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Playing Non-R&R Tunes


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The recent thread on picking twenty R&R tunes that are guaranteed crowd pleasers may or may not have intentionally excluded other genres of music, so I'm wondering what songs you all play that you wouldn't define as R&R. I realize there are lots of subgenres of R&R and that a lot of non-R&R songs have been covered by rock artists, so this isn't an exact science, but I'd be curious to know what works for you.

 

You could have separate threads for each genre, I suppose, but maybe most of you are hard core rockers and other stuff plays only a minor role. Of course some of you play a different style of music all together, but I'm assuming that you're then aiming for a different clientel. That would be interesting, but I'm especially interested in songs from other genres that are successful with an audience that expects R&R.

 

Including the artist and genre along with the title might be useful . . .

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There are a lot of classic R&B songs that work great, although (for whatever reason) none really seem to have that "always requested" status of the classic rock tunes. But pull out something like "Superstition" or "Let's Get It On" and it's pretty much guaranteed you'll get a good response.

 

A lot of the Motown standards and stuff like "I Feel Good" and "Respect" are certainly going to almost always work well, as well as a lot of 70s disco classics. 80s and 90s early rap classics like "Funky Cold Medina" and "Baby Got Back" are guaranteed crowd pleasers as well.

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we play alot of texas singer songwriter stuff . robert earl keen, pat green, gary p nunn, waylon and willie, larry joe taylor,Townes Van Zandt, kevin fowler etc,,,,, along with trop rock stuff original stuff and classic rock a little soul etc. We draw from a pool of 750 songs or so. every show is different. we dont gun a 60 song set list like most bands do.

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From the country side...there's a few songs I've noticed that work wherever we play (even at the beach here in San Diego).

 

Friends in Low Place, Much Too Young (Garth Brooks)

Chattahoochie (Alan Jackson)

Family Tradition (Hank Jr.)

All My Ex's, The Fireman (George Strait)

Mama Tried, Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink (Merle Haggard)

Ring of Fire, FPBs (Johnny Cash)

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From the country side...there's a few songs I've noticed that work wherever we play (even at the beach here in San Diego).


Friends in Low Place, Much Too Young (Garth Brooks)

Chattahoochie (Alan Jackson)

Family Tradition (Hank Jr.)

All My Ex's, The Fireman (George Strait)

Mama Tried, Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink (Merle Haggard)

Ring of Fire, FPBs (Johnny Cash)

 

 

 

Here is a good one. Its no doubt one of the songs that lurks in the 750 song pool we draw out of that hasnt come to the surface. Like alot of our stuff its pretty easy to just coldcock on stage live if the front man does it solo.

 

http://www.bing.com/videos/watch/video/robert-earl-keen-amarillo-highway/b211b9e8bd244062f822b211b9e8bd244062f822-527856435897?q=robert%20earl%20keen%20youtube

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Here is a good one. Its no doubt one of the songs that lurks in the 750 song pool we draw out of that hasnt come to the surface. Like alot of our stuff its pretty easy to just coldcock on stage live if the front man does it solo.


 

 

That's good stuff. I was trying to place the lyrics and realize that Aaron Watson's Diesel Driving Daddy uses a lot of the lyrics from that song. I've always loved "Road Goes on Forever" too, and have been meaning to add it.

 

Some of that Red-Dirt Stuff goes over really well in the country bars out here. We've done Jason Bolands "Pearl Snap Shirts" and Kevin Fowler's "All the Tequilla in Tiajuana" and they love it. We're adding "Lord Loves the Drinking Man", although I guess that's probably more associated with Mark Chesnutt than Kevin Fowler.

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That's good stuff. I was trying to place the lyrics and realize that Aaron Watson's Diesel Driving Daddy uses a lot of the lyrics from that song. I've always loved "Road Goes on Forever" too, and have been meaning to add it.


Some of that Red-Dirt Stuff goes over really well in the country bars out here. We've done Jason Bolands "Pearl Snap Shirts" and Kevin Fowler's "All the Tequilla in Tiajuana" and they love it. We're adding "Lord Loves the Drinking Man", although I guess that's probably more associated with Mark Chesnutt than Kevin Fowler.

 

 

 

Yea thats a good song. We do alot of robert earl. I like beer bait and ammo by kevin fowler. We played a festival on a bill with him last fall. He is a great entertainer. Its fun to really spool up some red dirt country. Its spring break down here on south padre ,, so I suspect we will break this one out before texas week is over lol.

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"Get Ready" always works well for us.


I'm not sure what version we "do", but I do play the bassline the way it was on the Smokey Robinson original, but with an added walkup from the G to the C on the turnaround for a little extra flavor and a break from the repetition.


"Superstition" is another good upbeat one that works pretty well, especially near the end of the set to get attention and get people to "stick around". That's more of a stand and watch or sit and listen kind of tune though.


Also "Baby Did a Bad Thing": the version by Chris Isaak. That one can go over well if there's a lot of rowdy females in the audience and you can get them into it.


"Maybe I'm Amazed" might be considered "rock" because it was Wings, but I'll throw that one out there too because it has worked okay for us in the past.


Also Marshall Tucker Band "Can't You See" - that was called "southern rock" back in the day but would be considered country today, no problem.


Hell, there isn't a lick of distortion in the whole song: clean guitars with a touch of overdrive all the way.

 

 

get ready was recorded by the temptations , and rare earth as well. good song. we used to do the temps version.

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Maybe it all boils down to instrumentation, which is why you would expect a lot of country songs to sit comfortably with a guitar-based R&R band, but than why hasn't anyone mentioned blues? Maybe a good shuffle is hard to play, and most bands are afraid a slow 6/8 will clear the dance floor. I guess a backbeat blues is indistinguishable from R&R at its roots, so maybe everybody's playing the blues.

 

No funk? Your audiences don't have the moves on the dance floor? Too hard technically? New Orleans gave us all kinds of good music.

 

Surely disco is dance friendly . . . maybe it's the instrumentation . . . . or the image of John Travolta . . .

 

I don't understand why so few songs from the Motown catalog have survived. It's nearly all dance friendly (including Superstition, I think), and the rhythms, lines, changes, etc are mostly adaptable to any instrumentation. Maybe it goes back the notion of trying to make a song sound as much like the studio version as possible, rather than simply covering a song in your basic style (see Guido's quote below.) Get Ready, Superstition, and I Thank You are just the tip of the iceberg.

 

The group that I covered most often during my most active years with three different bands - duo, sextet, and quartet in upstate NY, east coast, and Seattle respectively - was Sly and the Family Stone. Only the sextet had horns.

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Maybe it all boils down to instrumentation, which is why you would expect a lot of country songs to sit comfortably with a guitar-based R&R band, but than why hasn't anyone mentioned blues? Maybe a good shuffle is hard to play, and most bands are afraid a slow 6/8 will clear the dance floor. I guess a backbeat blues is indistinguishable from R&R at its roots, so maybe everybody's playing the blues.


No funk? Your audiences don't have the moves on the dance floor? Too hard technically? New Orleans gave us all kinds of good music.


Surely disco is dance friendly . . . maybe it's the instrumentation . . . . or the image of John Travolta . . .


I don't understand why so few songs from the Motown catalog have survived. It's nearly all dance friendly (including Superstition, I think), and the rhythms, lines, changes, etc are mostly adaptable to any instrumentation. Maybe it goes back the notion of trying to make a song sound as much like the studio version as possible, rather than simply covering a song in your basic style (see Guido's quote below.) Get Ready, Superstition, and I Thank You are just the tip of the iceberg.


The group that I covered most often during my most active years with three different bands - duo, sextet, and quartet in upstate NY, east coast, and Seattle respectively - was Sly and the Family Stone. Only the sextet had horns.

 

 

At some point it simply becomes an age thing. 20-30 years ago, there were dozens of Motown classics that would work. Now there's only a few handful that have "survived". When you're talking about songs that are now 40-50 years old, the recognition factor goes way down regardless of how good and/or dancable the song is. I see the same thing happening with every genre. A few years ago there were all sorts for disco hits that worked, now--not so many. And the number of 80s classics that work is getting smaller too.

 

We recently got a request to learn a Sinatra song for an upcoming wedding. They didn't specify the song, and Sinatra had dozens of hits. But I'm pretty sure that when a young girl asks me to play Sinatra she really means "play 'The Way You Look Tonight' or 'Fly Me To The Moon'". I suppose there might be one or two other songs of his that have survived and appeal to the younger generation? Not many though.

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Maybe it all boils down to instrumentation, which is why you would expect a lot of country songs to sit comfortably with a guitar-based R&R band, but than why hasn't anyone mentioned blues? Maybe a good shuffle is hard to play, and most bands are afraid a slow 6/8 will clear the dance floor. I guess a backbeat blues is indistinguishable from R&R at its roots, so maybe everybody's playing the blues.


No funk? Your audiences don't have the moves on the dance floor? Too hard technically? New Orleans gave us all kinds of good music.


Surely disco is dance friendly . . . maybe it's the instrumentation . . . . or the image of John Travolta . . .


I don't understand why so few songs from the Motown catalog have survived. It's nearly all dance friendly (including Superstition, I think), and the rhythms, lines, changes, etc are mostly adaptable to any instrumentation. Maybe it goes back the notion of trying to make a song sound as much like the studio version as possible, rather than simply covering a song in your basic style (see Guido's quote below.) Get Ready, Superstition, and I Thank You are just the tip of the iceberg.


The group that I covered most often during my most active years with three different bands - duo, sextet, and quartet in upstate NY, east coast, and Seattle respectively - was Sly and the Family Stone. Only the sextet had horns.

 

 

It may have to do alot with the age of the bands who are out there. To really have grown up on soul you have to be pushing 60 years old. the vast majority of bands out there now are in their mid to late 40s. They grew up on guitar based rock. Soul is vocal and rhythm based music.

 

To find guys who wanna play soul , you have to have a band that has major hitters in the band that are horn players who seek out horn driven music. Horn players come from school music programs. School music programs took a pretty good hit in the 70s. band and choir was no longer cool enough for most males ,, they were chasing stomp boxes and guitars musically.

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I realize it's hard to pull out a Four Tops tune that has been largely dormant for decades, but I'm wondering why some of those songs didn't maintain the same kind of traction that Superstition did. Would that song be dead in the water now if it hadn't been resurrected by SRV?

 

Given that we're talking about dance music, wouldn't it be fair to say that ALL vocal and rhythm based music would continue to be popular, assuming the bands that attempted them could do a decent job?

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I realize it's hard to pull out a Four Tops tune that has been largely dormant for decades, but I'm wondering why some of those songs didn't maintain the same kind of traction that Superstition did. Would that song be dead in the water now if it hadn't been resurrected by SRV?


Given that we're talking about dance music, wouldn't it be fair to say that ALL vocal and rhythm based music would continue to be popular, assuming the bands that attempted them could do a decent job?

 

 

 

I think it goes back to the drop in participation in school music programs. that rhythm based music took having at least two or three very good singers in a band who could harmonize. Thats a skill you see lacking it alot of bands. Most are lucky to have one really good singer ,, and a wanna be back up singer. Then you got the horns. music changed in the 70s to over drive guitars and not as much in the way of smooth cool harmony. Sure some of the hair bands had great harmony , but you dont see alot of bands doing that stuff either. I think its a vocal issue. bands have to shy away from stuff that has alot of harmony in it at average bar band level.

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We do a pantload of Motown-esque and older R&B stuff ... Shotgun (Jr. Walker), Dance to the Music (Sly), etc. We also do a bunch of other stuff that's somewhat off the beaten path ... and not what I'd consider "classic rock n' roll" ... examples include It's Not Unusual (Tom Jones), Me & Mrs Jones (Billy Paul), Vehicle (Blood Sweat and Tears). This stuff is great 1st / 2nd set material - and really helpful when you're working a room that's transitioning from dinner to dancing and/or doing the outdoor festival stuff. Nobody remembers bands for doing the "classic rock" stuff ... but that off the wall stuff for some reason just seems to stick in people's heads. I can't count the number of times I've been told "I LOVE that ______ song!" (stick one of our non-standard, non-classic rock, tune names in the blank).

 

We do a little disco stuff ... an obligatory KC medley, Boogie Nights, Boogie Oogie Oogie, Disco Inferno sort of stuff. I'm sure lots of noses will turn up at the thought of disco - however, we've found that when you sprinkle it in amongst more current classic rock stuff - the woment love it.

 

Truth is - I love our playlist, if for any reason, because on any night it runs the gamut. I get to dabble in all sorts of styles. It keeps it interesting for me!

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I realize it's hard to pull out a Four Tops tune that has been largely dormant for decades, but I'm wondering why some of those songs didn't maintain the same kind of traction that Superstition did. Would that song be dead in the water now if it hadn't been resurrected by SRV?

 

 

There's probably a different reason for each specific song. For "Superstition", certainly the SRV version didn't hurt. Plus it makes continued appearances elsewhere. Some kid sang it on "American Idol" a week or two ago. And it still gets some radio play. For a lot of songs, having made it into rotation on classic rock radio stations is the main reason they stay popular. Which is probably the main reason why more 60s and 70s rock has survived than 60s and 70s R&B at this point in time.

 

Being used in commercials, TV shows and movies always helps. "The Big Chill" resulted in a HUGE revival for Motown in the early/mid 80s that helped to keep that music familiar to a whole 'nother generation of people. Songs like "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch" get used in a lot of commercials. Heck, it used in a singing toy my young daughter has. As a result, she'll probably know THAT song for the rest of her life while most other Motown stuff?...not so much. Something as simple as some old song being sung during an episode of "Glee" has resulted in cover bands rushing to learn it again.

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We do a little disco stuff ... an obligatory KC medley, Boogie Nights, Boogie Oogie Oogie, Disco Inferno sort of stuff. I'm sure lots of noses will turn up at the thought of disco - however, we've found that when you sprinkle it in amongst more current classic rock stuff - the woment love it.

 

 

Yes, they do!

 

 

Truth is - I love our playlist, if for any reason, because on any night it runs the gamut. I get to dabble in all sorts of styles. It keeps it interesting for me!

 

 

Same here. I've taken some flack from other musicians on occassion because we're esssentially a "variety" band, but I really wouldn't be as happy doing anything else. Playing in one style all night long is much more boring for me.

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I think it goes back to the drop in participation in school music programs. that rhythm based music took having at least two or three very good singers in a band who could harmonize. Thats a skill you see lacking it alot of bands. Most are lucky to have one really good singer ,, and a wanna be back up singer. Then you got the horns. music changed in the 70s to over drive guitars and not as much in the way of smooth cool harmony. Sure some of the hair bands had great harmony , but you dont see alot of bands doing that stuff either. I think its a vocal issue. bands have to shy away from stuff that has alot of harmony in it at average bar band level.

 

 

Good point, but I think there might be two different topics going on here at the same time. I think your comment is a good answer to the question of "why isn't vocal and rhythm based music as popular today as it used to be?" which is a different question from "why aren't more 40+ year old vocal & rhythm-based songs still popular?" which I think is (at least part of) what Carl is asking.

 

Even IF vocal, rhythm-based and horn-based music WERE still as popular today as it was 40 years ago, I don't think that would necessarily mean that any greater number of old songs would still be popular. Old songs are still "old", and as such, are always going to be very hit-and-miss as to which ones might have relevance to a younger audience.

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Good point, but I think there might be two different topics going on here at the same time. I think your comment is a good answer to the question of "why isn't vocal and rhythm based music as popular today as it used to be?" which is a different question from "why aren't more 40+ year old vocal & rhythm-based songs still popular?" which I think is (at least part of) what Carl is asking.


Even IF vocal, rhythm-based and horn-based music WERE still as popular today as it was 40 years ago, I don't think that would necessarily mean that any greater number of old songs would still be popular. Old songs are still "old", and as such, are always going to be very hit-and-miss as to which ones might have relevance to a younger audience.

 

 

So it's a chicken and egg thing. Mustang Sally has traction mostly because virtually every band can do a rendition of it that the crowd likes. The '65 - '75 decade produced a massive amount of good songs (check out the Rolling Stone mag all-time top 500.) But, yeah, Tim is probably right that the combined skill sets of otherwise decent bar bands isn't up to the vocal harmony. But in my experience they also lack what I'll call the courage to rearrange a good chart to fit their style. ZZ Top did; Rare Earth did. Now if I could just get my guitar player to flex a bit.

 

I also agree with SpaceNorman (maybe it's a keyboard thing) that variety band is not a dirty word. You can take that same concept (although certainly not the same set list) and aim at either the corporate circuit or your corner bar.

 

Just do it good.

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Good point, but I think there might be two different topics going on here at the same time. I think your comment is a good answer to the question of "why isn't vocal and rhythm based music as popular today as it used to be?" which is a different question from "why aren't more 40+ year old vocal & rhythm-based songs still popular?" which I think is (at least part of) what Carl is asking.


Even IF vocal, rhythm-based and horn-based music WERE still as popular today as it was 40 years ago, I don't think that would necessarily mean that any greater number of old songs would still be popular. Old songs are still "old", and as such, are always going to be very hit-and-miss as to which ones might have relevance to a younger audience.

 

 

yea prolly. The way I see music and bands is that bands need to be the bands they are rather than keep chasing their tails trying to morf into the next nitch they think is gonna be the magic ring. Life is way too short for that {censored}. We are who we are ,, we play what we play and we attract the crowd we attract. we play alot of variety but for sure we are not going to ever do any lady gagga ,, just to try to capture a segment of the market thats into that stuff. We fill the rooms, and that works for us. We play originals that get us on some big stages. We prolly are a nitch band , buts its our nitch.

 

I have no idea what tonights gonna be like. Its the beginning of texas week down on the island. by wed there will be 40,000 kids on the island. We will be playing just like we always do. I expect to see a good crowd. Will we outdraw snoop dog ,,Yea he is booked on the island for this year. Nope. Will we have a good many spring breakers ,, ya we will get our share. There is always a faction of them that dont wanna pay a huge cover , be in a mob of drunk newbie drinkers packed like sardines. They will be the ones at our show. We will do what we do. Entertain them, get them a good buzz , and fill them up with great food. They will walk away saying ,, man we had a good time. I think one of the worst things you can do with music is try to morf into somthing you really are not. you just have to be yourselfs.

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yea prolly. The way I see music and bands is that bands need to be the bands they are rather than keep chasing their tails trying to morf into the next nitch they think is gonna be the magic ring. Life is way too short for that {censored}.

 

 

Very true. But I think maybe that sometimes what you see as another band "chasing their tails" is simply them being the band they are. Just because their niche looks nothing like yours or some other band's doesn't mean they haven't found one and that the "chasing" their doing really isn't anything more than simply refining their niche.

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Very true. But I think maybe that sometimes what you see as another band "chasing their tails" is simply them being the band they are. Just because their niche looks nothing like yours or some other band's doesn't mean they haven't found one and that the "chasing" their doing really isn't anything more than simply refining their niche.

 

 

Who knows. the new fad is party bands. A ton try to morf into a party band. I really dont thing much has really changed over the years. Every music scene has a couple or three really top bands. The rest of the pack all tries to be like those bands. Most cant pull it off simply because they just are not good enough to do it. They try to convince themselves that its the lights , its the look , its the set list etc. Na its the band, and only three got it going on.

 

Every band tends to get better and grow as bands if they can keep their lineup stable. I dont think you can hype your way up the ladder , you have to play your way there. you want to be top dog in your market ,, play a {censored} load of gigs and work your way up there.

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Just do it good.

 

 

I think that's the bottom line. Do what you do better than anyone else and you're probably going to find a market for it. Few bands (or nightclubs or pizza joints, for that matter) really care about being the 'best' at anything. They just want to keep things easy and simple and 'get by'. That's all well and good as far as it goes, I suppose, but it DOES result in a overall watering-down and mediocrity.

 

I see very few bands who really try to be "hot" at anything. They are happy if a lot of people just "like" what they do and don't throw tomatoes. But what happened to trying to get (at least a few) people to LOVE what you do?

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