- 10 Best 90s Rock Trios – The Last Great Rock Trios - January 25, 2024
- Best Blues Power Trios of All Time - January 12, 2024
- 10 Best 70s Rock Trios – The Golden Era of Rock - December 2, 2023
- Who Only These Bands?
- Cream (1966-1968; 1994-2005)
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1966-1969)
- Rory Gallagher's Taste (1966-1970)
- John Mayer Trio (2005 - Present)
- John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers (1963-Present)
- ZZ Top (1969 - Present)
- Robin Trower Band (1973 - Present)
- Pappos Blues (1970-2005)
- Beck, Bogert & Appice (1972-1974)
- The James Gang (Walsh Era) (1968-1971)
- The Jeff Healey Band (1988-2008)
- Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (1978-1990)
- The Future of Blues Power Trios
The echo of Hendrix’s fuzzed-out guitar and Harmonix of the just slightly, but on purpose sharp Clapton bend left a bigger legacy than a stunned crowd and a few golden records. Besides the music we can still enjoy today, countless musical acts would not have happened without the audacity of blues power trios like Creme or The Hendrix Experience. Through this list, I want to honor some of those acts that made it into becoming legends themselves.
The best blues power trios of all time are a list that I thought would be easy, but it turned out to be a challenge for the fan and blues guitarist inside me who had to sacrifice so many idols just because of an extra member. Luckily enough, everything can be blues, and the genre knows no boundaries and no decades; as you’ll see from some of the bands on the list, variety is not a problem.
As a personal note, a 12-bar blues delta playlist is advised while reading for an extra touch of greatness from where it all started.
Who Only These Bands?
Drum, bass, and guitar are the foundation of not just the blues but rock, metal, and all the sub-genres derived from the blues. There’s power in simplicity, and in the period where power blues trios thrived, they were the first musicians who could be loud. Among the many that fit this criteria, though, I could only pick a few, so I set some rules I set for myself.
- It has to be a trio, or was a trio at a point.
- They had at least one breakthrough record or had one member who became extremely famous.
- They must be primarily rooted in the blues, but not solely
- They can be anywhere worldwide as long as they tick the other boxes.
- There’s no order of importance to the list.
Cream (1966-1968; 1994-2005)
- Members: Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker
- Essential Listen: Wheels Of Fire
The list has to start with the archetypal power trio bands, the first who could pull off being louder than an orchestra inside a London hall and inspire most of the other bands in the list to stop looking for a keyboard player and crank the amps.
Clapton, Bruce, and Baker each could front a band, and being thrown together in the same mix led to the accidental creation of the first supergroup, which fortunately reunited in modern times to give us high-quality recordings of their songs.
Creme had a short-lived career, but just enough to start the Power Trio trend for the entire world.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1966-1969)
- Members: Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding
- Essential Listen: Are You Experienced?
Cream left the scene right in time for Hendrix to become the biggest rock act on the planet. As told by Hendrix himself, he only accepted coming to London after his future manager and mastermind behind forming the band, Chas Chandler, invited him so he could meet his idol, Eric Clapton.
Hendrix’s coming to London was followed by the entire music scene shaking to the newcomer, who quickly got Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding on board. Beyond the unmissable guitar solo, listening to Voodo Child’s bass and drum tracks will open up a new appreciation for the trio.
As part of his desire to experiment further, Hendrix left the Experience to form the Band of Gypsies, but no other lineup elevated him as much as the Experience did.
Big Himi fan? continue reading more related guides:
Rory Gallagher’s Taste (1966-1970)
- Members: Rory Gallagher, Richard McCracken, John Wilson
- Essential Listen: On The Boards
No one ever touched a guitar in Ireland better than Rory Gallagher, who all the blues monsters of any era feared when he toured in their city. Rory had a freedom of playing that few players ever shared, and his band knew well how to draw out the best out of him.
Taste was not conventional blues in any way. You would be right to call them the typical hard rock band alongside Led Zeppelin – yet, as for many bands of that era, it was hard to capture the power of their live performances into a record.
Gallagher left the band due to an issue with management in 1970, but it was enough to create an entirely new stylistic way of playing the blues,
John Mayer Trio (2005 – Present)
- Members: John Mayer, Pino Palladino, Steve Jordan
- Essential Listen: Try!
No one can argue that John Mayer is one of our generation’s most influential guitarists, arguably the most famous modern guitar hero, and probably the only one who can fill a stadium with a solo acoustic solo show.
Often branded as ‘pop blues’ by blues purists on his songwriting and hits, the John Mayer Trio challenges this concept, laying down all the power of classic blues with touches of modern twists through the virtuosity of Jordan on drums and Palladino on bass.
Unfortunately, they have no studio albums to show and only one single, yet the 2005 certified golden live albumI Try! Is a testimony of how modern blues can be faithful to its roots and still be a commercial success.
John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers (1963-Present)
- Members: John Mayall & hundreds of players
- Essential Listen: The Turning Point
John Mayall stands above everyone as the father of UK blues. He started it all, launched the careers of countless musicians, and served as an informal school of rock of the era.
The Bluesbreakers had countless lineups of talented musicians that eventually formed Creme, Fleetwood Mac, etc. Among those were different periods when John Mayall played as a power trio, even though practically every name in the London scene played with him at a point in their career.
Mayall never quit playing the blues and is still going strong today as a 90-year-old blues legend with over 35 studio and 34 live albums left as a legacy.
ZZ Top (1969 – Present)
- Members: Billy Gibbons, Frank Beard, Dusty Hill
- Essential Listen: Eliminator
ZZ Top fills the cracks between blues and rock better than every band, sparkling some southern joy and hard rock in the mix. It’s hard to even think of a musical trio list without the image of Dusty’s and Gibbons’s beards dancing to La Grange.
How I always perceived ZZ Top was blues guitar playing with a squalling crunchy tone backed by a pure rock band. There’s more Funk and Rock in Frank Beard’s drumming than blues, which gives the trio the tight live punch.
ZZ Top helmed the Texas blues movement before Steve Ray Vaughan came on the scene, and after the following tragically passed away, retook the torch again, surviving Dusty’s recent passing away in 2021.
Robin Trower Band (1973 – Present)
- Members: James Dewar, Reg Isidore, Robin Trower
- Essential Listen: Bridge of Sighs
The original Procol Harum guitarist and one of the best players to ever bend a string, Robin Trower, needed a powerful backing band to channel his guitar and songwriting mastery. Thus, in 1973, he formed his Trio with an equally as skilled master of their instruments.
‘Bridge of Sigh’s’ soaring guitar sound and psychedelic feel what an evolved Jimi Hendrix-style anthem that took the world of blues by shock. A listen to the single and album will give you an idea of how ‘feared’ Trower was in the scene.
Robin Trower never stopped, and nor did the Trio, even though members came and went in a John Mayall fashion.
Pappos Blues (1970-2005)
- Members: Norberto Napolitano, David Lebon, Black Amaya
- Essential Listen: Pappos Blues
Not all the blues happened in the UK and US; it was a worldwide phenomenon that the Argentinian legend, th whom BB King considered one the best guitarists of all time, Norberto Napolitano, captured in his band Pappos Blues.
Pappos Blues was much more than a Blues trio, giving off the Latin spice to their hard rock take on Blues music in over 9 studio albums and multiple lineup changes and side projects in the course of 3 decades.
Beck, Bogert & Appice (1972-1974)
- Members: Jeff Beck, Tim Bogert, Carmine Appice
- Essential Listen: Beck, Bogert & Appice
There is no possible way to list power trios without including the guitar player’s guitar player Jeff Beck. No one could fill a band’s sound like him and complement a bass and drummer, and after leaving the Yardbirds and the many initials attempts at Jeff Beck group, he formed the Supergroup with a drummer Carmine Appice and bassist Tim Bogert that came and went like a storm.
The trio went a step beyond what Beck played at the time, opting for a heavier Rock n’ Roll style that never failed to disappoint the crowds. Unfortunately, there’s only one record of the band, which, even though was successful commercially, didn’t capture the live visceral power of the bIt was and.
A short stop in Jeff Beck’s career but one that was big enough to make the list.
The James Gang (Walsh Era) (1968-1971)
- Members: Jim Fox, Joe Walsh, Tom Kriss
- Essential Listen: James Gang Rides Again
The James Gang was the Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh’s first vehicle for expressing his way of playing the Blues. Nothing is ever ‘standard’ with Walsh, and this was the way the James Gang approached their American style of playing the British Blues: somewhat psychedelic, at times rock and funky.
‘Funk 49,’ Joe Walsh’s iconic riff, is a product of this era, and so are many ideas he then transferred to the Eagles. Even though the band was never a big commercial success, they hit a high point and gained notoriety when opening for Led Zeppelin’s and The Who’s US tours.
The James Gang continued even after Walsh’s departure in 1971 but reunited often with him as frontman, with the most recent appearance in 2022 at the Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts.
The Jeff Healey Band (1988-2008)
- Members: Heff Healey, Joe Rockman, Tom Stephen
- Essential Listen: See The Light
Jeff Healy is a virtuoso on many levels, fighting through losing sight to developing his own way of playing the blues guitar and starting the trio that became one of the best-selling Canadian rock and blues acts.
Discovered by accident while playing clubs in Toronto by Albert Collins and Steve Ray Vaughan, the band got an immediate record deal, got nominated for multiple Grammy Awards, won the Canadian Juno Award, and even recorded a Beatles cover with George Harrison himself.
Healy life was cut short in 2008 and thus ended the Jeff Hearl power trio, which relfiveased 5 studio albums in slightly over a decade.
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble (1978-1990)
Members: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon
Essential Listen: Texas Floods
SRV reinvented the blues for the second time after Hendrix appeared on the scene, leaving us wondering whether he did more justice to ‘Voodoo Child’ than Hendrix himself – yet he did not do that alone; Layton and Shannon from double trouble were his ‘Experience.’
It’s easy to get lost with SRVs playing and forget that it’s all built on top of a masterful bed of drum and bass. The baking duo playing eventually became synonymous with what a modern blues band ‘should’ sound like, laying down when needed but shouting in a power display as the solos waged on.
The trio proved blues could yet be a commercial success, selling over 11.4 million records and winning 4 Grammy awards at their peak. Even after Vaughan tragically passed away in 1990, Double Trouble continued their career as backing blues and rock musicians as session players.
The Future of Blues Power Trios
While it’s true that sonic capabilities have expanded beyond any expectation after the 90s, compact power trio bands that play the blues are still very popular, especially among solo singer-songwriter artists who find an outlet to express their creativity live with a band.
Besides John Mayer, none so far of these modern bands have reached or are close to the status of leg. Yet, the future is bright. A list of trending blues power trios, believe me, would still contain mesmerizing musicians and be much longer than this list of Legendary acts.
Answer: Power trios were the most direct way of delivering rock n roll, using the punch and power of the electric guitar as lead, backed by a solid bass and drum foundation. Oftentimes, they opted to add keyboard and synth sounds but never left the blues guitar style out,
Answer: Blues rock was born in the UK in the 60s with bands like Creme and the Jimi Hendrix Experience that pushed beyond the sonic limitations of the time with distorted guitar sounds, loud drums, and bass.
The basis was still the blues, yet the song arrangement and performances were faster and sounded better. At the same time, the chord progression drifted from the 12-bar blues style into more melodically complex structures.
Answer: John Mayall, who led his band John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers for over five decades and launched names like Peter Green and Eric Clapton, is considered the godfather of the British Invasion.