How Old is “Old”?

Being a DJ who is well into his 40′s I’ve been feeling the need to defend reception “guests of age” lately. I hear it all the time when I’m consulting with wedding clients (many of whom seem young enough to be my own kids) at Jerry Bruno Productions. “A lot of our guests will be older. You know…in their 40′s, 50′s & 60′s. So please be sure to play some stuff for them, like Big Band music and Frank Sinatra stuff.”

Gulp.

Attention young brides and grooms….”old” people ain’t so old. It’s more a matter of you being so young! I mean, what kind of one-foot-in-the-grave, granny knitting in a rocking chair, old fart-type stuff do you think your “older” guests are into?

Let me shed some light…

It’s true that our country is aging. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily getting “old”. Baby Boomers – people born between 1945 and 1964 – represent one of the largest demographic groups in America today. Boomers were coming of age during the Vietnam War, Beatlemania and Woodstock. The Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, sexual freedom and drug experimentation were all significant hallmarks of this generation. A Baby Boomer who was just 20 years old in 1969 (the Summer of Love) was not “square” by any means then, and now that that person is 63 in 2012, some would say they’re cooler than ever.

A Wikipedia note tells the musical story of the Baby Boomers well: “The baby boomers found that their music, most notably rock and roll, was another expression of their generational identity. Transistor radios were personal devices that allowed teenagers to listen to The Beatles and The Motown Sound.”

Take a look at the Billboard Year-End Top Ten Hits of 1967 (when someone who is 65 years old now was just 20 years old):

1 “To Sir, with Love” Lulu
2 “The Letter” The Box Tops
3 “Ode to Billie Joe” Bobbie Gentry
4 “Windy” The Association
5 “I’m a Believer” The Monkees
6 “Light My Fire” The Doors
7 “Somethin’ Stupid” Frank & Nancy Sinatra
8 “Happy Together” The Turtles
9 “Groovin’” The Young Rascals
10 “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” Frankie Valli

The Doors? The Monkees? The Turtles? That’s a far cry from the hits of Glen Miller, Doris Day or even Bill Haley & the Comets that many young brides & grooms seem to associate with their “older” guests. If one of your guests was 25 years old during the height of the disco craze in 1978, they’re 59 now and probably would enjoy waxing nostalgic to the sounds of Donna Summer, KC & the Sunshine Band or the Bee Gees. Hell, even I get a little bent out of shape whenever I tune into an “oldies” radio station and hear hits from the 80′s – my coming of age years. How can they possibly be “oldies”??

To put things even further into perspective, here are a few well-known celebrities who are turning 50 this year:
Sheryl Crow – 2/11
Jon Bon Jovi – 3/2
Rosie O’Donnell – 3/21
Tom Cruise – 7/3
Axl Rose – 2/6
Garth Brooks – 2/7
Paula Abdul – American Idol – 6/19
Matthew Broderick – 3/21
Joan Cusack – 10/ 11
Kelly Preston 10/13
Jodie Foster – 11/19
Felicity Huffman – 12/9

“Old” not looking so old? The point is that seniors are more active than ever. They have spending power, they are internet savvy and they know good entertainment when they see it. Of course so much music really is timeless and is loved by people of all ages, including the early hits of the 40′s and 50′s.  And of course jazz and vocal standards will always have a place during cocktail and dinner hours. But when it comes to dancing, we all have to work to keep the dance floor full for your reception. The key to success is knowing who your guests really are and what they really like – especially musically.

Even the ones on Social Security.

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Comments

  1. Very Well Spoken! Love it!

  2. I think my age (62) is a big advantage for me in the wedding business. I relate far better to the average guest at a wedding that the 20 something millenials. Plus I have a mature (and well trained) voice that is well liked by all of my clients. You also see that many of the current artists are using clips or mixes of the songs of the 50′s 60′s and 70′s today.

  3. Another eye opening article. Well done Geoff. Keep up the good work.

  4. As a friend pointed out to me recently, Tom Cruise is now the same age Wilford Brimley was when he filmed Cocoon!!!

  5. i am a 65 year old DJ and I do evenst for ALL ages, from sweet 16, to the Junior Prom, to Ballroom for seniors. I find that most middle age people are quite aware of new music and love tro dance to it..I see people in their 60′s mouthing the words to a Pitbull or Usher song..maybe Im just weird.

  6. bob riley says:

    I’m just breaking into DJing at 63..
    I have spend my working career in the field of psychiatry …
    After 30 years of work in my field haver seen just about any kind of weird behavior you can think of and then some…
    I am doing this to keep my brain and heart on the young side of 80!

  7. Dude!! Sooooo true! I’m 51 and am finding that the Boy Band/Spice Girls kids are now getting married!! My music was 70′s Rock/Disco and Early 80′s Depeche Mode and Funk…. Sinatra? Really? Those fans are almost all passed away by now!! LOL

    ALTHOUGH!!!
    I think there is a bit of class associated with the Rat Pack, Buble type of music at a wedding….maybe they think it will “class them up”?

    Lot of great country songs out there too (mostly slow) so, for all you young little weenie brides stop putting NO COUNTRY on the list….some of us “over 40 OLD PEOPLE” like it!

    I remember checking out bridesmaids, then checking out mom’s, now the freeking moms are younger than me!

  8. Rockin' Rich Nordheim says:

    Well said. Remember age is only a number. To add to the old people requests; hardly anyone under the age of 50 requests Lady Gaga because mostly her music is a Madonna or disco rethread. Also; the same can be said about Adele who is loved by the “geraitric” crowd.

  9. Alaska Jer says:

    Completely Agree!!! 100%, and I believe you and I are the same age:) I’m going to be 41 in September and I started in ’89–my senior year in high school (I was also working weekends at a small Top 40 station). Hauling crates of albums, massive amp racks and heavy speakers to each gig…I’ll never forget the ‘Rope’ lights;) Lots of great memories of the past two decades(+). If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the past ten years or so, Retro is Cool again. At least in my market—and MOST younger brides and grooms are just NOT aware! Get ‘em going and they tend to forget their ‘requests’ and/or ‘ideas’ for music when everyone’s dancing and having a great time…the funk and disco of the seventies…the British invasion and incredible early days of rock-n-roll of the 60′s, even the ‘Hair’ bands of the 80′s!!! The last couple of weekend’s weddings, I’ve had a few dozen fellas tearing off the Neal Schon solo while EVERYONE’s singing ‘Don’t stop Believin’—sometimes louder than the PA!! 20 somethings, dancing to KC and The Village Peeps, Everyone knows the Beatles these days and the fun country, I don’t disagree…there is such an opportunity to lay out an eclectic mix, diverse and tuned to each and every audience. They’re all different…yet they’re all the ‘same’ in a way as well. The music of the 60s thru the 80s was, in my very humble opinion, the Golden Age of music across the world. Not to say there aren’t gems being produced today. There definitely are…however, I really, REALLY look forward to weddings (90% of my weddings are between May 1 and September 30—as I’m in Alaska and everyone’s lookin’ for a summer wedding:)). The school year (We’ve got 3 high schools and 4 junior high contracts as well as the State High School Cheer and dance contracts) wears on me. I’ve got a couple of young 20 somethings working for me that do the bulk of the high school dances…the ONLY place I’ve found it to be tough to even get by with classics from Michael Jackson.

    It’s educational for the wedding couples…and WE need to educate them. As well, the ‘background’ and ‘cocktail/dinner’ mix should mirror these excellent playlists we’re putting together for the dancing…as there are soooooo many gems that work well during dinner time that may NOT fit for the dance floor!!! If we keep those toes tappin’ while they’re eatin’ and drinkin’ we’ve got them in our hands when it comes time for dancin’!

    One of my newly added ‘dinner’ songs has been “Fishin’ in the Dark” speakin’ of country! Not that it wouldn’t work for dancing, but for dinner—perfect! Quit throwing on that Kenny G “Greatest Hits” album and work the crowd…from the low volume dinner and cocktail period til the final song!! Almost every time you’ll be asked for an “Encore!”

    DJeremy

  10. Was having this same conversation at a 4th of July picnic.
    Someone asked me to “play some oldies”…so I had to dive further into it.
    I explained that when I first started in 1981, and someone asked for “oldies”…
    it meant Elvis, Bill Haley, and the hits of the 50′s.
    If you go by the radio standard that a “classic” is at least 20-years old..
    then YOUR version of “oldies” is a lot different than mine.
    “What era of music do you want to hear?” is the only response I can give these days.

  11. The new thing for some of my clients is ” we would like to mix in a bit of OLD SCHOOL… ” .Based on what decade you were born in that can be anywhere from ten to forty years ago.Being in my forties I would pull out 60′s or 70′s but clients in their 20′s and thirties may be looking for music in the 80′s or 90′s .
    I guess at the end of the day the important part is being able to read the crowd as always PROGRAMING IS KEY

  12. Ralph Macchio (The Karate Kid) ALSO TURNED 50!!

    Gulp!

  13. Leo "The Lion" says:

    Hi Geoff:
    Well stated article my man!! I’m 45 man and I get that alot too but more so doing birthday parties and wedding anniversaries. The younger children come to me wanting to surprise their Mom or Dad and they give me their playlist and I say them “Your Parents Are Not That Old” allow me to take you on a musical journey through time. When I’m done after the event the children come to me saying “Man You know your Music”. I feel good at that point, but at the same time theyare paying you for a service. So we must always keep that in focus. Great article!!! “Keep Em Dancin”

  14. I just did a surprise 40 birthday party and it was awesome playing the 70s and 80s tunes. I’m 43 and I love playing tracks from that era. The one thing I have going for me is I teach 5 th grade and I am up on all the modern hip hop and top 40, which I enjoy. I feel as young as the terms do and relate very well to them. You are only as old as you feel!!!y favorite type of music ironically is EDM and dance music from the 70s thru the 90s…especially 80s club/dance music. I’m actually more forward thinking in music then the teens are LOL…

  15. You are right age is just a number. My last gig two years ago at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, I had
    turned 74 years old and played to a crowd of 500 for a corporate symposium. I played music for a
    diverse group of people, Country, Pop, Big Band Oldies and of course requests for a lot of today’s
    top hits. We had a great time. I used two Bose LI systems Laptop and a Numark mixer KMX01.
    I have pretty much retired now since I had knee replacements but love the business.

  16. Awesome article again…
    Well put and true, age is a number, and yes, the new oldie are the music we grew up with, 70s and 80s…I do hgave to give thanks to the guitars and band video games that introduced the music of the 70s and 80 to the very young crowds…I teach kindergarten to 5th grades physical education, and during the dance units I introduce songs from that era, and all students let me know that their parents have those songs on their iPods….further more, a lot of them know the name of the songs…

  17. Great topic, one of the main questions durring a wedding consultation is what type of music do I play, my standard answer is “Anything you want”. however, I also state that I play to the crouwd that has always worked for me. I agreed to almost every reply to your artcle and could relate to all the stories. For me I enjoy muisc from all eras and find that at 62 taking my knowledge of music and blending old with new works great for me. I always get complements on the way our music is layed out and just knowing what and when to play certain songs is the key to succes. The typical Baby Boomers are always up for new things, we hate to admit we are in the golden years of our lives so I’m good with Hip Hop as I am with listening to Marty Robins. Here’s my funny story I recenty did a wedding and the Bride & Groom told me to make sure I play some oldies, and that Jimmy Hendrix was a big favorite of the Parents, this was cool for me in all my years of performing for weddings Hendrix has never been on my Top 200 list. So when it came time to dance at the wedding, sure enough here come these Old guys and they say can you play Purple Haze. With a big smile I said no problem and the rest of the night was filled with CCR, Hendrix, Doors and of cource the Stones. I felt old but a good old like fine wine. By the way before I wondered into cyber space tonight I first choose my muisc for te night, listening to Sky Pilot long version right now. Also to Mr. Earl, wow 74 and still spinning your an inspiration to all us kids.

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