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Tunes to know for blues jams - HELP!

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by peteroberts, Nov 14, 2003.

  1. I need a crash course in blues...I've heard the names (Freddie, Albert, and B.B. King; Albert Collins, Sonny Boy Williamson, etc) but am not too familiar with the songs. I can play a one-four-five, but that doesn't mean I can cover a blues gig. What songs are a must know at a blues jam?


    Mar 12, 2003
    USA, PNW
  3. mjw


    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    Ever watch "The Blues Brothers"?

    If not, check it out. (even the sequel)

    Great stuff, IMO.... especially their rendition of Sweet Home Chicago. Of course, I was born and grew up there, so I *have* to say that! :)
  4. Hey Pete,

    Hard to do a crash course. Ones that I run into a lot:
    Big Boss Man
    Baby What You Want Me To Do
    Big Road Blues
    Born Under A Bad Sign
    Diving Duck Blues
    Kansas City
    Little Sister
    Nobody Knows You When Your Down And Out
    Rock Me Baby
    Statesboro Blues
    Stormy Monday
    Sweet Home Chicago
    Who Do You Love
    All the songs on Clapton's From The Cradle

    There are a bunch that follow simple I-IV-V patterns. But even in those there are variations (mainly rhythm, when you go to the IV and if you use the VI or VII in your line). Some of these have signature licks you have to cop in order for the song to sound right (Born Under A Bad Sign). Rhythm variations include straight, shuffle, Texas shuffle, jump, Bo Diddly, New Orleans R&B and New Orleans "mambo".

    Then there are ones use more complex chord variations (and substitutions) and song forms. Ohers add bridges (usually going to the IV). Some folks write off the blues as simple, emotional music, boring for a bassplayer. Once past the surface you'll find enough variations to keep you busy for years.

    When you get a list, give me a ring and I can hook you up with some of these.

    edited to add some more
  5. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    There may be some repetition here with Joe Atlanta's excellent list. I'm just recalling blues songs off the top of my head that are pretty much blues standards:

    Sweet Home Chicago
    Crosscut Saw
    Bright Eyes; Big City
    Stormy Monday
    The Thrill Is Gone
    Born Under a Bad Sign
    The Sky Is Crying
    Red House
    Shame, Shame, Shame
    Sweet Little Angel
    Why I Sing the blues
    Every Day I Have the Blues
    Mannish Boy
    Story of the Blues
    Separate Ways
    A Quitter Never Wins
    Frankie and Johhny
    Cherry Red
    Mean Old World
    Texas Flood
    Further On Up the Road
    Trouble No More
    Pride and Joy
    Mary Had a Little Lamb
    Little Wing
    Green Onions
    Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom (Gonna Shoot You Right Down)
    Smokestack Lightening
    Hoochie Coochie Man
    Let the Good Times Roll
    Rock Me Baby
    Flip, Flop and Fly
    Pity the Fool
    I'll Play the Blues for You
    Got My Mojo Working
    Who Do You Love?
    Kansas City
    Baby, Please Don't Go
    If Trouble Was Money
    Down Home Blues
    And that is just for starters......
  6. thanks so much guys! Joe, I will be giving you a call...
  7. Metal Mitch

    Metal Mitch

    Jul 14, 2003
    Word! When I was doing that gig, I knew about a dozen different ways to play a shuffle.
    Yep, also slow blues, scuffle (an up shuffle with a 12/8 feel), and sluffle (cross between slow blues and a shuffle).

    And a few more very common songs to know -

    Ain't Superstitious
    Dust My Broom
    Little Red Rooster
    Damn Right I've got the Blues
    Night Train
    Help Me (same as Further On)
    Route 66
    Messin' with The Kid
    Sleepwalk (Frankie & Johnny?)

    and some less common but good ones -

    San Jose
    Natural Ball
    Sassie Mae (same as SRV's Empty Arms)
    Pretty Woman
    Serves You Right to Suffer
    Chicken Shack
    Things I Used to Do
    All Your Love I Miss Lovin'
    As the Years Go Passin' By

    Man, this has got me itchin' to dust off the old P-bass and hit some blues jam nights... thx guys!
  8. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    If you can learn the styles that the bandleader favors (I don't know all these, but know others that may be different names for the same thing), then you can nod, smile and follow just about anything.

    That's not to reduce blues to the over-simple model that Joe Atlanta rejects... but -- it is where you start out as a blues bassist trying to get through a gig. If you're like me, that's as far as you'll want to go -- but as Joe points out, you can go much further...

  9. Thor

    Thor Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    One of the best blues lists I've seen.

    I only know 60% of them well, can fake another
    20, DAMM, I have to go learn more, and at my age, well.

    I'll get it done.

    Ignore that mule post he is full of donkey
    stuff ...

  10. I think you are on the wrong track here. To participate in blues jams does not require that you know a squillion songs. The basic requirements are the ability to play slow and fast blues shuffles, slow 12/8, and a couple of variations on the standard 1,4,5 form, such as a 2,5,1 turnaround. 95% of the songs called will be in one of these formats. Blues jams are a place to have fun, and to get to know other musos. No-one is gonna chew you out for not knowing something, it's one of the best avenues for learning there is. I would suggest learning maybe 3 or 4 of the songs listed above (pick the ones that posters have doubled up on), and get yourself off to jam night. Even if those particular songs dont get called, that knowledge will get you through most everything else.
    cchorney likes this.
  11. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I'm with Marty. Often at jams instead of telling you what the song actually is they will call it by key and groove.

    For example "slow B.B." is different than "slow T-Bone" or "slow Muddy", "Texas march" is different than "Chicago march", etc. So when shedding for jams, skip working out new songs that are similar to ones you already know.

    My advice is go to a used CD store and get every "best of" or "greatest hits" you can find, one each of the usual big names and listen to them a lot.

    Tips for when you're at the jam: ANY song that you train wreck on, as soon as you get off the stage ask onew of the players who DID know the tune to explain it to you. Jot down song titles and artist names you're unfamiliar with. Hang with the other bassists (esp. the host bassist) and pick their brains about tunes. Bring a small cassette or minidisc and record stuff so you can work it out later at home.
  12. Good advice, guys. That list was getting a bit overwhelming. If you can feel the groove, the changes aren't usually too hard to cop. And if you listen to the rhythm guitar you can often figure out whether or not to use a sixth or a seventh (or both) in your line. I really like the idea of buying a bunch of "Best OF" CDs to get a grounding. One of the reasons I recommend the Clapton CD From The Cradle is the rhythmic variety (plus many guitarists study it) .

    There are tunes (or versions of tunes) with "signature" bass lines or ostinato ( Born Under A Bad Sign, Crossroads-Cream version, etc). Depending on the popularity of the song at the jam, it can help to know the exact line (otherwise folks look at you funny ;) ). You wouldn't need a million of these, just a few of the most popular ones. You could probably just ask whoever is running the jam which of these get played a lot.
  13. marc40a


    Mar 20, 2002
    Boston MA
    I disagree w/ Marty. While he's on the right track about "styles" as opposed to songs. I feel like there's more to it than just shuffles and 2-5 turnarounds. As mentioned before there's rhumbas, swings, straight 1/8th, texas 12/8, Gospel type 12/8, Chicago etc...

    You should become familiar w/ the terms:
    "quick four"
    "long one"

    There's also songs w/ signature turnarounds, chord progressions and stops.

    The Thrill...
    Stormy Monday
    Kansas City..etc...
  14. marc40, I don't think Marty's post contradicts what you are saying. Sure, there's a lot of styles, feels, stops, chord substitutions to be learned if you really want to get into it (about the only feel/style I haven't heard called at a blues jam is a "Bird" blues :D ).

    Although I've been playing blues most of my musical life, I'm no expert. But the point is you don't have to know it all to participate in a jam.

    Like tunes with signature ostinato, songs with chord variations and substitutions can vary in popularity from jam to jam. So you don't have to learn them all to get started, just what is most likely to happen. Again, I think it's a good idea to ask the guy running the jam.

    With stops I usually ask if there are any before the tune starts and ask to be cued if I'm not familiar with them.

    I'm not familiar with those myself (unless you are talking about chords), could you elaborate?
  15. Metal Mitch

    Metal Mitch

    Jul 14, 2003
    I think any good bandleader will be calling the key & groove before the song, and cueing people for any stops etc.

    Joe, I think you're on track with your guess about the chord thing. "Long one" meaning stay on the one for 8 instead of 4, etc etc. But I haven't heard those terms used either.

    BTW, by "straight" blues, did you mean slow blues? I wonder why they call that "straight" when the vast majority of blues songs are shuffles...

    Secretdonkey, it's true most bandleaders will favor a few styles and not play much else. Most every blues band only has 3 main things they do - shuffle, slow blues and a 3rd groove, which is usually either swing, funk, new orleans style, or oldies rock'n'roll style. But at a jam session you'll run into a lot more variation depending on who gets up.
  16. marc40a


    Mar 20, 2002
    Boston MA
    Yes, they refer to chords. It's just terminology for stuff that you've probably played hundreds of times. Basically a tune w/ a "quick four" is a tune that jumps to the IV for the second bar as opposed to 4 bars of the I chord.

    On most all 12/8 slow blues the "quick four" is assumed.

    So if someone calls out a "shuffle, swing or rhumba in G" I would ask if it had a "quick four."

    Now you'd think that a "long one" would be the opposite of the "quick four" but it actually refers to tunes where the change to the 4 chord is cued vocally like "Close to You Baby." - in this case it's the cue is after the 4th vocal line.

    On a tune w/ a "long one" you'd just stay on the one until you're cued by the vocal.

    Yeah, I basically agree w/ Marty but I initially felt that he was understating the complexity a bit. I was fearful of him perpetuating the "I know a I,IV, V, so yeah, I know blues" attitude which is such a popular misconception among people who don't have experience w/ the artform. I understand where he's coming from now.

    I was just trying to give some insight into the hurdles that the original poster will definitely encounter. So when it happens, at least he's heard of these things before.

    But yeah, Marty's right in the sense that the most valuable learning will take place on the bandstand and all of the best guys are they guys who got knocked down, did their homework, and came back to get yet another curve ball thrown at them...repeat, repeat, repeat...etc.

    I dig Marty's attitude of "do some prep and just jump in and play - the learning and comradery will follow."
  17. marc40a


    Mar 20, 2002
    Boston MA
    By a 'straight' feel I meant on like those found on A Thrill is Gone, or Born Under a Bad Sign. The 1/8th note feel on both is straight as opposed to shuffled, or swung.
  18. marc40a


    Mar 20, 2002
    Boston MA
    Come to think of it..even the 'Chuck Berry feel' is a straight 1/8th feel.... though it would normally be referred to as a "Chuck Berry Feel"

    same w/ a rhumba.
  19. could someone give me songs off the list as examples of the styles? i.e. 'Stormy Monday' is a slow blues, this one is a Texas March, etc...thanks! Great info in the thread.
  20. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    You have to be aware that many slow blues are minor blues. Any song can be played slowly. Be sure if by "slow blues" the band with whom you are jamming mean minor blues.