The Essential Country Song List

This is Bob Hempker with today’s newsletter which is the last one before Christmas. We will be closed on Christmas Eve so there won’t be a newsletter on Monday.

We sometimes forget the newer players that read this newsletter as I was reminded when I was asked the following question.

What are the essential songs I need to learn before I join a country band?

Usually when you start playing, clubs are your first venture out into the public arena. There are some standard country dance songs that you need to learn. I’ll also suggest you learn them in several different keys in order to play them with different singers.

There are several standard 4/4 shuffles almost everybody plays. These are a good starting point for your repertoire.

Crazy Arms by Ray Price
Heartaches By The Number by Ray Price
Big City by Merle Haggard

You need to learn a few waltz tunes. The Tennessee Waltz works great, especially if you have an older crowd. Here are some more.

I Always Get Lucky With You by George Jones
You Look So Good In Love by George Strait
There Goes My Everything by Jack Green
Rose Colored Glasses by John Conlee
Waltz Across Texas by Ernest Tubb
Hello Darlin’ by Conway Twitty

You need to learn a few slow country ballads.

Today I Started Loving You Again by Merle Haggard
Your Cheatin’ Heart by Hank Williams
Cold, Cold Heart by Hank Williams
Amarillo By Mornin’ by George Strait
Make The World Go Away by Eddy Arnold
Don’t Close Your Eyes by Keith Whitley
Together Again by Buck Owens
Behind Closed Doors by Charlie Rich
Silver Wings by Merle Haggard

Somebody in just about every crowd is going to want to hear some Johnny Cash. Folsom Prison Blues and Ring Of Fire are the two most requested ones.

You need a few pop/crossover tunes under your belt.

Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry
Kansas City by Wilbert Harrison
Mustang Sally by Wilson Pickett
Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
Gimme Three Steps by Lynyrd Skynyrd

A lot of country bands hate those songs but will play them for someone who puts money in the tip jar.

You need up-tempo songs for the dancers in the crowd.

Jambalaya by Hank Williams Sr.
Workin’ Man Blues by Merle Haggard
Boot Scootin’ Boogie by Brooks and Dunn
Liza Jane by Vince Gill
Tulsa Time by Don Williams
The Fireman by George Strait
Unwound by George Strait
Guitars, Cadillacs and Hillbilly Music by Dwight Yoakam
Rainy Day Woman by Waylon Jennings
Good Hearted Woman by Waylon Jennings
Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way by Waylon Jennings
Act Naturally by Buck Owens
I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink by Merle Haggard
Oh Lonesome Me by Don Gibson

You want a few swing tunes in the mix.

The South’s Gonna Do It Again by Charlie Daniels
Route 66 by Asleep At The Wheel
San Antonio Rose by Bob Wills

A couple of cha-cha type tunes often requested are Neon Moon by Brooks and Dunn and Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet.

Bluesy type things like Night Life by Ray Price are often requested.

It’s pretty much mandatory to be able to play You Never Even Called Me By My Name by David Allan Coe even though I hate the song personally.

I would encourage you also to categorize songs by artists because so often you’ll hear somebody in the audience yell out, “Play some Jones!” So here’s a quick list of requested artists.

George Jones, Hank Williams Sr., Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Conway Twitty, Ray Price, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Don Gibson, Tom T. Hall, Ronnie Milsap, Don Williams, Johnny Paycheck, Johnny Cash, Vern Gosdin, Alan Jackson, Alabama, Garth Brooks and Charlie Rich.

This list if meant to apply to a classic country bar band which is the type of band most likely to employ you. If this isn’t enough to get your started, then send me an email after you learn all of these songs and I’ll give you some more!

In the meantime, let me insert this blatant plug for the Tascam GB-10 to help you learn these songs. Follow the link and you’ll find out all the ways it can help you.

We also put up a video on YouTube so you can see it in action.

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Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
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3 Responses to The Essential Country Song List

  1. smartalek says:

    I’m a listener, not a player.
    A music lover with a lot of appreciation, but less.than no talent.
    People.who.get that I live for the tunage are usually shocked.that I can’t play but one instrument — the stereo.
    This is a great resource for the fans, too, not just the pros, and I thank you deeply for it.
    Might please you to know you’re one of the top five hits on a Google search for “”
    Ya done good.

  2. Ronnie says:

    Thanks for that list , very helpful

  3. Hi, thanks for this great playlist of essential pedal steel for players. I’ve re-created it on Spotify for anyone who want’s to listen now.

    Essential Pedal Steel for Players Playlist

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