Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley

Originally Performed ByLee Dorsey
Original AlbumYes We Can (1970)
Appears On
Music/LyricsAllen Toussaint
VocalsTrey (lead), Mike, Page (backing)
Phish Debut1985-03-08
Last Played2023-08-01
Current Gap37
HistorianEllis Godard, Phillip Zerbo
Last Update2019-03-02


Robert Palmer – who is of course mentioned in the lyrics to “Tube” – had more than fifteen albums of his own, plus two more with The Power Station. The ninth brought him MTV fame, accompanied by iconic videos such as for “Addicted to Love.” But it was his first album in 1974, with the hit title track "Sneakin' Sally through the Alley," that brought him radio fame years earlier.

Lee Dorsey, "Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley"

Written by the late Allen Toussaint, “Sneakin’ Sally” was originally recorded by Lee Dorsey for his Yes We Can album, produced by Toussaint with The Meters backing Dorsey, and packaged in a funky six-song suite buffered by title tracks. Palmer's version is also part of a suite, following “Sailing Shoes” (by Lowell George of Little Feat) and “Hey Julia” in an uninterrupted flow, as if the three are one track. While not the original, Palmer's version is better known, and closer to what Phish plays.

In Phish’s earlier versions, the song’s role seemed more defined, helping transition from something heavily orchestrated (“Slave,” “YEM,” “Fluffhead,” “McGrupp,” “Lizards”) to something silly (“Harpua,” “Makisupa”) or loud (“Suzy,” “Frankenstein,” “GTBT”). During the late '90s, the song’s role became one of broadening the setlists from the funk phase of that era back into one with a stylistic variety more typical of Phish. Early Phish versions included the band’s first vocal jams (e.g. 3/11/88, 5/25/88, and 7/12/88), and every version through 5/8/89 and most since 8/7/09 included a vocal jam. Also notable is 2/24/88 that featured an early horn bit by Fishman. Other strong versions have segued out of “Wolfman’s Brother” (4/2/98, 7/17/99, and 9/28/99) and into “Ya Mar” (5/28/89), “Guyute” (8/8/98),“Chalk Dust” (10/31/98), and “Ghost” (12/11/99). 

Phish, "Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley" – 10/31/98, Las Vegas, NV

“Sneakin’ Sally” was played frequently through the late 80s, then after 5/28/89 it was dropped for over a decade. Making its return on the biggest of stages, “Sneakin’ Sally” triumphantly opened the 12/30/97 gig at Madison Square Garden after a 921-show absence. Still burning fuel well after the venue’s curfew, “Sneakin’ Sally” was reprised in the midst of that show’s four-song encore, punctuating one of the most memorable shows in Phish history. 1998 was an especially strong year for “Sneakin’ Sally,” with high-octane versions on 4/2/98 on the Island Tour, 8/8/98 Merriweather, and 10/31/98 in Vegas.

The first post-hiatus appearance was a doozy, a 15-minute romp through Deer Creek on 7/23/03. Similarly, upon their return to the stage in 2009, Phish laid down one of the strongest versions of "Sneakin' Sally" to date, a 17-minute epic at The Gorge on 8/7/09. Other notable versions from the modern era include strong, vocal-jam infused versions on 6/4/11 Blossom, 7/6/12 SPAC, and 8/19/12 San Francisco, the last emerging out of “Light” and anchoring one of the best second sets of that or any other era. "Sneakin' Sally" was playing with house money on 11/1/13 in Atlantic City, and delighted beach-goers on the final night of the Miami NYE run on 1/3/15.

Phish, "Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley" – 11/1/13, Atlantic City, NJ. Video by LazyLightning55a.

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