Polk Salad Annie

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"Polk Salad Annie"
Single by Tony Joe White
from the album Black and White
B-side"Aspen Colorado"
ReleasedJune 1969
RecordedMay 16, 1968, RCA Studio B, Nashville, Tennessee
GenreSwamp rock
LabelMonument Records
Songwriter(s)Tony Joe White
Producer(s)Billy Swan
Tony Joe White singles chronology
"Soul Francisco"
"Polk Salad Annie"
"Roosevelt and Ira Lee"
Official audio
"Polk Salad Annie" on YouTube

"Polk Salad Annie" is a 1968 song written and performed by Tony Joe White.[1] Its lyrics describe the lifestyle of a poor rural Southern girl and her family. Traditionally, the term to describe the type of food highlighted in the song is polk or poke salad, a cooked greens dish made from pokeweed.[2] Its 1969 single release peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. In Canada, the song made No. 10 on the RPM Magazine Hot Singles chart. Elvis Presley's version also made the song popular.


The song vividly recreates the Southern roots of White's childhood and his music reflects this earthy rural background. As a child he listened not only to local bluesmen and country singers but also to the Cajun music of Louisiana, the hybrid of traditional musical styles introduced by French settlers at the turn of the century.

His roots lie in the swamplands of Oak Grove, Louisiana, where he was born in 1943. Situated just west of the Mississippi River, it's a land of cottonfields, where pokeweed, or "poke" grows wild, and alligators lurk in moss-covered swamps. "I spent the first 18 years of my life down there", said White. "My folks raised cotton and corn. There were lotsa times when there weren't too much to eat, and I ain't ashamed to admit that we've often whipped up a mess of poke sallet. Tastes alright too — a bit like spinach."[3] In the song, after gathering the leaves, Annie drags them home in a 'tote sack'. The alligators are used to her antics, despite the fact that they were chomping the Granny. Her mother worked in a chain gang, while her father was lazy and no-count, with a bad back, and her brothers were stealing the watermelons of out the narrator's truck patch. The song's intro is spoken, as well as the lines between the chorus, the other 2 verses, and the outro. White makes grunting and other nonsensical noises, especially towards the ending of the instrumental as well as the outro.

In a January 17, 2014, interview with music journalist Ray Shasho, White explained the thought process behind the writing of "Polk Salad Annie" and "Rainy Night in Georgia".

I heard "Ode to Billie Joe" on the radio and I thought, man, how real, because I am Billie Joe, I know that life. I've been in the cotton fields. So I thought if I ever tried to write, I'm going to write about something I know about. At that time I was doing a lot of Elvis and John Lee Hooker onstage with my drummer. No original songs and I hadn't really thought about it. But after I heard Bobbie Gentry I sat down and thought … well I know about polk because I had ate a bunch of it and I knew about rainy nights because I spent a lot of rainy nights in Marietta, Georgia. So I was real lucky with my first tries to write something that was not only real and hit pretty close to the bone, but lasted that long. So it was kind of a guide for me then on through life to always try to write what I know about.[4]


The single, released in 1969 by Monument Records,[5] had been out nine months before it finally charted, and had been written off by Monument as a failure. Said White: "They had done given up on it, but we kept getting all these people in Texas coming to the clubs and buying the record. So we would send up to Nashville saying, 'Send us a thousand more this week.' They would send us these 'Do Not Sell' examples, so we would have to sit down and mark out the 'Do Not Sell' and then send them to the record stores. All these stores in South Texas kept calling our house saying, 'We need more.' So we just kept hanging on. And finally a guy in L.A. picked it up and got it across. Otherwise, 'Poke' could have been lost forever."[6]

In 2014 White performed the song with Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters on Late Show With David Letterman.[7]


Chart history[edit]

Elvis Presley cover[edit]

Elvis Presley picked up the song, and it became a staple of his live performances during the 1970s.[15][better source needed] Not a studio recording but his February 1970 live recording became the only version of "Polk Salad Annie" to chart in the UK and Ireland.

Chart history[edit]

Chart (1973) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[16] 16
UK Singles (OCC)[17] 23

Elvis' rendition was issued on several albums, including:[15]

Though not on the Elvis Recorded Live on Stage in Memphis (1974) album, it was put on the legacy edition of that album in 2014; the song was performed at the concert from which the album was taken. From the Garden version on, it featured a rare fuzz bass solo by Jerry Scheff.[citation needed] Tony Joe White reportedly liked Presley's interpretation of the song.[1][better source needed]

(Refer to each album stated for citation)

Cover versions[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d [1] Archived May 3, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Adams, Alison. "A Mess Of Poke". Southernspaces.org. Retrieved September 8, 2015.
  3. ^ "Tony Joe White, Leocort, Ayrton Senna, Boudewijn de Groot, Citroën, Modelspoor h0 NS". Leocort.nl. Retrieved January 1, 2022.
  4. ^ Shasho, Joe (January 24, 2014). "If Elvis Presley played swamp rock he'd be Tony Joe White – Interview". The Classic Rock Music Reporter. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
  5. ^ "Tony Joe White - Polk Salad Annie / Aspen Colorado (Vinyl) at Discogs". Discogs.com. October 1968. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  6. ^ "Tony Joe White - his life 2/3". Martin-doppelbauer.de. 1968-08-01. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  7. ^ Hudak, Joseph (October 25, 2018). "Flashback: Tony Joe White, Foo Fighters Play 'Polk Salad Annie' on 'Letterman'". Rolling Stone. In his dark hat and glasses, White growled out the lyrics on Letterman, a snakeskin guitar strap slung over his shoulder, as the Foo Fighters laid down a greasy groove behind him. At one point, Grohl tentatively approaches the mic to handle a verse, before White retakes the spotlight with a nasty harmonica and guitar solo.
  8. ^ The Monument Story (Media notes). Various. New York, New York: Sony Music Entertainment. A2K66106.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  9. ^ "Go-Set Australian charts - 8 November 1969". Poparchives.com.au. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  10. ^ "Tony Joe White - Polk Salad Annie". 45cat.com. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  11. ^ "SA Charts 1965–March 1989". Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  12. ^ "Tony Joe White Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-01-02.
  13. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 8/23/69". Tropicalglen.com. Archived from the original on August 9, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  14. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1969/Top 100 Songs of 1969". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  15. ^ a b c d e "Elvis Presley – Polk Salad Annie – Listen and discover music at". Last.fm. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  16. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Polk Salad Annie". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved May 9, 2018.
  17. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 2019-01-02.
  18. ^ Bruce Eder. "On Stage - Elvis Presley | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  19. ^ "Live at the Lighthouse - Richard "Groove" Holmes | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  20. ^ Andrew Hamilton. "Dancin' With Nobody But You Babe - Clarence Reid | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  21. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Tom - Tom Jones | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  22. ^ "我为平台代言". www.txhighlands.com. Archived from the original on December 31, 2008.
  23. ^ "1977 Rockabilly - Sleepy LaBeef | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  24. ^ Hal Horowitz. "Tomorrow Never Comes - Sleepy LaBeef | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  25. ^ "Blue Country - Joe Dassin | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  26. ^ "Wish Me Luck - Dutch Mason | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. 2007-01-01. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  27. ^ "Alligator Records - Genuine Houserockin' Music Since 1971". Alligator.com. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  28. ^ "Nashville Gold (Switched On Moog) - Gil Trythall | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-05-03.
  29. ^ "Swampland:Jimmie van Zant: My Name is Jimmie".
  30. ^ "'Ford v Ferrari' Soundtrack Revealed". Variety. November 13, 2019. Retrieved January 1, 2020.

External links[edit]