If you have ever been to a bluegrass festival, you might be aware of the late-night picking circles that bring all sort of musicians out into the night to play music together. A bluegrass picking circle usually only includes acoustic instruments – often seen with a guitar, upright bass, mandolin, banjo, or dobro. You can sometimes catch a less-than-traditional instrument join a bluegrass pick like a flute or clarinet but that is not nearly as common.

If you are just beginning your musical journey into playing with strangers or want to build your repertoire, then here is a list of songs that we believe are some of the most popular songs in bluegrass picking circles.

Keep in mind that this list is just from personal experience of playing in bluegrass circles for the past 15+ years and may include many unknown songs and could be missing many other popular songs. Each song is ranked from 1-5 based on popularity (5 being the most played) and includes the original artist and common musical key.

Many of these songs are from popular traditional bluegrass artists – which is a fantastic place to start learning your own songs to bring to a bluegrass pick. A great place to start would be to browse the archives of Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, John Hartford, and Ralph Stanley.

Some of the examples below are also songs that are originally created in jazz, blues, and other musical genres but include the original bluegrass artist instead. Finally, any song with a star next to it is a song that is considered by many musicians to be overplayed. (i.e., I hear “I Know You Rider” at least once at every pick.)


Popular Jam Songs for Bluegrass Picking Circles


Key of G

Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms [Traditional] – Flatt and Scruggs (5*)

Little Maggie [Traditional] – Ralph Stanley (5)

Foggy Mountain Breakdown [Instrumental] – Earl Scruggs (3)

Foggy Mountain Special [Instrumental] – Earl Scruggs (2)

Earl’s Breakdown [Instrumental] – Earl Scruggs (2)

Charlotte County Breakdown [Instrumental] – Don Reno (1)

Dear Ol’ Dixie [Instrumental] – Flatt and Scruggs (2)

Nine Pound Hammer [Traditional] – Tony Rice (5)

Big Sciota [Traditional, Instrumental] – Burl Hammons (4)

Blackberry Blossom [Traditional, Instrumental] – Norman Blake (5)

Turn Your Radio On – Ray Stevens (Bluegrass Version – John Hartford) (2)

Catfish John – Bob McDill (Bluegrass Version – Old & in the Way) (3)

Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC (1)

Sitting on Top of the World [Traditional] – Mississippi Sheiks (5)

Squeezebox – The Who (1)

Ramblin’ Man – The Allman Brothers Band (1)

In Heaven, There is No Beer [Polka Traditional] – Ernst Neubach (1)

Cabin in Caroline – Earl Scruggs (2)

Friend of the Devil – Grateful Dead (5*)

Dang Girl – Mountain Sprout (1)

The Hobo Song – Old & in the Way (2)

Pig in a Pen – Bill Monroe (3)

Salty Dog – Flatt & Scruggs (4)

Cripple Creek [Traditional] – Skillet Lickers (1)

White Freightliner – Townes Van Zandt (5)

Dust in a Baggie – Billy Strings (2)

Steam Powered Aereo Plane – John Hartford (5)


Key of A

Cherokee Shuffle [Traditional, Instrumental] – Tommy Jackson (5)

Salt Creek [Traditional, Instrumental] – Bill Monroe and His Bluegrass Boys (5)

Red Haired Boy [Traditional, Instrumental] – The Flanagan Brothers (5)

Bill Cheatham [Instrumental] – Tony Rice (2)

Clinch Mountain Backstep [Instrumental] – Ralph Stanley (5)

Shenandoah Breakdown [Instrumental] – Jerry Douglas (1)

Wheelhoss [Instrumental] – Bill Monroe (1)

Home of the Red Fox [Instrumental] – Bill Emerson (2)

Time – Pink Floyd (2)

Midnight Moonlight – Old & In the Way (4)

Take the Money and Run – Steve Miller Band (1)

Traffic Jam – Yonder Mountain String Band (1)

Mr. Charlie – Grateful Dead (3)

Spirit in the Sky – Norman Greenbaum (1)

Going Down the Road Feeling Bad [Traditional] – Grateful Dead (3)

Tell it to Me – Old Crow Medicine Show (3)

Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show (Written by Bob Dylan) (5*)

Going to the Races – Stanley Brothers (2)

Up on the Hill Where They Do the Boogie – John Hartford (3)

Bugle Call Rag – Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys (1)


Key of C

Good Lovin’ – Grateful Dead (1)

Billy in the Lowground [Traditional] – Lowe Stokes and Riley Puckett (3)

Blue Moon of Kentucky – Bill Monroe (3)

Ole Slewfoot – Johnny Horton (3)


Key of D

Whiskey Before Breakfast [Traditional, Instrumental] – Norman Blake (5)

Lonesome Fiddle Blues [Instrumental] – Vassar Clements (5)

Goodle Days – John Hartford (1)

Angel – Yonder Mountain String Band (1)

Runaround Sue – Dion and the Belmonts (1)

I Know Your Rider – Grateful Dead (5*)

The Train that Carried my Girl from Town – Doc Watson (2)

John Henry – Earl Scruggs (3)


Key of B

Unwanted Love – Johnson Mountain Boys (2)

Slow Train – Billy Strings (1)

Love Please Come Home – Leon Jackson (5)

Ain’t Nobody Gunna Miss Me – Cowboy Copas (Great Version by Tony Rice) (3)


Key of F

Call Me Al – Paul Simon (1)


Key of E

Can’t Get No Better – John Hartford (4)


Key of Em

Southern Flavor [Instrumental] – Bill Monroe (3)

E.M.D. [Instrumental] – David Grisman (4)

Vamp in the Middle – John Hartford (2)


jam songs


Final Thoughts for all the Bluegrass Pickers

Some of these songs are obviously not bluegrass songs (Yes, AC/DC – I am looking at you) but we felt they were great additions to turn into bluegrass-picking songs. They act as a great buffer of fast picking and audience engagement rather than just playing traditional bluegrass songs.

Is there a song that you believe should be on this list? Please, feel free to let us know in the comments below! We would love to hear what songs you think should be added to this list and we can continue to grow and have it as the ultimate resource for new and experienced players interested in playing in bluegrass picking circles.