrass interlude.

Hot Rize – "Nellie Kane"

In the bluegrass tradition, "Nellie Kane" doesn’t differ much from one version to the next. But some notable versions from the past include special guests: 8/21/93 and 10/18/94 with Béla Fleck; 5/27/94 with Morgan Fichter; and 10/10/94 with Steve Cooley. A fine electric version can be found on Hampton Comes Alive from 11/21/98, or check out the excellent 10/19/10 Augusta gig for a more recent offering. While “Nellie” almost always stands alone in a set, on 6/8/12 in Worcester she emerged from a smoking “Sand” jam with a smooth as silk segue, surprising everyone in the building – definitely worth a listen! 

Phish, "Nellie Kane" – 6/8/12, Worcester, MA

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