Trios are popular in music because three members tend to be the smallest number of artists that can cover all of the roles needed for a group. Across every genre, you’ll be able to find numerous successful trios that created a song close to your heart.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the best music trios of all time, covering some of the most successful groups in music history and throwing in a few smaller yet very influential groups.
The Canadian rock band Rush was originally formed in 1968, but the power trio of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart didn’t finalize their lineup until 1974. The band saw wild success throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, regularly ranking albums on Canadian, US, and UK charts. Rush has sold over 40 million albums worldwide, been nominated for seven Grammy awards, and been inducted into both the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
2. The Police
Considered the leader of the second British Invasion, The Police found worldwide success throughout the 70s and 80s. Originally formed in London in 1977, the band featured incredibly talented members including Sting, Andy Summers, and Steve Copeland. They’ve sold over 75 million albums worldwide, won five Grammy awards, and have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The influence of reggae, punk, and jazz in their rock music helped them stand out from other groups of the time.
Cream only spent three years together but they produced four albums between their formation in 1966 and their breakup after 1968, all of which charted well and brought them success. The band is widely thought of as one of the very first supergroups in music. Each member was part of successful bands before and after their time with Cream. In his solo career, guitarist Eric Clapton went on to sell 280 million records, win 17 Grammy awards, and is the only three-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The figurehead of Generation X, Nirvana’s brand of rock influences music to this day. The band was originally formed in 1987 by Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, then recruited Dave Grohl for the drums in 1990. While originally part of the Seattle grunge scene, Smells Like Teen Spirit brought the band’s contrasting verses and alternative rock into the mainstream. Cobain’s untimely death in 1994 forced the group to disband, with Dave Grohl going on to form the Foo Fighters the same year. Nirvana popularized alternative rock, has sold 75 million records worldwide, and still has a huge following to this day.
5. The Jimi Hendrix Experience
The Jimi Hendrix Experience was a band put together to highlight the talents of one of the best guitarists of all time. They stayed together from 1966 until a final performance in 1969 that ended with the group escaping in a van that got crushed by audience members. A diverse range of musical styles is found within the group’s first studio album Are You Experienced, though most of their success was found in the two singles Purple Haze and Hey Joe. Hendrix’s famous moment of setting his guitar on fire came during one of the shows The Jimi Hendrix Experience played.
6. Bee Gees
When it comes to success reaching number one on the Billboard charts, only the Beatles and the Supremes are ahead of the Bee Gees. Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb formed the band in 1958 and they remained active in the music industry for 45 years. Even if you don’t know the band, you’ve surely heard their 1977 hit Stayin’ Alive. The Bee Gees are also one of the best-selling groups of all time, with estimates ranging from 120 to 250 million album sales worldwide.
7. Destiny’s Child
Destiny’s Child originally started as a quartet, though because of internal conflicts, they ended up with the trio of Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams making up the group. Though the group has disbanded in favor of pursuing solo careers, they regularly get back together to perform at events like the 2013 Super Bowl Halftime Show. With over 60 million records sold and nine Grammy nominations, the all-girl group was able to cement itself as one of the most successful trios of all time.
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8. ZZ Top
ZZ Top was originally formed in 1969 and became famous for their unique style of rock music played on blues guitars and the humorous lyrics they included in their songs. The band was active until 2021, releasing 15 studio albums, selling 50 million records worldwide, and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
9. Green Day
Green Day spearheaded the Bay Area punk scene under the name Sweet Children before taking on the Green Day name in 1989. The group’s popularity made them one of the bands responsible for popularizing punk music in American rock circles. They’ve received 17 Grammy nominations with four wins, sold 75 million albums worldwide, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
In millennial circles, Phil Collins is best known for the work he did on animated Disney movie soundtracks but his most successful works were as a part of Genesis. Along with Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, Collins would go on to sell 150 million records worldwide with 15 studio albums and 6 live records.
Train was formed in 1993 and is perhaps best known for its hit song Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me) which got nominated for two Grammy awards in 2002 and was the reason for its title album going double platinum. While no longer a trio, the band sold over 10 million records worldwide with over 30 million sold tracks.
Sublime was formed in 1988, though if you include the dalmatian mascot of the band it was technically a quartet. The band played a unique style of reggae-rock and ska punk, but only found mainstream success with their self-titled third album, which was released a couple of months after Nowell’s death. The band is no longer active today, but hits like Santeria, What I Got, and Wrong Way is still frequently played on the radio. The band has over 20 million album sales worldwide.
Blink-182 blends pop-rock with punk melodies to achieve the perfect tone for songs centering on the struggles of adolescence and learning maturity. The group has over 50 million album sales worldwide and is responsible for the increased interest and popularity of pop-punk music.
14. The Supremes
We mentioned The Supremes earlier as one of the only groups to have more success on Billboard Charts than the Bee Gees, and that’s because they released 12 songs that hit the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The all-black, all-female group has a storied legacy despite only being active in the 60s and 70s, and is credited with making it possible for future African American artists to find mainstream success.
Motörhead was an English rock band that formed in 1975 and went on to release 23 studio albums, 10 live recordings, and 12 compilation albums. Their hard-rock sound carried them up the UK charts and the band cemented its legacy with over 15 million worldwide album sales.
As one of the most important and influential hip hop groups of all time, it’s no surprise that RUN-D.M.C. is also one of the greatest trios ever. The group is the second hip hop group to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, released the first hip hop album to go multi-platinum, and received a lifetime achievement award from the Grammys.
17. Emerson, Lake, & Palmer
Emerson, Lake, & Palmer were the most successful progressive rock bands of the 1970s. Their songs included elements of classical music, jazz, and symphonic rock, garnering them nearly 50 million album sales worldwide.
18. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
Double Trouble served as the backing band for Stevie Ray Vaughan during the 1980s and was one of the main groups responsible for reviving blues music as a genre. The group won six Grammy awards and their musical stylings went on to inspire artists across a number of different genres.
Destiny’s Child wasn’t the most successful girl’s group of the 90s, that title belongs to TLC. The group recorded four multi-platinum albums and reached over 65 million worldwide album sales. They also won four Grammy awards, three MTV Video Music Awards, and two Soul Train awards while becoming the first R&B group to receive a million certification in Japan.
20. Husker Du
Husker Du formed in Minnesota in the 1980s and became one of the most influential indie bands in American music. They were a major inspiration for the sound Nirvana used in their music, releasing 7 successful studio albums.
Sleater-Kinney was one of the most commercially successful bands to come out of the feminist underground music movement labeled riot grrrl. While best known for their political stances and songs, the band is praised as one of the most essential rock bands of the late 90s and early 2000s.
22. James Gang
James Gang may have only had two major singles that are still played today, but the band was a true power trio. Joe Walsh went on to join the Eagles and Jim Fox played with the Outsiders. Tom Kriss and Jim Fox stayed with the band after Walsh left, but didn’t find mainstream success after their first few albums.
23. Grand Funk Railroad
Grand Funk Railroad rose to major popularity during the 1970s thanks to its arena-rock sound. Their biggest hits include We’re an American Band, Some Kind of Wonderful, and Inside Looking Out.
A-ha Found their largest commercial success with their debut album Hunting High and Low in 1985. The album rose up the charts and produced two international number-ones, while also getting the band nominated for a Grammy. They went on to release 11 studio albums and reached over 100 million albums and single sales worldwide.
25. Rascal Flatts
Rascal Flatts has reached the number-one spot on the country charts with sixteen different singles. Their hit song What Hurts The Most made it to number six on Billboard Hot 100. Their work has been featured in movies such as Disney’s Cars as well.
26. Peter, Paul, and Mary
Peter, Paul, & Mary revived folk music during the 1960s with multiple hit songs. In 1990 the group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and was granted the lifetime achievement award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006.
27. Goo Goo Dolls
Goo Goo Dolls was formed in 1986 and went on to sell 15 million records worldwide and received three Grammy nominations. The band is best-known for hits like Iris, Give A Little Bit, and their breakthrough single Name.
28. The Jam
The Jam had a short run from 1977 to 1982, but they were able to release 18 straight Top 40 singles on the UK charts. After they disbanded, 15 of their early songs were re-released and they all charted in the Top 100 again.
29. Dixie Chicks
Now known as The Chicks, the Dixie Chicks were one of the most successful female country groups of the 90s. The group was able to reach over 30 million album sales and won 12 Grammy awards.
Muse has become one of the more successful recent English rock bands, racking up 30 million worldwide album sales and two Grammy awards. Their sound has evolved over the years, starting off as alternative before shifting to electronic and pop-rock before finally returning to a harder sound.
31. Crosby, Stills & Nash
Crosby, Stills, & Nash were eventually joined by Neil Young but were already an American folk rock supergroup. All three original members were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame individually, as well as part of the group.
Haim formed as a full-time group in 2012. The all-girl band consistently charts in the top ten across numerous countries and they were nominated for a Grammy Award in 2021 for their Women In Music Pt. III album.
33. Manic Street Preachers
The Manic Street Preachers have topped the UK charts four times and are the focal point of the Cool Cymru culture movement. While they formed in the 1980s, the group has found success throughout their careers selling over ten million records worldwide.
Chevelle started out small and grew to sell over 8 million albums. Their nine studio albums have all been well-received and charted on either the Billboard Hot 100 charts or the top rock charts at the time of their releases.
35. Highly Suspect
Highly Suspect’s debut album in 2015 earned themes nominations for Best Rock Album for Mister Asylum and Best Rock Song for Lydia. The group continued to have success, topping the alternative rock charts with songs from their second and third studio albums.
36. The Cure
The Cure’s 13 studio albums, two EPs, and 30 single releases have earned them over 30 million worldwide sales since their formation in 1978. They were part of the post-punk and new wave movement in England during the time, inspiring much of the gothic rock movement of today.
37. Depeche Mode
Depeche Mode hasn’t spent their entire history as a trio but the electronic music group has found success consistently since they got started in 1980. Their 54 songs on the UK Singles Charts and 17 albums reaching the UK’s Top Ten have earned them over 100 million album sales worldwide.
38. Kingston Trio
The Kingston Trio was another major influence on the folk music revival of the 1950s and 60s. They received multiple Grammy nominations and are top ten in the most number one albums and most top ten albums on Billboard charts.
Many pop-punk and alternative listeners have a hard time trying not to start headbanging or singing along to songs like Misery Business or That’s What You Get, but Paramore’s biggest early success was their slower and softer song, The Only Exception. Each of the band’s five albums has been certified gold or platinum and is critically acclaimed.
40. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
B.R.M.C. was originally formed in 1998 and named itself after Marlon Brando’s motorcycle club in The Wild One. The band has released eight studio albums and found moderate success in each of them.
41. The Lonely Island
Look, I know The Lonely Island is a comedy group not a band or music group, but it’s hard to deny how catchy their song releases have been. I’m On A Boat, Dick In A Box, Like A Boss, and I Just Had Sex was all viral internet videos that had millions laughing. While not really a band, the group compiled their satirical songs in four studio albums, all of which did well.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.