5 Must-Hear Tracks that Feature Two Drummers

In 1956, jazz drummers Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich released Krupa and Rich, coming together on “Bernie’s Tune” with their dual percussion running nearly 14 minutes. When band leaders like John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, and Miles Davis aimed for more ambitious arrangements, they also used double-drum performances.

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Meanwhile, psychedelic rock and jam bands like the Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band utilized two drummers to blend jazz, rock, country, and blues to create new genres.

In 2008, Beyoncé performed a fusion version of her hit “Crazy in Love” on The Today Show using two female drummers, Nikki Glaspie and Kim Thompson. And Jack Antonoff has spoken of The Allman Brothers Band’s influence on his group Bleachers.

Following the recent death of Dickey Betts, Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson is the last surviving original member of The Allman Brothers Band. To honor Jaimoe and the legacy of the Allmans, here’s a list of five must-hear tracks with two drummers.

“Parker’s Band” by Steely Dan

Steely Dan’s brief ode to Charlie Parker features Jim Gordon and Jeff Porcaro swinging through a jazz-rock groove on their 1974 album Pretzel Logic. The album also features Steely Dan’s hit “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number.” Gordon was a member of Eric Clapton’s supergroup Derek and the Dominos, whose only studio album, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, featured Duane Allman. Porcaro co-founded Toto in 1977 and admired Gordon as a drumming idol. Gordon played on many notable recordings, including The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, while Porcaro is one of history’s most recorded session drummers. He’s responsible for the drum groove on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.”

“St. Stephen” by Grateful Dead

Grateful Dead’s first official live album, Live/Dead (1969), features Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart trading flittering drum fills without losing the group’s psychedelic groove. “St. Stephen” was recorded at the Fillmore West in San Francisco on February 27, 1969. In 1973, Jerry Garcia explained how the Grateful Dead influenced The Allman Brothers Band: “Dickey [Betts] and the guys had flashed on our music when we played a festival in Florida about five or six years ago. We really inspired them, and they patterned a lot of their trip after us. They’re like a younger, Southern version of us in some ways musically.”

“Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” by Miles Davis

Miles Davis explored R&B and New Orleans jazz rhythms in “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down.” His 1970 masterpiece B–ches Brew changed both jazz and rock music. It inspired Radiohead’s groundbreaking and prescient OK Computer and fused jazz and rock while simultaneously provoking the purists. Don Alias performs the New Orleans-style beat with Jack DeJohnette layering a collage-like assortment of rhythms over the top. Davis’s official biographer, Quincy Troupe, calls the album “a cultural breakthrough,” adding, “It sounded like the future.”

“The Letter” by Joe Cocker

On Joe Cocker’s 1970 live album Mad Dogs and Englishmen, drummers Jim Keltner and Jim Gordon come together for a raucous groove recorded at the Fillmore East in New York City. Cocker, with Leon Russell, leads the band, but Keltner and Gordon’s groove is the driving force of “The Letter.” At the 3:20 mark, the song becomes a drum and vocal break, one of the best live rock and roll moments ever captured on tape. Alex Chilton, then age 16, recorded “The Letter” with The Box Tops in 1967 before reaching cult status with Memphis power pop legends Big Star. The song topped the U.S. charts and predated Cocker’s 1970 studio version, which reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Trouble No More” by The Allman Brothers Band

The Allman Brothers Band wasn’t the first group with two drummers, but they may have perfected the arrangement. Drummers Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson and Butch Trucks played together like they shared the same brain. The Allmans covered Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More” on their 1969 self-titled debut. Jaimoe and Trucks begin the song with a swaggering shuffle rhythm begging to be sampled. Following the guitar solo, the band breaks for a psychedelic Buddy Rich two-bar drum fill before the final chorus. Their 1972 album Eat a Peach features a live version recorded seven months before guitarist Duane Allman died. Like the Grateful Dead before them, the Allmans’ live recordings became definitive parts of the jam band canon.  

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