Ever wonder what the most popular tunes are at jam sessions around the world?
Me too… so I did some super scientific research (i.e. I asked a bunch of people) and got the de facto list of the “Top 20 Most Played Blues Jam Tunes.”
There were over 460 responses! So it’s a safe bet that if you know these tunes and can play over them, you’ll be fine walking into any open jam night.
So without further delay, here they are along with the most used recording (not necessarily who wrote it.) While I was at it, I put some suggestions on what lesson from Blues Guitar Unleashed would be the most helpful in playing that song. (I don’t generally teach songs note for note, but I get pretty darn close a lot…)
- The Thrill Is Gone – BB King ( use lesson 11 in Blues Guitar Unleashed and solo 2.)
- Red House – Jimi Hendrix (the intro is just a 7th chord from lesson 1 played 1 note at a time, the rest is lesson 8, blues in G… but probably moved to they key of Bb or B. Solo 4 will work great.)
- Stormy Monday – The Allman Brothers (Lesson 7, Solo 4.)
- Crossroads – Cream/Clapton (Lesson 8, blues in A for the rhythm, Solo 1 for the lead.)
- Pride & Joy – SRV (Lesson 10 for the rhythm, solo 6 if you want to really melt some faces 🙂
- Hey Joe – Hendrix (this song isn’t actually a blues and therefore is a little outside the scope even though it comes up fairly regularly it appears.)
- Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry (Lesson 8 for the rhythm, and there’s a great solo for it in 5 Easy Blues Solos. You could also adapt Solo 1 or Solo 2 for this tune.)
- Tore Down – Clapton or Freddie King (Lesson 6 for the rhythm, Solos 3 or 5 work great.)
- Hoochie Koochie Man – Muddy Waters (The signature riff is a pentatonic scale from Lesson 15, Solo 4 would work great for a solo, or slow down solos 5 or 6.)
- Sweet Home Chicago – Blues Brothers (basically the same as pride and joy, lesson 10 for rhythms and solo 3, 5 or 6.)
- Key To The Highway – Clapton (This is an 8 bar blues which is a bit more unusual and isn’t in Blues Guitar Unleashed, but it’s simple and I cover it here.)
- Before You Accuse Me – Clapton (lesson 8 blues in E for the rhythm, solo 6 would work great.)
- House Of The Rising Sun – Animals (this is actually covered in Acoustic Blues Guitar Unleashed.)
- Sweet Home Chicago – Clapton (his version is slower than the Blues Brothers version)
- Statesboro Blues – Allman Brothers (lesson 6 for rhythm, solo 3, 5, or 6.)
- Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett (while not technically a blues… Buddy Guy played it.)
- Mary Had A Little Lamb – SRV (not a straight blues, but close. This isn’t covered in Blues Guitar Unleashed but I did a thing on it on Youtube.)
- Texas Flood – SRV (basically this is the same slow blues as before. But I did the intro here.)
- Roadhouse Blues – The Doors (basically a shuffle in E except the main riff. Lessons 1 and 2 will get you the groove. This isn’t a straight 12 bar blues.)
- Keep Your Hands To Yourself – Georgia Satellites (Blues in A, lesson 8, for the rhythm, solo 1 for the lead.)
Some surprises to me, but many were as I expected having been to and hosted hundreds of jam sessions over the years.
Now how, you might ask, would you go practicing your soloing chops over these tunes when you don’t have a band available to play with at your beck and call?
Great question! And the answer, of course, is Jam Tracks – good ones (and I’ve got plenty.)
Here’s a video of me playing over one of the tracks from Ultimate Blues Jams (in the style of “Big Legged Woman” by one of my favorites, Freddie King) so you can get a feel for how these work… but there are plenty of options out there:
You might also want to check out a site called Karaoke Version where they have some tracks that are pretty close to dead copies of popular tunes… and of course doing a search for jam tracks or backing tracks on YouTube also often yields quite a few options.
Also, try GuitarBackingTrack.com – they aren’t always the best versions, but the price is right and sometimes they sound pretty good.