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May 11, 2020

Relevance in the 21st Century - What are you playing these days?

What music are you playing these days?

I have been trying to find music that means something to my audience today. That is, a different audience than I have known in the decades gone by.

Have you changed the content of your show lately?

How do you choose what to play?

Things that I have been doing lately:

  • Asking the staff and management at the places where I play for ideas.
  • Listening to music has been written lately. For me, that's anything written in this century.
  • Learning some of this new material, performing it and then talking to the audience (usually one-on-one) about it.
  • Wondering if it is better to be age appropriate and to stick to the music from my era, or press ahead at the risk of being the old guy playing Hey there Delilah, Whistle For The Choir, 1234, Gravity. Oh - but I do so love it when people sing along to tunes like this.
  • Thinking about putting together another band to do ...?

What about you? How do you decide what to play? If you are incorporating contemporary music in your show, how are you doing that? Where do find that music?

Thanks for any input here.

A lot has changed for me since the beginning of the year. I got a steady gig playing solo and have recently been having people sit in with me as accompanists.

This means that I get to pick the songs, set the arrangements, and give other folks the nod when it's their time to solo.

For most of my musical life, I've been a side-man and occasional on-stage musical director. Taking centre stage and having others to support me is really different.

From the side, I always played whatever the headliner or the band wanted to play with respect to the music and the arrangements. I might have some input but ultimately I ceded most of the decisions to someone else. That's all changed now and it gives me the ability and responsibility to choose the music.

In the beginning I went back through all the tunes I have played on a regular basis and

  • Learned the lyrics (no small feat)
  • Did arrangements to do them solo, indulging myself in being able to do them as I had always wanted to, except for the inherent limitations of playing solo
  • Hit a little culture shock when I realized that almost everything in the list was at least 25 years old.

The L1® connection here? I KNOW that I would not be playing solo or headlining if it weren't for the lessons I've learned and the changes I've made in the last four years. Most of these were because with the L1® I can actually hear myself. But just being here in the message board has had a huge impact on the way I think about and experience music.

So back to you.

What about you? How do you decide what to play? If you are incorporating contemporary music in your show, how are you doing that? Where do you find that music.

Edit: grammar

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Dec 15, 2003

Re: Relevance in the 21st Century - What are you playing these days?

ST - wonderful question, discussion & starting point!

I still play the same old stuff, I bet most OLDER than 25 years. Except for the "new" Eagles song, which was actually written 17 years ago, or in the 70's, I can't remember. That strikes me funny for some reason.

A year or so ago I bought some new CD's, trying to find a contemporary song or few, same intent as you now. I bought Mayer, Coldplay, couple of others I don't recall right now. I don't guess I found anything that struck me. I'm on a Coldplay internet list, for some reason.

If I WAS to really learn something new, from what I hear, it would be easier to find a country song than rock. I fear I am an old fogie with regard to new rock(?) or alternative or whatever it is.

In our band, it seems our performances are most often pretty limited in terms of TIME to play, and we have so many very good songs already, I have great trouble deciding what to drop, for any new ones to add. We recently added That Thing You Do by "The Wonders" - movie song, and Lies by the Knickerbockers. Those are basically Beatle songs anyway...

So, once every 3rd or 4th gig I get one request for Dave Matthews or somebody like that, obviously from a 20-something. I feel bad having to say "No". I SHOULD learn at least some snippets from these newer artists - that would be better than my usual "Do I LOOK like I know any Dave Matthews?" - trying for the lighter response, but I may be being too smart-castic. At least I didn't say smart-asterisk...

If I could find new songs, that I like, that I feel I could do justice to as well as bring in a little of myself, I would. I wonder if a new song fitting that criteria would be a lot "like" the great older songs, which I already like and already know?

Thanks for bringing this up - I will watch with interest.

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Jun 19, 2006

Re: Relevance in the 21st Century - What are you playing these days?

Where do find that music?

Hi ST!

Interestingly, I have recently stumbled onto an application called Pandora. For those not familiar with it, I’ll try to explain briefly. It’s an Internet program that lets you enter your favorite artists and/or style of music and then through the power of artificial intelligence of some kind and Internet searching facilities, it searches out other artists and songs which have similar characteristics and plays that music for you. I have found several artists and songs I had never heard of before via Pandora and continue to find interesting songs and artists. It’s just fascinating! This is really one of the first times I feel I have tapped the real power of the Internet and the resources available for information retrieval. This is an amazing application for musical exploration, in my opinion.

Have you changed the content of your show lately?

No, we really haven’t changed much in the last decade or so. I doubt we will any time soon, either. Our music repertoire is composed of songs from the turn of the 20th century to today, which are in the acoustic folk arena, bluegrass, and old-tyme music genres. But, I find myself listening today to much more new-age Bluegrass (if that’s a genre) and strictly acoustic type music performed on mandolin, banjo, fiddle or guitar. Stuff like; Russ Barenberg, Matt Flinner, or David Grier. These artists play a more contemporary style of music, compared to the Bill Monrore and Flatt & Scruggs style of Bluegrass music. I’d like to play more of this music, but I don’t see us doing it anytime soon.

So there you go….relevance of music in the 21st century for me…. I’ll admit, since being involved with the L1 for the last couple of years, my technical and “listening” skills have expanded immensely. I can not listen to amplified music any longer without critiquing it for balance, quality, sound, etc. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not… sometimes I can’t get past the problems I hear, to enjoy the music of a live performance. Being involved with the L1 has certainly raised my standards for a good musical performance and entertaining evening. Is that relevant?

Great topic...thanks for bringing it up...and like Mike-in-Texas, I'll be watching for others to chime in here.
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Jun 30, 2004

Re: Relevance in the 21st Century - What are you playing these days?

I'm like the rest of you - I get requests for newer stuff mostly play the old stuff. It's hard for me to play music that I can't connect with personally. (I'm trying to be kind here. There's some decent stuff out there, but I'm too old to "get" most of it.)

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Dec 5, 2004

Re: Relevance in the 21st Century - What are you playing these days?

I'm pretty up front with my audience. I usually state early in the show that I take requests, but I don't know anything recent.

As some of you may recall I have been computerizing my song/lyric list. I keep finding songs that I forgot that I knew! Searching the name of most any artist gives you all of their discography. I find myself saying "Oh, I know that one, and that one". Of course some of these are not worthy of reviving, but it is keeping me pretty busy. I think my audience (especially regulars) are liking it.

Col. Andy
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Jul 4, 2005

Re: Relevance in the 21st Century - What are you playing these days?

--It is strange...I do a lot of songs from the 70's and 80's(20/30 year old songs)...were people in the 60's doing 30 year old songs??
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May 11, 2005

Re: Relevance in the 21st Century - What are you playing these days?

Well... I'm in the same boat as the rest of you guys... I tend to play the older songs that I liked when I was younger (60's thru the early 80's). However, I do listen for newer songs that I like and lend themselves to the type of solo music that I play (John Mayer comes to mind).
I play at a country club here in town [with a crowd about my age... only MUCH wealthier ;-)] and get lots of comments about how much they enjoy the choice of music.

On the other side of the coin, I recently played at a place where some of my friend's kids came... I was talking to them afterwards and one guy said " Boy, I only recognized one or two of the songs you played tonite." I asked "Which ones?"... turns out the ones he recognized were covered by a couple of the groups getting airplay now...

AS far as requests, I accomodate when I can (that's where the larger tips seem to come from)... and I also carry 8-10 copies of my playlist (song titles and artists) and if I don't know the request, I give the person requesting the song a copy of the list so that he/she can take a look and see if there's something else they might like to hear... works fairly well... helps to jog their memory...

I cringe when I remember this, but at one gig I overheard someone say "Who are the Beatles?"... go figure...

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Dec 14, 2003

Re: Relevance in the 21st Century - What are you playing these days?

I copied my song list from my official site below (sorry it's long). I have the ability to remember lyrics. I actually never realized that this was an 'ability' until I started playing with other musicians more often and found out that many can't do this so easily. I play about a hundred more songs than indicated in the list, but for commercial reasons I don't list them and stick to the meat of my material. I was interviewed recently by a Newport RI newspaper and I told the guy that I was concentrating on learning newer stuff, like Green Day. He said, "Well, they're not that new anymore". I laughed. He's right.

For me, a mostly solo performer who covers songs from bluegrass to rock and pop, it comes down to having to like a song and finding a way to identify with it most of the time. At the same time, I recognize that someone will want to hear American Pie or Sweet Caroline. Not my favorites to perform, but I've figured them out enough to get 'em done.

I write my own material and perform it. Doing the occasional song I don't like so much keeps me employed and let's me do my originals and the covers I like. When I do covers, I try to bring an original feel to the song while not reinventing it so much that people might get annoyed. I finally figured out James Taylor's Country Road after so many years of being too lazy to work out the fingerpicking on it. But at the end, you know where JT starts going, "na na na na na na na...."? I just add my own vocal there by stretching some notes out and going into head voice a bit. What I'm getting at is that I keep the majority of the tune intact but have some fun reworking the melody line a bit.

I can't sing some songs (like Delilah, ST) if I feel too uncomfortable with the age/experience thing. Someone once asked Johnny Cash how he could learn a modern tune and make it his own and he said something to the effect of, "Well, you just have to do it again and again until you own it". That's my approach. Recently, I've forged into previously untapped (for me) territory and acquired a Taylor T5 electric. I'm trying to learn some Stray Cats rockabilly stuff and use it for some upbeat numbers where I add some bass and drum tracks (about 80 percent of what I do is solo acoustic, minus the tracks but they do liven up the right venue if need be).

I love talking about this stuff. Can you tell?


Like a Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
Take it Easy - Eagles
Norwegian Wood - Beatles
Wild Night - Van Morrison
Margaritaville - Jimmy Buffett
Sweet Baby James - James Taylor
Down on the Corner - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Play Me Stairway to Heaven - Wayne Morrison
Mr. Bojangles - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Sympathy for the Devil - Rolling Stones
Babylon - David Gray
Gravity - John Mayer
No Woman, No Cry - Bob Marley
Rhode Island Blues - Wayne Morrison
I Will Follow You into the Dark - Death Cab For Cutie
Birthday - Beatles
Drift Away - Dobie Gray
In the Early Morning Rain - Gordon Lightfoot
A Pirate Looks at Forty - Jimmy Buffett
Let's Talk Dirty in Hawaiian - John Prine
Beautiful Boy - John Lennon
Third Rate Romance - Amazing Rhythm Aces
Who'll Stop the Rain - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Throw It Back - Wayne Morrison
A Boy Named Sue - Johnny Cash
I Won't Back Down - Tom Petty
The River - Bruce Springsteen
The Weight - The Band
I Got a Name - Jim Croce
Sitting, Waiting, Wishing - Jack Johnson
The Finish Line - Wayne Morrison
Angel From Montgomery - John Prine/Bonnie Raitt
Long Black Veil - The Band
Strawberry Fields Forever - Beatles
Soldier of Fortune - Wayne Morrison
Son of a Son of a Sailor - Jimmy Buffett
Handy Man - James Taylor
These Boots are Made for Walking - Nancy Sinatra
Father and Son - Cat Stevens
The House of the Rising Sun - Traditional Folk
That's Allright Mama - Elvis/Rod Stewart
Lodi - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Carmelita - Warren Zevon
A Whiter Shade of Pale - Procul Harum
Desperado - Eagles
My My Hey Hey - Neil Young
Blackbird - Beatles
Deja Vu All Over Again - John Fogerty
You Can Be a Star Just Like Me - Wayne Morrison
Working Class Hero - John Lennon/Green Day
Shake, Rattle and Roll - Bill Haley
Mustang Sally - Wilson Pickett
It Take a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry - Bob Dylan
Rocky Raccoon - Beatles
Bad Moon Risin' - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Lay Lady Lay - Bob Dylan
El Condor Pasa - Simon and Garfunkel
Unhappy Anniversary - Loudon Wainwright III
Across the Universe - Beatles
La Bamba - Richie Valens
Subterranean Homesick Blues - Bob Dylan
Why Don't We Get Drunk - Jimmy Buffett
Country Road - James Taylor
Angie - Rolling Stones
I Believe You Might See This Differently - Wayne Morrison
All Along the Watchtower - Bob Dylan
Peaceful, Easy Feeling - The Eagles
Dancing in the Dark - Bruce Springsteen
She Thinks I Still Care - James Taylor/George Jones
Wild Horses - Rolling Stones
Yellow - Cold Play
Cheeseburger in Paradise - Jimmy Buffett
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere - Byrds/Dylan
Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash
Wake Me Up When September Ends - Green Day
Man Smart, Woman Smarter - King Radio
Sunday Morning Coming Down - Kris Kristofferson
Looking East - Wayne Morrison
Memphis - Chuck Berry
Get Back - Beatles
Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan
Sunshine Superman - Donovan
Battle of New Orleans - Johnny Horton
Runaround Sue - Dion
The Wine Song - Wayne Morrison
Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Little Sister - Ry Cooder/Elvis
I Fought the Law - Bobby Fuller Four
I'll Never Write a Song for Me and You - Wayne Morrison
Domino - Van Morrison
Wagon Wheel - Old Crow Medicine Show
Fire on the Mountain - Marshall Tucker Band
Twist and Shout - Isley Bros./Beatles
Keep Your Hands to Yourself - Georgia Satellites
Jambalaya - John Fogerty/Hank Williams
Lori - Wayne Morrison
Hey Good Lookin' - Hank Williams
Help - Beatles
The Wedding Song - Paul Stookey
Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash
Sweet Home Rhode Island - lyrics by W. Morrison (apologies to Lynyrd Skynyrd)
I've Just Seen a Face - Beatles
What's Left Behind - Wayne Morrison
Volcano - Jimmy Buffett
Living on Tulsa Time - Eric Clapton
Behind Blue Eyes - The Who
Sloop John B. - Beach Boys
New York's Not My Home - Jim Croce
Ticket to Ride - The Beatles
Long Gone Lonesome Blues - Hank Williams/Sheryl Crow
Crazy Love - Van Morrison
Rain - Beatles
Have You Ever Seen Rain - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Fields of Gold - Sting
Jealous Guy - John Lennon
You're a Big Girl Now - Bob Dylan
All I Have To Do Is Dream - Everly Brothers
I Hear You Knockin' - Dave Edmunds
Cats in the Cradle - Harry Chapin
Come Together - Beatles
Havana Daydreaming - Jimmy Buffett
Out On the Weekend - Neil Young
Can You Hear Me Captain - Wayne Morrison
Pancho and Lefty - Jerry Jeff Walker/Merle Haggard/Willy Nelson
Honky Tonk Women - Rolling Stones
Fishin' Blues - Taj Mahal/Wayne Morrison
You've Got to Hide Your Love Away - Beatles
Just Another Town Along the Road - Jackson Browne
You Don't Mess Around With Jim - Jim Croce
My Hometown - Bruce Springsteen
Season of the Witch - Donovan
Kansas City Blues - Muddy Waters
Biloxi - Jimmy Buffett
Stir It Up - Bob Marley
Peggy Sue - Buddy Holly
Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley/Rufus Wainwright
Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison
Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road - Loudon Wainwright III
Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
On the Blue Train - Wayne Morrison
The Banana Republic - Steve Goodman/Jimmy Buffet
Someday Never Comes - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Our Country - John Mellencamp
Move it on Over - George Thorogood/Hank Williams
I Saw Her Standing There - The Beatles
The City of New Orleans - Arlo Guthrie
Imagine - John Lennon
Blue Suede Shoes - Elvis
Is She Really Going Out With Him - Joe Jackson
Green River - Creedence Clearwater Revival
Stuck in the Middle With You - Stealers Wheel
Fisherman Blues - The Waterboys
Saint James Bar Room - Traditional Blues
Steel Rail Blues - Gordon Lightfoot
Magnolia - J.J. Cale
Simple Kind of Man - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Up On Cripple Creek - The Band
Squeezebox - The Who
Square One - Tom Petty
Solitary Man - Neil Diamond
Instant Karma - John Lennon
Carolina In My Mind - James Taylor
Don't Let Me Down - The Beatles
Knocking on Heaven's Door - Bob Dylan
One Man Guy - Loudon Wainwright III
American Pie - Don McLean
I Walk the Line - Johnny Cash
In My Life - The Beatles
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight - Bob Dylan
What Light - Wilco
I'm Gonna Love You Like There's no Tomorrow - Peter Rowan
Ophelia - The Band
Play With Fire - Rolling Stones
Truckin' - The Grateful Dead
Losing My Religion - R.E.M.
Slip Slidin' Away - Paul Simon
I Will be the One - Wayne Morrison
Helplessly Hoping - Crosby, Stills & Nash
Broken Down Cowboy - John Fogerty
Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes - Jimmy Buffett
Good Riddance (I Hope You Had The Time Of Your Life) - Green Day
Jailhouse Rock - Elvis
The Pilgrim - Kris Kristofferson
Roadhouse Blues - The Doors
Positively 4th Street - Bob Dylan
Why Don't Ya Love Me - Hank Williams
The Wild Rover
Keep Your Hands Off Red-Haired Mary
Sailor's Prayer
The Galway Shawl
Wild Mountain Thyme
Dirty Old Town
Leave Her Johnny
You're Not Irish
What Will We Do With a Drunken Sailor
Mountain Dew
Whiskey in the Jar
Blow the Man Down
The Town I Loved so Well
The Grey Funnel Line
Molly Malone
The Leaving of Liverpool
Danny Boy
I'll Tell Me Ma
The Rare Auld Times
Bound for South Australia
Haul Boys Haul
Green Fields of France
Finnegan’s Wake
The Holy Ground
The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
The Parting Glass
By the Rising of the Moon
The Irish Rover
Pachebel's Canon in D
Ode to Joy
Sonata in A
The Wedding Chorus
Morrison's Pig
The Captain's Farewell
Saint Anne's Reel
Cattle in the Cane
The Road to Lisdoonvarna
Sailor's Hornpipe
Cookoo's Nest
Staten Island Hornpipe
Whiskey Before Breakfast
Darcy's Guitar
Red Haired Boy
Done Gone
Flop Eared Mule
Key to the Kingdom
Dueling Banjos
Dear Old Dixie
Banjo Signal
Cripple Creek
Rueben's Train
Brian Boru's March
Clinch Mountain Backstep
John Hardy
Fireball Mail
Theme Time
Jesus Maloney
Old Joe Clark
Wildwood Flower
Nashville Skyline Rag
Lonesome Road Blues
Foggy Mountain Breakdown

For the holidays, I perform a selection of seasonal tunes.

As for my bluegrass band, Looking East, we have a large catalog of traditional and modern songs and tunes available upon request.
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Sep 28, 2018

Re: Relevance in the 21st Century - What are you playing these days?

Hello jayare,
Yes, songs from the 30's 40's and 50's were being played in the sixties, but by older musician's than we were. I was 11 when I started playing and singing for nickles and dimes in corner bars in 1962.In these bars there were men in their 50's playng Hank Williams Sr. and the like on their song list. I was playing songs by the Animals,Kinks and such that that age group couldn't grasp. I learned quick that in order to please the crowd I had to learn the songs they were acustomed to. During this phase I learned music appreciation and still play some very old stuff I learned then and still like. Some day this 2000 music will be Classic 2000 to a whole new era of kids. The cycle goes on , life is great.
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Jun 30, 2004

Re: Relevance in the 21st Century - What are you playing these days?

There were actually some pretty big hits made out of songs from earlier generations. Remember "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" from the Platters?