Playing For Change: The Tour

Grammy-winning producer/engineer/filmmaker Mark Johnson is taking his groundbreaking project “Playing For Change,” which premiered live with a series of successful shows in Los Angeles, New Orleans and the U.K. earlier this year, on a North American tour this fall.

The trek kicks off Oct. 20 at Birchmere in Alexandria, Va., and will visit theatres, clubs and performing arts centers through mid-November, with additional dates expected.

Beginning in 2004 with the premise that the citizens of the world could be connected with music, Johnson recorded blues street singer Roger Ridley, who has since passed away, covering Ben E. King’s classic “Stand By Me” in Santa Monica, Calif.

Photo: Courtesy: Playing for Change
Late blues street singer Roger Ridley gets the ball rolling with his rendition of Ben E. King’s "Stand By Me."

Taking a page from the book of famed folklorist Alan Lomax, the producer then embarked on a worldwide mission to film and record more than 100 musicians – including New Orleans blues singer Grandpa Elliott and Amsterdam soul singer Clarence Bekker – accompanying Ridley’s recording of the tune.

Using innovative mobile technology, Johnson captured performances in parks, plazas, promenades and doorways, on cobblestone streets and amid hilly pueblos, with each recording adding something to the mix.

When the finished version of the track was posted to YouTube last November, it became a viral sensation that has now been viewed on the Internet more than 30 million times and blogged about relentlessly.

Grandpa Elliott adds the sound of New Orleans to the mix.

A two-disc CD/DVD featuring “Stand By Me” and additional recordings, Playing For Change – Songs Around the World, debuted in April and surprised everyone involved when it found its way onto the pop charts in its first week of release.

A full length documentary about the project, “Playing For Change: Peace Through Music,” is airing this month on PBS stations across the country.

Johnson has also created the Playing For Change Foundation, which builds music schools for children around the world.

For more info on the Playing For Change Foundation, visit

Here’s the video that started it all, “Stand By Me.”