I love this tune but it also sort've drives me nuts. I love playing and singing it but I have a terrible time leading it. First off, as best as I can tell, it's a 28 bar song, or at least the Jimmy Martin version appears to be 28 bars to the verse...and I consider his version to sort've be the definitive take on the tune. However, I've often heard it played at jams (and on albums) with an even looser feel, basically following along the singer in terms of how long he wants to stretch out certain words. I've discovered that both of these things can drive folks nuts if they're somewhat unfamilar with the tune, partially because (IMO) many bluegrass standards are straight 16-bar tunes. This tune seems to drive bass players particularly crazy because they're counting the whole time and can't stand a song with an inexact number of bars to a measure that is being led by the whims of the vocalist. As a mandolin player, it's tough to lead because the instrument tends to not be a particularly dominant lead instrument for everyone to follow, and as a result, I can often lose count which sends the thing into a messy chaos of folks strumming without knowing when the changes are supposed to occur.
So, since I'd like to try "Sunny Side of the Mountain" at the next jam I attend, I was wondering from others who play the tune if I'm right in terms of it generally being a 28-bar song. And in a larger sense, I'm wondering if anyone has some on how folks go about leading songs that wildly depart from the 16-bar format?