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Two Drummers

Charlottesville, Virginia

April 21, 2021

Having two drummers in a band can sometimes seem just a bit excessive. Even though it may look strange at first, there’s typically a legitimate reason (or two) behind a band adding a second or even third drummer.

Why do bands have two drummers? Bands have two drummers to create a thicker, fuller, or denser sound. Having two drummers can introduce more variation and intensity into a performance.

Groups like Genesis, The Allman Brothers Band, and James Brown successfully toured with two or more drummers for years, and it’s something many bands still imitate to this day.

But there are also situations where having two drummers doesn’t exactly mean two drum kits. Some bands have several drummers on stage at a time playing percussion instruments like bongos, floor toms or standing bass drums. Every situation is different and this guide will walk you through the most common ones.

Just In Case Someone Quits – James Brown

Before James Brown, having one drummer was enough.

Although he wasn’t the first, many musicians credit Brown as the “father” of double drummers, inspiring countless others to adopt the addition of a second and sometimes even a third drummer. But what has historically been seen as innovation and creative risk-taking, happened almost by accident.

Legend says sometime in the early 1960s Brown’s band refused to perform, claiming the singer had become increasingly difficult to work with. After eventually succumbing to the band’s demands, Brown swore, “I’ll never be caught without two of everything.”

The singer quickly hired multiple musicians for each instrument, adding several drummers, guitarists, bassists, and an entire horn section. At any given time, Brown had 40 to 50 musicians to choose from, just in case of another mutinous uprising.

Eventually, two of Brown’s drummers (John “Jabo” Starks and Clyde Stubblefield) congealed so well that Brown couldn’t split them up. Their styles were polarizing, but together they laid the foundation of double drummers in modern music.

The Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead, Radiohead, Joe Walsh, and countless others have credited Brown, Starks, and Stubblefield for inspiring them to bring two drummers to the table.

The More The Merrier – The Allman Brothers Band

In modern recording and music production, layering instruments like the drums isn’t a foreign concept. Adding multiple tracks to increase the audio quality of a song and create a thicker sound is common practice. The Allman Brothers wanted that same fullness to carry over into their ‘live’ performances.

According to the band’s legendary percussionist Jaimoe, Duane Allman knew he wanted two drummers the moment he started The Allman Brothers Band.

“I asked Duane why he wanted two drummers and he said, ‘Because James Brown has two,’” said Jaimoe.

These two drummers, Jaimoe and Butch Trucks, quickly developed a unique musical relationship on and off stage. The two flawlessly combined styles to become one massive drumming machine.

Individually, they played extremely differently, but together they were perfectly out of sync. Trucks traditionally drove the band like a pulse, keeping time while Jaimoe embellished on Trucks foundation. Adding explosive fills and Jazz-like flourishes Jaimoe and Trucks made The Allman Brothers Band one of the most iconic groups to ever pull-off having two drummers.

In fact, in 1991, The Allman Brother’s Band added a third drummer, percussionist Marc Quinones. According to Wikipedia, “The general pattern was that Trucks was the timekeeper, Johanson added colors, and Quiñones established rhythms that the guitarists played against.”

With an army of drummers (sometimes even four), The Allman Brothers Band established themselves as masters of percussion in a way that no one in rock music has successfully duplicated since.

A Drummer That Sings – Genesis

Introducing double drummers to pop music, Genesis is arguably the most mainstream band to have successfully had two drummers.

Phil Collins found himself filling-in as lead vocalist after the departure of the band’s beloved, theatrical frontman Peter Gabriel in 1975. In fact, the band’s first album after Gabriel, A Trick of the Tail, Wind & Wuthering was written without vocals. It was only after auditioning several vocalists that Collins stepped up to the plate.

Naturally, Collins continued to write and record as the band’s drummer on future Genesis albums but instead of trying to balance both acts on tour, Collins recruited Weather Report’s Chester Thompson to fill the role of the band’s ‘live’ drummer.

Grateful Dead’s Improvisational Double Drums

One of history’s greatest jam bands, the Grateful Dead also brought two drummers to the show. They had just changed their name from the Warlocks in 1967 when Mickey Hart was invited to sit in at a live show. From that moment, he joined Bill Kreutzmann as the second drummer with the group. It was said that Bill drove the beat, while Mickey provided the “color.” One thing is for sure, having two drummers allowed much more improvisation during the Dead’s long, free-form jams. Hart left the group in 1971, but returned to his throne in 1974.

The Doobie Brothers

The Doobie Brothers began using two drummers in 1971. The pairings were usually either John Hartman and Michael Hossack, or Hartman and Keith Knudsen, or Hossack and Kundsen, depending on the time frame. However, Chet McCracken also played with the band, giving them three drummers for a short time in the mid-1980s.

Tedeschi Trucks’ Blues Rock Juggernaut

Perhaps one of the best examples of double drumming today can be heard from the Tedeschi-Trucks Band. Since their formation in 2010, and through four Blues Music Awards and a Grammy, they have employed the drumming skills of Tyler Greenwell, and J. J. Johnson. A blues rock juggernaut, Tedeschi-Trucks Band has released three studio and two live albums, continuing to be one of the hardest working bands on the planet.

James Brown may not have been the first band leader to employ two drummers, but his decision to do so changed the game in music. From 38 Special to Joe Walsh, dozens of acts now bless our ears with the combined unique talents of two drummers.

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Apr 22, 2021

I do not think I have ever seen a drum solo quite like this:

Apr 23, 2021
Replying to

That was pretty damn impressive!!! He was doing some double perididdles . . . and I never could figure out how to so regular perididdles while holding the sticks the way you're supposed to.....

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