The 10 Best 60s Rock Trios – The Holy Trinities Of Rock

The ’50s started the Rock ‘n’ Roll fire with Elvis and Chuck Berry, laying the path for the worldwide Beatles fever that followed. Soon after, the ’60s doubled down on that, solidifying the genre’s essence with its basics: raw vocals, visceral guitars, banging drums, and groovy bass – at their purest form, delivered by the best rock trios of the decade

Among the many psychedelic movements and British Invasion bands, I will go through the ten best ’60s Rock Trios that set the standard of what is ‘needed’ to sound rock.  But, before we get to the list, here’s a challenge for you: Can you name ten rock trios from the ’60s? 

I’m sure Cream and Jimi Hendrix Experience were on your mind, but besides that, it’s trickier than you’d expect – so rest assured that you’ll not only learn history but discover great music that might have skipped your classic rock radar.

The Origin of Rock Trios

Technology and music were always tied together, with the first detecting most of the evolution of the second. If today we are all talking about using too much tech in music, in the 20th century, it was quite the opposite scenario.

Before the 50s, bands used to be big, with the lead usually being loud brass instruments for one simple reason – having no amplification, the audience couldn’t hear the band! As amplifiers became popular, the electric guitar and bass stepped in – now you could have the same sonic impact with only three instruments!

My Picking Criteria

At the end of the day, all lists have an element of personal Taste, and you’ll quickly tell I’m a guitar freak from the first choice on the list – yet the criteria I set for myself remain solid. 

  • There have to be only three people in the band. 
  • They don’t have to Power Trios, meaning it’s only limited to guitar and bass.
  • Must have had important songs and left a legacy 
  • It is not limited to only UK and US bands

The last point is critical, as, at times, we forget that great rock music was being played throughout the globe.

Another important note: I’ve only added the band lineups of their most popular trio formation during the ’60s, leaving out possible short-term members or newcomers.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1966 – 1969)

  • Members: Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding
  • Essential Listen: Are You Experienced?

Jimi Hendrix, the most influential guitarist of all time, spearheaded the archetypal ‘power trio’ band. The Experience only lasted three years and released the same number of studio albums. Yet, it was among the first to evolve blue into rock, becoming the central figure of the Psychedelic movement.

The band was formed by The Animal’s ex-bassist Chas Chandler, who first spotted Hendrix in the US, convinced him to move to London to launch his career, signed his record deal, and found two other monster players to back him on stage. They rode the wave of the psychedelic movement and jumped the British Invasion wagon led by Jimi’s revolutionary guitar work.


The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Purple Haze (Live at the Atlanta Pop Festival)

Having become the highest-paid rock musician in the world at only 26, Hendrix eventually went for a solo career and sadly passed away only one year later. To this day, their records inspire generations of rock musicians, are a staple of rock radios worldwide, and a cornerstone of pop culture.

Cream (1966-1968)

  • Members: Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker
  • Essential Listen: Wheels Of Fire

Cream is the most obvious choice for rock trios of the ’60s. The main force of the British Invasion, alongside the Yardbirds, Stones, and mighty Beatles, the trio released three iconic albums that bridged blues to psychedelic rock.

Baker was the one who started the band, first approaching the already renowned Clapton, who agreed if they got Bruce in the band. Calling their music “Sour Rock ‘n’ Roll,” they went beyond that genre, with each record getting close to rock.

Cream Complete Reunion Concert 2005 (Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce & Ginger Baker)

Clapton was the apparent star of the band, yet his contribution was equal to Bakers and Bruce, both ranking among the top instrumentalists and rock pioneers. Thus, Cream might be the first rock ‘supergroup’ or the first that made the term popular.

The band had made a few reunions over the years until the passing away of Ginger Baker in 2019.

0s Mutantes (1966-1978)

  • Members: Rita Lee, Arnaldo Baptista, Sérgio Dias Baptista
  • Essential Listen: Os Mutantes

While The Beatles spread their music around the northern hemisphere, a ‘dissident’ trio created their own Psychedelic rock style in Brazil, influenced by the Tropicália movement.

Os Mutantes deserve a special mention, as, unlike their US or UK counterparts, they recorded and released their music under the threat of a strict government regime. This didn’t stop the two Baptista brothers and singer Rita Lee from participating in national song festivals and even performing under persistent pressure from angry crowds and officials. 

Os Mutantes- Panis Et Circensis & Bat Macumba (Complete French TV-1969) 

A major credit also goes to their album’s production quality and songwriting. Their legendary self-titled album could very well have been produced in Abbey Road and still would sound just as experimental and solid.  

The Kingston Trio (1957–1967)

  • Members: John Stewart, Bob Shane, Nick Reynolds 
  • Essential Listen: The Kingston Trio

Not all legendary trios of the ’60s were blues or psychedelic rock; some dwelled more in the realm of folk and contributed to the rebirth of folk, turning it into folk rock in the ’60s while collecting multiple awards.  

The Kingston Trio was formed in San Fransisco by junior high schools, who, from learning to play ukulele and guitar together, recorded 19 albums and landed a record number of hits and record sales, shifting American pop music again to its roots. 

The Kingston Trio – Chilly Winds (1961) 4K 

The Kingston Trio might not be a power trio with drums and electric guitars, yet the harmony vocals, banjo, and guitar work laid a foundation for popular country and folk music.

Massive names like Paul Simon, Lindsey Buckingham, and David Crosby list them as some of the top influences – arguably, the entire singer-songwriter movement of the ’60s rode on the trios’ wave.

The James Gang (1966-1977)

  • Members: Jim Fox, Joe Walsh, Tom Kriss
  • Essential Listen: James Gang Rides Again

Before joining the Eagles, Joe Walsh was already releasing legendary songs like Funk #49 along with bassist Tom Kriss and Jim Fox on Drums. The James Gang soaked their feet in psychedelic rock but kept on their folky blues and southern roots, adding the American touch to what the Brits brought.

The British Invasion inspired Drummer Fox to hunt for members and eventually, after many lineup changes, recruit the young Joe Walsh, who knocked on his door asking to be the new guitar player.

James Gang – Walk Away (1971)

The James Gang might have roots in the ’60s, but some success would come to them in the early ’70s when they shared stages with Led Zeppelin and The Who. Still, never landing a hit in six albums eventually led each member to go their own way.

Blue Cheer (1966–2009)

  • Members: Dickie Peterson, Randy Holden, Paul Whaley 
  • Essential Listen: Summertime Blues

Before anyone else started it, at a time when even Black Sabbath was not around, Blue Cheer was heavier than anyone, arguably inventing Heavy Metal before Sabbath made it famous.

The San Fransisco trio was formed in the Image of the Hendrix Experience, opting for fewer members but dialing down on power. Blending blues, psychedelic, and fuzzed guitars up to the point when it got far beyond what you’d expect of the 60s.

Blue Cheer – Summertime Blues (1968)

Whether they invented metal or not, it’s for you to judge after listening to their Proto-Metal debut album, Vincebu Eruptum, and especially the song ‘Summertime Blues.’

Rory Gallagher’s Taste

  • Members: Rory Gallagher, Richard McCracken, John Wilson 
  • Essential Listen: On The Boards

Arguably the greatest blues guitarist from Ireland and one of the most influential players ever, Gallagher started his performing career with the blues rock trio Taste, which infused Gallagher’s virtuosity with touches of jazz and psychedelic.

What started as a local band, Taste gained recognition in the UK when they opened for Cream’s farewell concert and toured the US and Canada, getting to play along with Hendrix on the Isle of Wight show – arguably their most famous performance that luckily got all caught on Camera.

Taste – What’s Going On – Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival / 1970

Gallagher soon left the band he created, leaving space for another member to join in while his solo career reached up to 30 million records sold worldwide. Still, he is still referred to as “the greatest guitarist you’ve never heard of.”

The Muthers (1962-1964)

  • Members: Frank Zappa, Paul Woods, Les Papp
  • Essential Listen: GTR Trio

The Mothers of Invention, led by the eccentric genius of Frank Zappa, are known to be a big band that scanned through hundreds of members over the years – yet not many know while the Mothers were forming, Zapp was gigging locally in LA with a power trio called The Muthers to support his lifestyle of all day experimenting in the studio.

Frank Zappa – 1964 – The Muthers – Power Trio.

This was when Zappa was at the closest to Rock n Roll as he ever got, shredding guitars and heavy tunes but occasionally picking up odd instruments and dwelling into soundscapes. Only little materials remain from The Muther, but there’s some gold to be found, especially if you’re a Zappa fan.

Unfortunately, there are only a few live recordings of this band, as Frank focused on The Mothers on the recording side. 


Grand Funk Railroad (1969-1976)

  • Members: Don Brewer, Mark Farner, and Mel Schacher
  • Essential Listen: Grand Funk (The Red Album)

What started as a five-piece from Michigan dialed down to its core of 3 members, a quintessential power trio that dared to step on stage and start the first glimpses of Hard Rock in the US.

GFR started their career near the end of the ’60s, but it was enough to change the music scene. What critics considered ‘dumb’ music, others considered ‘the loudest rock and roll band in the world‘ and followed them into their massive shows. You could arguably call GFR the prototypal Arena Rock band.

Grand Funk Railroad – Inside Looking Out 196

Farner’s screaming blues vocals and guitar style were reminiscent of what Clapton and Bruce in their UK counterpart, Creme. The US trio, though, was harder, faster, and more intense than anything the British Invasion had brought – a genuine classic pure rock band.

The Big Three (1961 – 1966)

  • Members: Johnny Hutchinson, Johnny Gustafson, Brian Griffiths
  • Essential Listen: Some Other Guy

The Big Three are the band that could have become The Beatles. They shared the same rehearsal space and management and were offered some of the same stage, yet they only produced minor hits on the international scene.

Even though they never reached the acclaimed success of their Liverpool pears, The Big Three were a significant part of the Merseybeat sound, a blend of rock, folk, and blues styles that began in Liverpool and was among the progenitors of garage and psychedelic rock.

The Big Three – What’d I Say (live at The Cavern) – 1963

Sadly, the band couldn’t hold up together, and even the extraordinary Epstein, who rose the Beatles to fame, couldn’t find the proper way to break them through. 


Why Does 60s Rock Still Matter?

Every decade or so, there’s a hint of a comeback in music. It’s 2023, and every charting pop hit sounds more ’80s than ’80s music ever did – the time of the ’60s will come, as it has many times.

But besides the cycles of what’s trending, digging back to the roots of rock can set forth a wave of new ideas, a fond feeling and nostalgia, and inspiration for musicians who want to bring back that decade of pure innovation. 


Question: Who was the First Psychedelic Rock Band?

Answer: Many credit the Austin-based band, 13th Floor Elevators, as the first to release a psychedelic record with their debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators.

Question: Why was British Rock so Successful in the ’60s?

Answer: The biggest reason was the Beatles’ rise, followed by the ‘hip’ culture and fashion trends that bands brought overseas – the success constituted even in the second half of the 60s when psychedelic bands again invaded the scene until the early 70s.

Question: Who had more Success in The ’60s, American or British Bands?

Answer: British bands were more successful than American bands in the 60s, mainly due to the Beatles and The Stones, which paved the way for British bands to claim more worldwide fame. 

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