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Jul 29, 2021 - 6:24:04 PM

2055 posts since 1/10/2004

Some of this used to annoy me, but not as much of a problem any more or I'm just not getting out much. Generally I will play a little FMB or even Ballad of Jed Clampett if asked in an informal setting, since it is a pretty rare request. I've played Rocky Top just to support a group that wanted to sing it, but not as a request. Dueling Banjos and "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" are irritating, silly requests that I will just brush off, as politely as I can.

Some people think being a Bluegrass banjo player is about sitting around perfecting these 3 or 4 cliche tunes. If they've heard of even those. But for these kinds of people seeing and hearing a banjo is often a real rarity and novelty, and these tired tunes are the only thing they can relate it to, so I at least understand where the request is coming from. The truth is I've hardly ever played these songs or found them very interesting, and can just get by due to lack of practice or interest.

Jul 29, 2021 - 6:44:12 PM
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70 posts since 5/8/2021

quote:
Originally posted by Nathan E

As a new banjo player, what are some good first songs to learn that don't fall into this cliché and won't make more experienced players roll their eyes?


I wouldn't worry about that. The thing is that a lot of the "standards" that you should learn (if you're doing three finger bluegrass) like Cripple Creek, Cumberland Gap, FMB, are probably on a lot of people's lists. I was so sick of Foggy Mountain Breakdown by the time I was ready to tackle it, but I still learned it. 

It's the same for bassoon. I'm sick to death of Sorcerer's Apprentice or the Mozart Concerto, but I still need to play and teach them. 

Honestly, if a more advanced player is rolling their eyes because you're a student learning a bluegrass standard, then that's a player to avoid at all costs. 

Edited by - struggle_bus on 07/29/2021 18:46:01

Jul 29, 2021 - 9:25:58 PM
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Jim Yates

Canada

6775 posts since 2/21/2007

"I'm sorry, we don't do that one, but here's one with a lot of the same notes that you might like."

Jul 30, 2021 - 9:31:22 AM
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171 posts since 4/19/2011

YES mister Yates! That is great line. But I have to confess that I am pleased when a member of the audience is interested enough in banjo or old time music to shout out a tune. I like to play something that isn't typical like Norwegian Wood or obscure like O Lud Gals when I get a Rocky Top request. Once Butch Wunderlich and I were playing in Defiance, MO and someone wanted Dueling Banjos so we grabbed our banjos, held them by the dowel sticks and I shouted "en garde" and we thrusted and parried. The audience loved it.

Jul 30, 2021 - 1:14:31 PM
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14230 posts since 10/30/2008

Newbies are expected to learn the standards, as part of earning their boney fides.

My personal non-favorite in a jam is "Sledd Ride" from the Osborne Brothers. It's an ok tune, but it's kinda long...the worst part is in most jams I've been in no one know how to pull the plug and end the dang thing!! Around and around you go, forever...

Jul 30, 2021 - 2:36:35 PM

Jbo1

USA

1045 posts since 5/19/2007
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If you are tired of playing "Dueling Banjos", take a listen to the Kruger Brothers' version. It will knock your jaded socks off. That is how you engage the audience.

Jul 30, 2021 - 2:50:36 PM

1 posts since 8/4/2019

It's a matter of degree. Last night, my bandmates introduced about four or more new tunes that I'd never heard before, and we struggled through the arrangements (oh, this is in G, but capoed four, and that makes it...uh...), and I played it open. And so forth. By the end of the evening I was more than happy to go back to a few old standards.

Jul 30, 2021 - 3:18:57 PM
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38 posts since 10/13/2011

I honestly don’t get tired of playing any one song…. There is always gonna be requests for Foggy Mountain Breakdown And Dueling Banjos…..

I have a weekly standing gig at a restaurant where we deploy a tip jar..

One evening I’d already played “Foggy” twice but this guy walked up and held a $100 bill over the tip jar and asked if I could play Foggy Mountain Breakdown.?.!.

In microseconds we were hip deep into the third round of “Foggy”..!!..

Whatever the audience wants I do if possible….. Thanks

Edited by - imforhim on 07/30/2021 15:21:59

Jul 30, 2021 - 3:35:21 PM

Enfield1858

England

128 posts since 8/1/2020

I remember reading that, in an interview, Artie Shaw said:
"'Begin the Beguine' is a pretty nice tune. But not when you have to play it 500 nights in a row."

Jul 30, 2021 - 3:40:32 PM

Enfield1858

England

128 posts since 8/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by The Old Timer

...the worst part is in most jams I've been in no one know how to pull the plug and end the dang thing!! Around and around you go, forever...


During their break, I was talking to a player in an English folk band about something that puzzled me; part way through a lengthy piece, one of them bellowed, "Take it HOME, boys!" - and the piece finished at the end of the verse.  He told me that it was one of those tunes you described - "and if we didn't do that, we'd be still playing the damn thing at closing time!"

Jack

Jul 31, 2021 - 12:11:19 AM
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6422 posts since 4/7/2003

I love all the aforementioned songs....maybe that's cause I can't play any of them.

Jul 31, 2021 - 4:02:43 AM
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Ivor

England

82 posts since 11/18/2020

I love all banjo music, however I’m not proficient in bluegrass yet, so Cripple Creek, Banjo in the Hollow and Foggy Mountain Breakdown are driving my wife bonkers, but at least she tells me I’m getting better.

When I used to play to audiences, mostly in pubs, I did get fed up playing some guitar stuff.

In a London music store years back, guitar buyers would be fined for playing Smoke on the Water or Stairway to Heaven!

Jul 31, 2021 - 5:09:36 AM
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190 posts since 11/25/2005

In my drumming days that would have been "Wipe-Out" . People don't know how exhausting that song is. Also, if I never play Old Time Rock and Roll again it will be too soon. Our bass player refused to play "Proud Mary" ever again....our guitar player was British and he was "done" with the Beatles, although occasionally "I saw her standing there" would make the rotation. I actually enjoyed that one. As a newb picker I don't mind those old standards....at least not yet. Oddly, I can't listen to the new Bela or Noam stuff because it's just way too far out there for me. I mean, I appreciate the talent to be sure and I understand that they too are sick of the standards...but I'm not...at least not yet.

Jul 31, 2021 - 5:50:23 AM
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Kevin S

USA

17 posts since 12/9/2018

Still a banjo newbie myself so I'm still ok with playing anything. However, if I had to pick one I'd be ok with shelving for a while, it would probably be I'll Fly Away.

In my years of playing keys in cover bands I've had my share of zany audience requests. Attached to this post is a humorous PDF I found on line called How to Request a Song. Enjoy!


Jul 31, 2021 - 5:59:07 AM

33 posts since 7/15/2008

Bluegrass is not the only genre plagued by this. Folks who don't frequent traditional Christian worship think the only songs sung by the faithful are Amazing Grace, or possibly, How Great Thou Art, and I Come To The Garden.
Maybe that's why outsiders in any situation, think those on the inside, are as ignorant as they are.

Jul 31, 2021 - 7:24:03 AM

hoodoo

Canada

800 posts since 10/6/2017

quote:
Originally posted by okbluegrassbanjopicker

When people ask me to “play” the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’.

The correct name for that tune is “The Ballad of Jed Clampett.”

“Play us some Dueling Banjos!”

 

“Can you play AC/DC?”

No.

 


Those dudes from Finland or wherever who played AC/DC on those six string banjos, as great and commendable a performance it was, it ruined it for the rest of us lol

Jul 31, 2021 - 8:02:50 AM
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chuckv97

Canada

59424 posts since 10/5/2013
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John Hartford once said “ if you ever write a hit song you’d better REALLY like it cuz you’ll have to play it every night”, referring to Gentle On My Mind.
Bobby Osborne says he’ll play Rocky Top every time, no problem,, absolutely, because it was huge in the Osbornes’ career. Earl got tired of the same old tunes,, Lester didn't. 

Edited by - chuckv97 on 07/31/2021 08:05:06

Jul 31, 2021 - 8:11:07 AM

190 posts since 11/25/2005

quote:That is hilarious and so on point. If I had a nickle for every time....although occasionally, if were a private party and it was the person paying us we would let them embarrass themselves as long as they wanted because it might mean a tip.
Originally posted by Kevin S

Still a banjo newbie myself so I'm still ok with playing anything. However, if I had to pick one I'd be ok with shelving for a while, it would probably be I'll Fly Away.

In my years of playing keys in cover bands I've had my share of zany audience requests. Attached to this post is a humorous PDF I found on line called How to Request a Song. Enjoy!


Jul 31, 2021 - 8:24:49 AM
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1861 posts since 2/28/2003

My personal philosophy:

" There are no boring songs, only boring musicians"

If you get tired of playing FMB or Cripple Creek or Ballad of Jed Clampett all the time, step up your game and try to make it more interesting. The audience probably won't notice, but it will keep you engaged. Change keys, syncopate, quote another tune in the middle, throw in that new bluesy lick you just learned, play the whole thing above the 12th fret, whatever it takes. That's a big part of what make it fun for me - expanding my boundaries and making it a little different every time. 

Béla Fleck playing Cripple Creek

Tony Trischka playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown

Jul 31, 2021 - 11:10:16 AM
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2055 posts since 1/10/2004

quote:
Originally posted by Dale Diehl

Bluegrass is not the only genre plagued by this. Folks who don't frequent traditional Christian worship think the only songs sung by the faithful are Amazing Grace, or possibly, How Great Thou Art, and I Come To The Garden.
Maybe that's why outsiders in any situation, think those on the inside, are as ignorant as they are.


Going off on a tangent here, but yeah.  I know the "Worship Wars" is a tired out subject.  But I spent years playing contemporary worship music in churches, and I don't even like it.  At all.  Old hymns and standards are fine, but I think what I prefer is just more of a gospel style of music with just a little hint of country, blues or jazz, sing-able, corporate, tasteful and with sane simple chord progressions instead of all the gratuitous droning minors, diminished, dominant, augmented, 15 chords in a song with the rock concert volume cranked until your ears bleed and the laser light show giving you a headache, blah, blah.  Before I pretty much gave up in disgust I found myself in a situation where the worship leaders would "humor us" old fogies (apparently) by throwing in some traditional music.  Which was pretty much always some truncated/mutilated version of I'll Fly Away (because why would you ever open a hymn book and try to read anything?) or some two or three other such tired old songs, and act like people should thank them.  I guess that's all they knew of as "traditional" worship.  But hey, I'm not bitter.  I just know that people who only like to have the lousy commercialized CWM racket they hear on the radio in church get what they want, and people who don't basically get lectured to in some fashion.  In the nicest most Christian way possible.

Jul 31, 2021 - 12:16:35 PM

800 posts since 10/4/2018
Online Now

I am happy if someone even knows the name of any bluegrass song. I am happy to play anything that is requested. If I am being paid to play, I couldn't imagine not playing something because it's beneath me or has been over-played...so I will at least play an abbreviated version of a song that I hate.

What makes me scratch my head is when people request songs that don't even have a banjo in it, or even one with a 6-string banjo. But I do love a challenge, and if I am familiar with the tune, I will give it that old college try.

Jul 31, 2021 - 9:59:53 PM
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Paul R

Canada

14980 posts since 1/28/2010

I get requests all the time.

That hasn't stopped me from getting up and playing, though.

Aug 1, 2021 - 7:42:52 AM

43 posts since 10/12/2018

quote:
Originally posted by sdfarris

My personal philosophy:

" There are no boring songs, only boring musicians"

If you get tired of playing FMB or Cripple Creek or Ballad of Jed Clampett all the time, step up your game and try to make it more interesting. The audience probably won't notice, but it will keep you engaged. Change keys, syncopate, quote another tune in the middle, throw in that new bluesy lick you just learned, play the whole thing above the 12th fret, whatever it takes. That's a big part of what make it fun for me - expanding my boundaries and making it a little different every time. 

Béla Fleck playing Cripple Creek

Tony Trischka playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown


I'm only 3 years in, and that's what I'm already doing with Cripple Creek.  I can play the A part 6 ways, and the B part 4 ways.  Mix and mash those, and it keeps me on my toes.

Aug 1, 2021 - 9:31:32 AM
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banjoy

USA

9847 posts since 7/1/2006

Just to clarify my earlier post, when I joked about playing Stairway To Heaven, I never said we didn't perform the song requested. It's just having fun with the audience, and they never failed to "get it" ... and have a good laugh at no one's expense.

And I actually enjoy those tunes, including -- gasp -- Wagon Wheel. There, I said it. I like that tune, no matter what Darius Rucker did to try to make me dislike it LOL. But, I like the way I play it over any other version I've heard. So like most tunes, once I get 'em under my fingers, I try to make them mine. I'm not a living banjo automaton, I'm a musician. That keeps it fresh for me.

When I was 10 years old in 1970 I went on a fishing trip with a friend and his family, and the drunken uncle (literally) had just bought the 8-track tape of the Osbourn Brothers and let that tape play all night long on his car 8-track player with the volume blasting. So the year Rocky Top was released, I heard it 200 times in one night if I heard it once. Still, I like the tune and will play it, when the moon is right and the stars align properly, or if someone else wants to sing it, I'm in. But I lived in east Tennessee and that song is pretty much spot on. Mostly the part about folks gettin' their corn from a jar ... yep.

Edited by - banjoy on 08/01/2021 09:34:11

Aug 2, 2021 - 3:28:35 PM

138 posts since 2/1/2005

There was a thread like this on the old Banjo-L and also on the old AcuTab forums about 20 years ago. At that time, there was a lot of downright animosity towards Foggy Mountain Breakdown. I ran into people at jam sessions (still do) that if you said, "Let's play FMB," they would refuse and insist on playing "Bluegrass Breakdown" instead. This struck me as being quite odd. I'll explain why.

First off, I'm a professional entertainer. Music is one of the things that kept a roof over my head and food on the table for the past 60 years of my life. And when you are a professional, you MUST please your audience. Foggy Mountain Breakdown was one of the first tunes I learned on the 5-string. I learned the first couple of parts from the Pete Seeger book, then got the rest of it off of the Mercury/Starday recording. There was no complete tab of it anywhere. So I put in a lot of time just to get the song right. That was about 1963.

Now, bluegrass has not been the number one favored music in my part of the country. However, I persevered and played a few selections that I had down cold in just about every group I worked with. Why? People requested them. When "Bonnie and Clyde" came out, the audience learned about FMB and requested it. So I played it. And they liked it.

This may seem funny to all of the folks on the hangout, but take it from me, 90% of the great mass of people do not know how to play a 5-string banjo. But a lot of them know FMB. They might call it "Bonnie and Clyde," but you know exactly what I mean.

Hold that thought for a second. When this discussion came up on the old fora, I talked to my father about his. Right after the second world war, while he was getting his music studio up and running, he had a strolling gig every weekend at the Corinthian Yacht Club in Kemah, TX. This was an 80 mile round trip for him, but he went down there Friday and Saturday night. He was a classical pianist who doubled on accordion. At the time, "Beer Barrel Polka" and "Lady of Spain" were the two most requested numbers that an accordionist would receive a request for. I asked him what he did when someone requested these two old "chestnuts."

His reply confirmed some things that I felt and added to them a bit as well. He said, "I was always glad to get those two requests, because I knew both of the songs. And I usually got a five buck tip." In 1947, five bucks was a REALLY GOOD tip!!!

He then explained it to me this way. The people in the audience are the people you are working for. They don't know what an accordion is. They don't know what a 5-string banjo is. But they are fascinated with them. And they know that Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Dueling Banjos and The Ballad of Jed Clampett are things people who are good 5 string banjo players are supposed to know. So, in order to let you know that they are "in the know," they request things that they think are "yardsticks" of a performer's skill. They are trying to make a connection with you the only way they know how.

So, in order to use these old "chestnuts" as effectively as possible, I would follow FMB or Dueling Banjos with something a little less known. One of these was a medley of Earl's Breakdown, Flint Hill Special and Foggy Mountain Chimes.

I trained my audience well. They would request "Bonnie and Clyde," "Deliverance," and "That one where you twist the keys." They might not have gotten the names right, but they had made their connection.




I got a j

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