The 10 Best Backing Bands of All Time: No. 6 — Double Trouble

January 11th, 2013

By Damian Fanelli

This story is part of our ongoing series about the 10 best backing bands of all time. We kicked things off last week with band No. 10 — The Band. (Check out that story here.)

Note that we kept our choices to backing bands with actual “names.” These are groups we call “ampersand bands,” since their name, in most of these cases, follows an ampersand or an “and” in the act’s full name, such as John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers or Johnny and The Moondogs (neither of whom are included on this list).

So even though Bill Black and Scotty Moore kicked vintage ass as Elvis Presley’s backing duo, the duo never had a name. And the talented gents who backed Roger Waters or Paul McCartney at the 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief? No name. You get the idea.

We also tried to focus on bands that kept a core group of members intact over the years. For example, we’d consider Elvis Costello’s Attractions (always the same three guys) over Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention (This Wikipedia page says it all).

On that note, here’s band No. 6, Double Trouble.

06. Double Trouble

In the early ’80s, Texan Stevie Ray Vaughan breathed new life into a faded genre called the blues, created a distinctive modern Texas sound that is still mimicked today and introduced Jimi Hendrix, Albert King and Lightnin’ Hopkins to a new generation of guitar players.

But he didn’t do it alone.

Behind him every step of the way were Double Trouble — bassist Tommy Shannon, drummer Chris Layton and (as of 1985), keyboardist Reese Wynans. It can be argued (Note the COMMENTS section below, folks!) that Vaughan only really sounded like Vaughan when he was backed by Double Trouble. His sound changed when he made cameo appearances on other artists’ albums and on the Vaughan Brothers’ 1990 LP, Family Style.

Layton and Shannon — who, as Johnny Winter’s former bassist, brought his own Texas blues pedigree into the mix — formed the perfect rhythm section for Vaughan, filling the gaps and adding dynamics during 15-minute versions of “Little Wing/Third Stone from the Sun” and sounding like a blues-shuffle instructional tape on “Empty Arms.”

They understood their role in catchy guitar-based instrumentals like “Scuttle Buttin’,” “Rude Mood,” “Boilermaker” and “Stang’s Swang” and knew how to alter their playing styles to fit each mood and blues sub-genre.

Wynans’ arrival in 1985 gave the band a bigger, beefier sound, as heard on Soul To Soul and In Step.

Since Vaughan’s death in 1990, Double Trouble have backed a host of artists, including Jimmie Vaughan, Buddy Guy and, most recently, Albert Cummings.

  • Daniel

    Recently a friend played in a Festival where Chris Layton was playing. He was very impressed by how big he sounded without being aggressive or too loud. SRV had a very powerful band, but he always had a real blues approach.