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13 Best Rock and Roll Trios

Cream performing on TV in 1968

Cream performing on TV in 1968

So much from so little!

Let's hear it for the power trios! All groups on this list started as a trio, though some may have added a musician or two over the years. Nevertheless, if they hadn't been very good as a trio, they wouldn't be on this list. So, let's start the countdown!

The Stray Cats

The Stray Cats

13. The Stray Cats

Rockabilly blasted off in the 1950s with artists such as Billy Haley and the Comets, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry and - primed for the retro sound - the Stray Cats led a revival of the genre in the early 1980s. Fronted by flashy lead guitarist Brian Setzer and enhanced by the potent rhythm section of Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phantom, the Stray Cats, like the Jimi Hendrix Experience some years before, had to tour the UK before making it big in the U.S. Then, in 1982, MTV widely played two of their tunes, “Rock This Town” and “Stray Cat Strut,” both of which made the American Top 10. In 1984, the Stray Cats disbanded and then got back together again two years later. And then in 1992, they broke up once more and reunited in 2004 and again in 2009. The Stray Cats have produced 10 albums and numerous singles.

Grand Funk

Grand Funk

12. Grand Funk Railroad

Grand Funk Railroad was definitely no funk band! Fancying themselves a power trio such as Cream or Blue Cheer, Grand Funk Railroad (later shortened to Grand Funk) began filling arenas in 1969, and their first six LPs, including a live album, sold very well. Judging from the material on this Live Album, they liked to play very, very loud. At any rate, because of perceived shortcomings, the critics generally panned them (Grand Junk, anyone?), while fans dug them to death. After all, singer/songwriter/lead guitarist Mark Farner had exceptional all-around rock and roll skills and drummer/vocalist Don Brewer and bassist Mel Schacher provided a thunderous rhythm section.

Farner showed considerable competence on ballads such as “Closer to Home” and “Mean Mistreater,” and he could certainly wail and howl on tunes such as the raucous “Inside Looking Out.” Farner certainly wasn’t the greatest lead guitarist around, but he didn’t need to be. In 1972, the band added a keyboard player and also developed a more classic – dare I say “poppy”- style with such numbers as “We’re an American Band” and “The Loco-Motion.” Eventually the group disbanded and then Farner launched a solo career. At one point, the original trio reunited for awhile. The current alignment, five guys, minus Mark Farner (how dare they!), still tours.

Los Lonely Boys

Los Lonely Boys

11. Los Lonely Boys

Comprised of three brothers – Henry, Jojo and Ringo Garza – LLB plays a style of music known as Texican rock and roll, a blend of Tejano (or Tex-Mex music), Texas blues and blue-eyed soul. Hailing from San Angelo, Texas, the three brothers formed a band in Nashville in the 1990s. In 2004, “Heaven,” the group’s first single, placed #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Group. Then, in 2005, LLB corroborated with Carlos Santana on the song, “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love,” found on the album All That I Am; another hit single by the group is John Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.” The band has covered many other hit songs, including “Evil Ways,” “Well All Right,” “Polk Salad Annie,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window” and “Born on a Bayou.” Their most recent album is Revelation (2014).

Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Emerson, Lake and Palmer

10. Emerson, Lake and Palmer

ELP performed one of their first concerts at the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1970. Jimi Hendrix played there too. The British progressive/symphonic rock band had at least an informal arrangement to form a quartet with Hendrix, who reportedly had been getting bored with his triad. ELP’s lineup was Keith Emerson (keyboards, Moog synthesizer), Greg Lake (guitar, bass and vocals) and Carl Palmer (drums, percussion). Emerson was sometimes labeled “the Jimi Hendrix of the Hammond organ.” Lake produced all the band’s albums until their temporary breakup in 1979. Some critics called the band one of the first Super Groups. The members came from bands such as King Crimson (Lake) and The Nice (Emerson).

In 1973 the band formed its own record label and then recorded perhaps its greatest studio album, Brain Salad Surgery. ELP had top billing at the April 1974 California Jam concert, upstaging Deep Purple. When onstage, ELP displayed unusual musicianship, as well as showy theatrics, such as a spinning grand piano and firing cannons. The band took a three-year break to reinvent themselves, and then in 1977 began touring with an orchestra of 75 members, including a choir, until it became too expensive. Their last studio album of the 1970s, Love Beach, is generally considered – even by the band itself – little more than obligatory banality. Emerson, Lake and Palmer still exists in some fashion and tours when they feel the motivation.

Green Day

Green Day

9. Green Day

From the beginning Green Day started as a trio, though it eventually added guitarist Jason White in 2012. Green Day is a punk revival band that emerged from Berkeley in 1987. Beginning with members Billy Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and drummer John Kiffmeyer (replaced by Tré Cool in 1990) the band struck pay dirt in 1994 with the release of Dookie, their third studio album, which sold 10 million copies. Along with punk bands such as Sublime, Offspring, Bad Religion and Rancid, Green Day is credited with the rejuvenation of the punk genre in the U.S. But Green Day’s popularity dipped somewhat in the late 1990s to the early 2000s, though surging again with the release of the rock opera American Idiot in 2004, and later helped produce a stage version based on the album. Altogether, Green day is considered one of the top selling rock groups of all time and has won numerous Grammy Awards.



8. Nirvana

Kurt Cobain’s said, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” That’s what grunge group Nirvana did in the early 1990s. Led by edgy, reclusive, unkempt, nonconformist Kurt Cobain, the hard rock triumvirate hit pay dirt with the release of their second album, Nevermind, widely considered a rock classic. Backing up Cobain, Chris Novoselic played bass and Dave Grohl the drums. Then Cobain married blonde bombshell Courtney Love, who had her own rock group, Hole, and then the couple became America’s most reviled rock superstars, mainly because they were both heroin addicts and, perhaps even worse, didn’t seem to give a shit about it.

Then Nirvana released Incesticide, a modest work at best. But their third album, In Utero, was another exceptional one, particularly the very popular tunes “Heart-Shaped Box” and “Rape Me,” which the trio performed on Saturday Night Live (at which point having added another guitarist). After that, Cobain started losing his way, spending $400 per day on heroin. He died in April 1994 with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head (some think he was murdered). Since then, Nirvana, featuring Pat Smear on the guitar, played at the 12/12/2012 Concert with Sir Paul McCartney; it has also performed on other occasions in the 2010s.


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Crosby, Stills and Nash

Crosby, Stills and Nash

7. Crosby, Stills and Nash

Crosby, Stills and Nash (CSN) were another super group of sorts, this one extolling the hippie ethos of the late 1960s to early 1970s. Their music became a kind of religion. Borne of very popular rock bands from the middle 1960s, Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield and the unbelievable collaboration album, Super Session), David Crosby (the Byrds) and Graham Nash (the Hollies), CSN played – at least at first - without a rhythm section, utilizing folk-rock harmonies, while playing acoustic guitars and singing, with each member writing songs. As just about every baby boomer knows, CSN played one of their first live performances at Woodstock. And we’re scared shitless! Their first album was the eponymous Crosby, Stills and Nash, featuring the smash hit “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” Within a year, the group added singer/guitarist Neil Young, formerly of Buffalo Springfield. (But Young continued playing with his band Crazy Horse.) The quartet’s greatest album was the double live album set Four Way Street. Shortly, however, Young left the band for a time, mainly because of the personality clashes and professional preferences involving him and Stephen Stills.

Over the years, CSN recorded and toured intermittently as a trio or quartet (with Young), or did solo work or members temporarily joined different bands, as when Stills joined the country-influenced Manassas in 1972. Along the way, drug problems took their toll on band mates, particularly Stills (alcohol) and Crosby, who, cocaine-addicted and finally busted, spent time in prison. The trio reunited for Woodstock’s twenty-fifth anniversary concert in 1994. But by the late 1990s CSN had no recording contract, so they began financing their own recordings. As of the summer of 2012, CSN still performs and tours. Regarding the rock trios, CSN’s vocals may be numero uno.

The Police

The Police

6. The Police

From the beginning The Police showed a remarkable talent for producing a plethora of hit pop singles. Formed in 1977, the band played a mixture of jazz, rock and reggae, though they may have had the appearance of just another blonde-coiffed punk rock assemblage. The Police’s front man, Sting (born Gordon Sumner on Oct. 2, 1951), played bass and sang the lead, while Andy Summers played guitar and Stewart Copeland rattled the drums, the latter two adding some vocals and songwriting ability as well. Their initial hit single was “Roxanne,” first recorded in 1978 and then re-released the following year.

Then they made “Message in a Bottle,” their first number one hit and “Walking on the Moon,” another smash. Their fourth album, Ghost in the Machine, released in 1981, had a lusher techno sound, including the use of horns and keyboards and produced even more scores such as “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” “Invisible Sun” and “Spirits in the Material World.” Perhaps their greatest album was Synchronicity, produced in 1983, which spawned another mega hit, “Every Breath You Take.” The album was nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards, losing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, though “Every Breath You Take” won the award for best song. A clash of egos between Sting and Andy Summers led to the troika’s demise in 1984, at which point they spun off into solo careers, with Sting becoming a jazz-infused pop superstar. In 2007 to 2008, The Police launched a reunion tour which, so the band informed, would definitely be their pop coda.

ZZ Top

ZZ Top

5. ZZ Top

Some things never change – for the better. ZZ Top, the prototypical hard rock power trio, has been ripping it up for 40 years. In fact, they still have the same manager! Of the three Texans, Billy Gibbons plays lead guitar, with Dusty Hill on bass and Frank Beard on drums. They all do vocals – pretty much essential in a threesome. One night on The Tonight Show, Jimi Hendrix said that Gibbons was one of the finest young guitarists around. Anyway, ZZ Top’s third album, Tres Hombres, featured the very popular tunes “La Grange” (introducing their most notable riff) and “Jesus Just Left Chicago.” The band continued churning out hits such as “Tush” and “Heard It on the X.” Then the band went on an unplanned hiatus in 1977. In 1979, the trio reunited, now recording for Warner Brothers, and put out the album Deguello, featuring the huge hit “Cheap Sunglasses.”

In the early 1980s, ZZ Top updated its act, producing a high-tech-oriented sound using such devices as synthesizers and drum machines, certainly appropriate for the New Wave decade. However, they never strayed far from their blues-rock roots of the 1960s. In 1983, the trio produced their most popular album to date, Eliminator, which exemplified their ability to produce marketable singles such as “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Legs,” and “Sharp Dressed Man.” The album sold 10 million copies. In the 1990s, the band produced even more memorable numbers – “My Head’s in Mississippi” and “Burger Man.” In 2003, the band’s last album with RCA was Mescalero, which showed some of Gibbons’ best raw, crunchy guitar work to date. These days, ZZ Top reportedly plans to return to its pre-1980s sound. This is the best kind of news, for rock fans will always appreciate the pure unadulterated riff.

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble

4. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble

Stevie Ray Vaughan, a high school dropout who couldn’t read music, flashed like a Texas flood out of Austin, Texas in the early 1980s. Vaughan, a blues guitarist by trade, could play his Fender Stratocaster with his teeth or behind his back, perhaps imitating the histrionics of artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Freddie King. As for the name of his group, Double Trouble refers to the title of a song with the same name by blues master Otis Rush, one of Vaughan’s mentors. It also seemed to be a good name for Vaughan’s rhythm section: Chris Layton on drums and Tommy Shannon on bass. In addition to being a spectacular blues guitarist, Vaughan showed his gift for rock ‘n’ roll by playing Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” on the group’s second album Couldn’t Stand the Weather. And, on the album Soul to Soul, Vaughan played Hendrix’s “Little Wing.” (If anything, Vaughan played these songs better than Hendrix did!) In 1985, the band added keyboardist Reese Wynans, putting versatility in their repertoire.

Thereafter, Vaughan got into drug trouble and, after a time in rehab, gave up all drugs, even caffeine, and remained clean and sober for the last four years of his life. Vaughan and Double Trouble’s last studio album, In Step, featured “Riviera Paradise,” a slow, jazzy stroll that emphasized Vaughan’s astonishing musical range. Then, on August 26, 1990, after playing at a concert with Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Jimmie Vaughan and others, Vaughan, not wanting to delay until another helicopter came along, climbed into a crowded one, which then crashed within minutes because of foggy conditions. Tragically, Stevie Ray Vaughan entered the annals of rock stars dying before their time. He was only 35. At least drugs didn’t get him . . . !

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

3. The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Since Jimi Hendrix died way back in September 1970, much has been written about him and his acid rock power trio. So rather than write about what Jimi did, I’ll write about what he wanted to do. In the book, Secrets from the Masters (from the pages of Guitar Player magazine), Jimi said, “In older civilizations they didn’t have diseases as we know them. It would be incredible if you could produce music so perfect that it would filter through you like rays and ultimately cure.” That’s what Jimi wanted to do with his music – more, more and more. Jimi also wanted to buy a Big Top, set it up out in the country, hire his own security people and have concerts lasting days. Just a week before Jimi’s death, he had plans to begin recording with master jazz arranger Gil Evans and legendary trumpeter Miles Davis. Jimi also wanted to learn to read and write music so he could assemble an orchestra for whom he could write and conduct. In addition, Jimi wanted to do some filmmaking and writing. He had in mind a cartoon character named “Black Gold,” who would be part of a rock opera similar to the Who’s Tommy.

Apparently Jimi’s musical aspirations had no bounds! In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, he said, “I’d like to get something together, like with Handel and Bach, and Muddy Waters, flamenco type of thing. If I could get that sound, I’d be happy.” Some of these aspirations probably would have come to pass if Jimi hadn’t taken an accidental overdose of sleeping pills and transitioned to another plane of existence. Here’s a pertinent excerpt from Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”: And if I don’t meet you no more in this world, then I’ll meet you in the next one and don’t be late, don’t be late.



2. Rush

Rush has been a rock power trio during six decades, forming in 1968 and recording their first album in 1974. In the old days, they were decidedly hard rock, influenced by the current heavy metal who’s who of Cream, The Who, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. From the late 1970s through the 1980s, their sound became more electronic and new-wave oriented, as bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Geddy Lee embraced the use of emerging technology, utilizing synthesizers and sequencers. Drummer Neil Peart also began rapping on electronic percussion. Then, in the early 1990s, Rush left the synthetic sound and returned to a mainstream, guitar-oriented feel with the release of Counterparts in 1993.

The band went on hiatus in the late 1990s to early 2000s, as Peart mourned the death of his daughter in a car accident and contemplated retirement. But Rush made a comeback, producing the album Vapor Trails in 2002, guitarist Alex Lifeson’s axe in prominence. Over all these years, Rush has remained an inventive, adaptive band, seemingly always in the forefront of the contemporary rock sound – and that ain’t an easy thing to accomplish! In 2013, Rush was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Cream in the 1960s

Cream in the 1960s

Cream reunion concert in 1993

Cream reunion concert in 1993

1. Cream

Cream was the cream of the crop – and the members knew it! Formed in the UK in 1966, Cream consisted of guitarist/singer Eric Clapton, bassist/singer/harmonica player Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker. Blues guitarist Clapton assembled the triad, even after he discovered that Bruce and Baker essentially hated each other. Cream’s first album was the classic Fresh Cream, which still sounds asskickingly good. Featured on the album was one of rock’s first tunes highlighting a drum solo – “Toad,” which showed Baker’s prowess as a frenetic, jazz-influenced drummer. (In those days, everybody thought Baker was a speed freak, because he played so fast.) Their second album, Disraeli Gears, highlighted Cream’s ability to produce marketable singles such as “Sunshine of Your Love,” “Strange Brew” and “Tales of Brave Ulysses.” When touring, in the tradition of bands such as the Grateful Dead, Cream became known for its long, improvisational versions of such songs as “Spoonful,” “N.S.U” and “Sweet Wine.” Clapton once stated that he still has hearing damage from the loudness with which the band played during those days.

Cream’s third album, Wheels of Fire, (a double album set), exemplified the triumvirate’s versatility, particularly Bruce’s classical orientation on songs such as “Passing the Time,” “Those Were the Days” and “Pressed Rat and Warthog”; also, Clapton’s live version of Robert Johnson’s blues standard “Crossroads,” has become a blues-rock staple. (Interestingly, Clapton considers himself to be - above all else – a blues guitarist.) Cream tossed out one more album, essentially a dried out bone called Goodbye, which featured a passably good concert version of “I’m So Glad” and “Badge,” a tune presaging Clapton’s subsequent descent into pop mania. Cream reunited for a set in 1993 and then four sets in 2005. But plans for another reunion are not in the works. Even though Cream lasted for only two years, the technical virtuosity of its members and their critical acclaim and popularity are without peer in the world of rock ‘n’ roll.

Hey, if you'd like to watch some videos of the 13 Best Rock and Roll Trios, please click on the following link:

© 2008 Kelley Marks


Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on June 22, 2019:

Thanks you for the comment, Reginald Thomas, you seem like quite a rock enthusiast. Anyway, I've published lots of rock and roll-based hubs, so check them all out if you can. Later!...

Reginald Thomas from Connecticut on June 22, 2019:

Great article! Many people don’t know that these groups were trios. My favorites were ELP and Cream. Great topic and lots of good info. Thanks

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on June 10, 2015:

Hey, FatBoyThin, you picked some great rock trios; in fact, Emerson, Lake and Palmer used to be on the list and so did the Stray Cats. Sorry, only 10 can crack the list. Thanks for stopping by. Later!

Colin Garrow from Inverbervie, Scotland on June 09, 2015:

Rory Gallagher definitely needs to be on here, along with Robin Trower, Mahogany Rush and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Great Hub.

mike on April 10, 2015:

JFYI Rush went on its hiatus because he lost his daughter in that tragic car crash you mentioned but equally as important he also lost his wife to cancer in the same year. Then he left on his own with no communications to anyone for 5 years. He went on a motorcycle cycle journey of reflections. Rush has 24 gold albums and 14 platinum only third behind beatles and stones. That is something that not many no about is just how freaking good this band is. They are or have been continually overlooked for decades. Now at 47 years since formation they are still touring around the world selling out arenas. I just dropped 5800.00 us to see them front row on this upcoming tour. They have more fans around the world than any band ever, that is very very impressive since they got their admiration of their fans through simple hard work and truly professional dedication unmatched by anyone easily. They have received countless acclaim by harsh critics that their live show tops all acts to this day. Their biggest influence was Cream. Alex's biggest influence was Hendrix. Neils biggest influence was Buddy Rich. Geddy's biggest influence was John Entwhistle. Their Zeppelin influence was very short lived, remember Rush and Zeppelin formed in the very same year. After first album they never sounded like zeppelin again in fact their sound itself sounds like nothing ever before them. What does Rush sound like....well they sound like Rush. Geddy has been deemed greatest bass player all time on hundreds of best of sites and Neil is regarded as simply the greatest ever on countless polls. Alex can very easily Crack top ten greatest all time. This band just keeps getting better. They are truly best friends on stage for all to see in their glorious performances that are awe inspiring. Lyrically Neils work is at the top when a song can still be spellbinding 40 years later. This band has always been light years ahead of anyone that is why they may have been overlooked. Can't overlook anymore. Now even the rolling Stone rag is all over them the same rag that spewed and spread hatred towards this band...very puzzling. Anyway nice to see someone give some love to this band. My all time favorite bands are Zeppelin and Beatles but Rush is easily as great or even greater under further review. I also love Neil Young.

Cheers and thanks for your list.

Ps..I also see that you didn't even have Rush anywhere near your first round up...I think for that error you should have put them first since they absolutely crush Cream in every imaginable way.


Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 02, 2015:

Thanks for the comment, Top Indian cinema. This has always been one of my favorite rock and roll hubs. Later!

@ Bollywood... from Ahmedabad on April 01, 2015:

Superb collection. Nirvana is still my favourite. Keep listening here and there.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on August 10, 2014:

Thanks for the comment, darkprinceofjazz. Yes, Robin Trower could be on this list. I've also considered Green Day, even though they haven't been a trio since the old days. Anyway, I've made adjustments to it, and may do so again. Later!

darkprinceofjazz on August 10, 2014:

Robin Trower should be on this list, I had not considered SRV though as a Power trio. I would move Hendrix up to number 2, and Rush to 4.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on July 26, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, James Vernon. The more you think about it, the more you realize how many great rock trios have come and gone. Later!

James Vernon from UK on July 26, 2012:

Good choices. Originally i couldn't think of too many but there's definitely been some mega bands who were trios.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on January 08, 2012:

Analogman, everyone should continue to learn. Hey! Later!

analogman on January 08, 2012:

hats off to you Kosmo. takes a great man to change his "rock" solid beliefs.i could not express my thoughts better than the professor himself.FOR YOU, THE BLIND WHO ONCE COULD SEE THE BELL TOLLS FOR THEE.

analogman on January 07, 2012:

if you do i will be .. " losing it " " in the end " then i will become an empty mindless specter.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on January 07, 2012:

Hey, analogman, in the next day or two I'm going to add Rush to this list. Later!

anologman on January 07, 2012:

rush 1 thru 10 and then your list is about as far as i would go .

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on January 06, 2012:

If I put Rush on this list, the Stray Cats will go. This scenario would seem to satisfy numerous rockers, though not fans of the Cats. Later!

anologman on January 05, 2012:

no rush in top power trio list = no knowledge period. not sorry!

sakoop96 on December 20, 2011:


Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on November 27, 2011:

Hey, somethingblue, Kemp's had more than one good year. Last year he was spectacular! As for Big Blue back in the 1970s and early 1980s, they were also my favorite Dodger team. Later!

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on November 27, 2011:

I work part time as an Umpire, get it? I used to be a Dodger fan when they had the Penguin, Lopes, Garvey, Monday, Baker . . . ah those were the days!

Having grown up The Rocky Mountain Way, I had to jump ship in '93 and what are you talkin' 'bout they just gave whatshisface 160 mil after one good year, WOW!

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on November 27, 2011:

Your nickname is somethingblue yet you're not a Dodger fan? I don't understand! As for the Dodgers, they need new owners who will pay more money for players. Later!

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on November 26, 2011:

Or Triumph, but if Rush didn't make it what chance would Triumph have, anyway who can trust a Dodger fan anyway . . .

Tulo, Cargo and Helton will rule the NL West next year!

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on November 26, 2011:

Yeah, somethingblue, lots of folks want Rush on this list. To be honest, I had completely forgotten about them and thought they'd broken up decades ago. Anyway, personally I like the Stray Cats better, as do many other people. Also, the Stray Cats definitely were a trio at one time. Like many bands including Nirvana, they tend to add musicians over time. Later!

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on November 25, 2011:

You picked the Stray Cats over Rush, when I saw the Stray Cats they had a lot more members than three, hmmm! And Rush is still producing music, WOW!

jon on September 30, 2011:

good list.... no rush, this is good... rush suck

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on September 21, 2011:

Reek, you are one among many fans of Rush, but I am not one of them. You say they're better than Cream, ZZ Top or Hendrix? Surely you jest, sir. Later!

Reek on September 21, 2011:

No RUSH = Bogus list

According to your list, I would put them as #1 or 2. Far better musicians then prob all the bands listed and far more influential then them too.

honest abe on September 15, 2011:

to exclude rush is sinful!!!!! Three individually excellent musicians combine to make a sound that has been consistently good for 40 years. Grand Funk????? come on!!!!! They have had a few nice songs but not even close to the collection of "hits" rush has had let alone doing over 40 years and still rockin' out new, great music today. Just based on their lengthy catalouge means people are still buying their stuff. They are not out doing some half baked lineup of has beens grabbing money on a reunion tour, they are touring as a current recording artist and selling out ARENA'S!!!!!!! When will this band get some friggin' respect?????

AutumnReign on June 04, 2011:


the Dude on February 11, 2011:

Minutemen and Morphine!!!

rushlover2112 on January 20, 2011:

Rush should be #1 who ever made this list doesn't know anything!!!!!!!!!!! What other band has the best drummer ever????

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on November 11, 2010:

I did listen to Rush quite a bit back in the 1970s, but I must admit I'd forgotten their sound. Frankly, I liked Mahogony Rush better. Remember Frank Marino on lead guitar? Anyway, I'll have to check out Budgie?!... Later!

alex on November 10, 2010:

i think you left out probably the 2 best trios of all time....rush and budgie. if you listen to there stuff from the 70's you may agree.



Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on October 25, 2010:

The Genesis rock trio is way too poppy for my taste. I prefer power trios that kick ass. Surely Genesis doesn't belong with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, ZZ Top and Cream, do they? Later!

Mikey on October 24, 2010:

Obviously your "better" is different from mine, oh well. I would still like to see your thoughts on the Genesis rock trio. Thanks.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on October 21, 2010:

Yeah, lots of people like Rush, but they certainly aren't better than most of the bands on this list, particularly Cream, CS&N and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Come on, do you really think they're better than any of these three?!... Whatever!

Mikey on October 21, 2010:

What about Genesis? (And Then There were Three). When they became a trio, they had their best commercial success.

So anyway I have to express my 2 cents about Rush. Personally I think they are in the top five bands of all time period. This is based on album sales, talent, longevity, and influence. To not have them as the #1 trio is actually....kinda weird.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on September 07, 2010:

Hey, another lengthy response from Mr. Terminus! As I indicated in an earlier comment, a band such as Rush could easily crack the number nine or ten spot, but after that it's pretty much written in stone. Moreover, I know lots of folks dig Rush but I am not one of them (I hate the lead singer's voice!), and to say that ZZ Top isn't as good commits rock and roll sacrilege! Anyway, what I learned when I made this list is that there are many more comtemporary rock trios than I thought! The power trio hasn't disappeared, though it may not be what it used to be. You did agree on number one, though, didn't you? Nobody beats Cream. Thanks for another insightful and well-written comment. Later!

Terminus on September 06, 2010:

Without question, the list is very well constructed, however the shocking omission of the highly esteemed Canadian prog rock trio, RUSH, is pure musical blasphemy. First saw them in a Texas Jam (90k+ attended; Cotton Bowl) and they blew all the other bands away. This included ZZ Top...Not only have they managed to produce quality music for 40 years, they adapted to fast changing musical eras with dignity and class. While Geddy Lee can no longer belt out the higher registers as he did in the 70s and early 80s, he remains a wonderful and relevant vocalist who can play the bass like very few could ever dream of. I've seen Rush at least a dozen times and they are easily as relevant as ELP or The Police. Neil Peart (The Professor) quite frankly is in the top five drummers rock ever saw and a tremendous lyricist. Alex Lifeson is a magnificent guitarist who would easily make any top 20 list, especially live, where he could reproduce his studio work amazingly well.

I'm really enjoying your lists and articles Mr. Kosmo, and your knowledge is amazing. That being said, if ever you needed to make a change to one of your lists, adding RUSH to this one is it. I would nominate ZZ Top for omission / honorable mention. I have always enjoyed them, but musically, they are devoid of the pure artistry that RUSH abundantly has.

Rush2112 on August 21, 2010:

where are can you not list rush as the best power trio in the world when the have the worlds greatest drummer and bassist, alex is an amazing guitarist and those 3 guys can do more than all 8 members of slipknot

Polar2004 on July 01, 2010:

what about RUSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on June 17, 2010:

Hey, Howlin Wolf, I thought you were dead! Regarding SRV and Double Trouble, they started as a trio and then later added keyboards. Be that as it may, the trio with SRV was enough to impress greatly. Also, I'll bet the Stray Cats have many fans out there. Guitarist Brian Setzer can really rip and is almost certainly one of the best rockabilly guitarists around. Thanks for the comment.

Idmaf, I also realize that some of these trios may have been "platforms" for the main talent, that is Hendrix or Vaughan, which makes compiling this list very difficult. Also, when I started this list I had no idea there were so many trios in the past and present. Interacting with people and their comments has been an enlightening experience. Therefore, I'll have to check out Kings X, Primus and Triumph. Later!

Idmaf on June 17, 2010:

meant to say at end - ....their musical contributions post-band.

Idmaf on June 17, 2010:

I like your choices on Cream, The Police, ELP, and GFR as they are what I consider true power trio's in which each of the 3 members represent a large part of the sound scape and creative input of the band. Many of the bands listed i.e. ZZ Top, Stray Cats, SRV, Nirvana and to a point Jimi Hendrix and the Experience have more of a front man w/studio musicians aspect. This is not a cut on any of the non front man musicians. The degree at which this is the case could be argued and a different outcome tabulated for each band. But I think when the identity of an individual as applied to the group is larger than the group itself it takes a little power from the trio. This doesn't apply so much to an Eric Clapton or Sting in which much of their identity today is an amalgamation of their career with the aforementioned bands and their musical contribution.

Other rock trio's as honorable mentions: King's X, Primus, Triumph, Green Day.

howlin wolf on June 17, 2010:

Double Trouble had four members. Where is the James Gang and Robin Trower. Nirvana was a great band and had solid writing, but better than Rush? Stay Cats are a joke on your list.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on June 17, 2010:

In general, it's hard comparing contemporary groups with ones that no longer exist. Be that as it may, for pure longevity and album sales Rush could certainly be on this list, somewhere around eight, nine or ten, but I wouldn't put them anywhere near number one. Sorry. Later!

Idmaf on June 16, 2010:

PS. I just caught an early showing of the new Rush movie: Beyond the Lighted Stage set to release on DVD 6/28. It was a fantastic representation of the band and it's influence. a funny mention: Jack Black's explanation of Rush's endless bottle of rocket sauce is priceless.

Idmaf on June 16, 2010:

Comparing Rush and Cream is tough. Two completely different groups. But both deserve to be at the top of the list. Rush can be easy to overlook if your not into them. But do consider despite being overlooked by the mainstream they have managed to sell more consecutive gold records than anyone on the list or any other rock trio for that matter. It's due to developing a hard core fan base made of a high percentage of musicians. I think this shocks most people that aren't into them, just not realizing the sheer vastness of their influence on upcoming musicians going on 4 decades.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on June 15, 2010:

Thanks for reminding me of Three Dog Night. I bought their first album on eight track tape. Man, that was a while ago! I've always liked the song "One." However, since they don't play instruments, I cannot include them on this list of the best rock trios. Thanks for the comment. Later!

redwriterbb from Norfolk/Virginia Beach Area on June 15, 2010:

Listen to some early Three Dog Night in concert. Sometimes when they did "Eli's Coming" the three voices singing sounded like so much more. They were so much more than what is recorded and remembered. They arranged the songs to new heights. The reason they did not do their own song writing was because the egos would get in the way. AND under contract they did two albums a year and toured 210 days a year. The pop songs that got all the play hurt their image. But to compete with the conservative Emmys (Carol King and Carpenters) pop was the way to go. But they had 21 hits and domination of the airwaves for several years - I was there. AND they broke into network TV with their own prime-time special, the FIRST "New Year's Rockin' Eve", a performance on "Laugh-In" and a performance on "Playboy After Dark".

When Three Dog Night is re-discovered by rock n roll enthusiasts, the quality and rocking energy of the work usually pleases.

Anon on June 13, 2010:

Thanks man, looking for a list of trios for influence since I want to start my own, although I would've tried to fit Motorhead onto the list.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on May 11, 2010:

Everybody's entitled to their own opinion, Dogen. As I indicated in my comments, any number of bands could have made it to number nine or 10, but the others are pretty much etched in stone. Anyway, you don't really think Rush's personnel is better than Cream's, do you? Go back and listen to Cream's material and re-educate yourself. Okay? Later!

Dogen on May 11, 2010:

Are you kidding me????? I scanned down the list expecting, of course, to see Rush at number one. Not even an honorable mention?

Obviously about 8 seconds of research went into this. Cream would be a distant second even with E.C. Alex Lifeson while not quite an EC is still one of the top 20 lead guitarists in all of rockdom. And Lifeson is the WEAKEST link for Rush. Neil Peart and Geddy Lee are, at least arguably the best drummer and bassist ever.

Anna on May 01, 2010:

what about muse?

João Ismail from Odivelas on April 12, 2010:

Great choices... Couldn´t think of anyone better than the trios you picked!

Frank on March 15, 2010:

Just another guys opine!

Rush 1


violent femmes 4

and the rest are great as well

zzron from Houston, TX. on January 21, 2010:


MOGO on November 18, 2009:

Biffy Clyro and 30 seconds to mars should definitely b in the list

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on October 21, 2009:

They would have called themselves HELP?!... Gotta love it. Too bad it didn't happen. Thanks for the comment. Later!

mcacreate on October 21, 2009:

There are a lot of bands that I didn't know was a trio, such as ZZtop. The last time I saw Ted Nugent, he only had two people with him. Emerson, Lake & Palmer is my favorite band of all time. One other note. Keith Emerson mentioned in an interview about Hendrix joining the band and said "then the band would be HELP.

elisabethkcmo from Just East of Oz on September 04, 2009:

great hub, you really know your stuff

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on September 04, 2009:

Yeah, Hendrix playing with ELP definitely would have been a gas! In fact, Hendrix simply living longer would have been infinitely ass-kicking. Later!

tony0724 from san diego calif on September 03, 2009:

Oh and one more side note Hendrix was talking with ELP about collaborating on an album together . What a shame I am sure It would have been an Instant classic .

tony0724 from san diego calif on September 03, 2009:

Kosmo I am hardpressed to argue one selection here. They are all outstanding choices . And yes Rush Is a trio of virtuoso musicians !

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on April 24, 2009:

Rush is a trio? I'll have to learn more about them. It's off to YouTube I go. Thanks!

sherrymq on April 24, 2009:


Adam B on April 01, 2009:

I am in complete agreeance with this list; great job.

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on March 28, 2009:

I remember Rory Gallagher - he could definitely rip. Yet I'm not sure he could crack this list. Perhaps the number ten spot, where lots of trios could go - the James Gang, et al.

"willie" guitar & drums on March 28, 2009:

excuse me - rory gallagher of course (r.i.p.)

"willie"guitar & drums on March 28, 2009:

yeah, of course - and rory gallgher with "taste" !!!

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on January 31, 2009:

Another possibility for this list would be Robin Trower. What do you think?

Kelley Marks (author) from Sacramento, California on November 26, 2008:

Would anybody like to see the James Gang on this list?...

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