‘Trio,’ meaning ‘three,’ denotes a group of three persons, things, or phenomena and is an extensively used term in almost all walks of life and all branches of knowledge. In music, ‘trio’ usually stands for a band of three performers. A trio is characterized by the unity of purpose and focuses on the cumulative outcome rather than the individual performance. In numerology, the number ‘3’ is considered to have magical properties. In music, a triad has three notes, and a tritone divides the octave into three equally distanced notes; root, tritone and octave. In Indian classical music, three equal rhythmic repetitions are called ‘tihai’ which literally means ‘3.’ In 2009, Britney Spears recorded ‘3,’ a number one single of the year. A trio in music, at times, is a combination of three musical instruments. For example, a piano trio includes a piano, violin, and a cello while a string trio utilizes a violin, viola, and a cello. A jazz trio’s instruments are a piano, bass, and drum kit. A clarinet-violin-piano trio is self-explanatory. A power trio consists of a harmonica and a horn trio, and there are other trios of this category. Generally, a trio in music is taken to be a musical band comprising three performers.
Cream was a 1960s British rock trio comprised of a bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce, guitarist and vocalist Eric Clapton, and a drummer Ginger Braker. Their sound was a combined effect of blues rock characterized by the use of the piano, bass guitar, and drum kit. The hard rock was distinguished by distorted electric guitars, a bass guitar, and drums usually with pianos and keyboards and drums. Psychedelic rock representing a psychedelic culture of drugs, using Indian classical music and ragas was also a component of the hybrid rock sound of Cream. Cream’s third album Wheels of Fire was considered the world’s first platinum-selling album. ‘I Feel Free,’ ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ and ‘White Room’ are Cream’s biggest hits. The Cream trio was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and was included in the lists of Rolling Stone and VH1’s ‘100 Greatest Artists of All Time.’
2. Peter, Paul, and Mary
Peter, Paul, and Mary was a trio comprised of: Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers. In the 1960s it was the most prominent music trio. Mary Travers died in 2009, and thereafter Stookey and Yarrow continued performing as a duo. Their first album Peter, Paul, and Mary had hit tunes like ‘If I had a Hammer, Lemon Tree,’ ‘500 Miles’ and ‘Where have All the Flowers Gone?’ The album remained on top of Billboard magazine’s list and sold more than two million copies earning double platinum. The trio had breaks and reunions. To measure the stature of the trio, it may suffice to know that in the Famous Britney Spear’s famous pop song ‘3,’ the lyrics of the second chorus line is ‘Peter, Paul, and Mary.’ A unique aspect of the trio is their care for children. Peter Yarrow in the documentary Peter, Paul, and Mary: Carry It On a Musical Legacy mentioned that they always tried to include at least one song for children in each album.
3. The Chad Mitchell Trio
The Chad Mitchell Trio was originally comprised of Chad Mitchell, Mike Kobluk, and Mike Pugh. The trio emerged as a result of encouragement by Reinard W. Beaverm, a Catholic priest, belonging to Spokane, Washington. He invited the three to travel to New York along with him and to try performing folk songs in the summer of 1959. Unlike most of the other bands, none of the trio performers played instruments. Another distinguishing feature of the trio was that their satire on contemporary events like the Cold War, Civil Rights, and the Vietnam War, etc. was more pronounced. Starting with conventional folk songs, the trio launched the daring satire ‘Fighting for the Right to Fight/The Right Fight for the Right!’ This proved the trio’s exceptional quality of performing with more controversial topics with a notable degree of ease and comfort.
4. Wilson Phillips
The trio Wilson Phillips was comprised of Camie Wilson, Wendy Wilson, and Chynna Phillips. The Wilson Sisters and Philips were raised in Southern California from 1970 to 1980. The trio shared a love for music, and the three developed their own style of vocals. The trio debuted in 1990 and sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. They were #1 on Billboard’s ‘Hot 100’ and considered the best-selling female group. The trio won the Billboard Music Award for the Hot 100 single of the year for ‘Hold On.’ They were also nominated for an American Music Award and four Grammies.
5. The Bee Gees
The Bee Gees was a musical trio formed in 1958 comprising three brothers: Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb who were born on the Isle of Man. For the first few years they lived with their English parents in Charlton, Manchester, England. The trio was generally successful throughout its active period, but it was exceptionally so at the end 1960 and the beginning of the 1970s. Their disco music excelled their fame. The Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. According to their Hall of Fame citation ‘Only Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks, and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees.’
6. The Three Degrees
The Three Degrees was an American female trio formed in 1963 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Originally it was comprised of Fayette Pinkney, Shirley Porter, and Linda Turner. The group always remained a trio although the members changed quite frequently. As many as 15 members represented the trio at different times. The most successful lineup included; Fayette Pinkney, Sheila Ferguson, and Valerie Holiday. They produced as song that hit the U.S. #2 and U.K. single’s chart #1 ‘When Will I See You Again?’ In 1978 they performed at the 30th birthday party of Prince Charles and were also invited to the pre-wedding party of Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.
7. The Rooftop Singers
The Rooftop Singers, comprised of Erick Darling, Bill Syanoe, and Lynne Taylor was an American Folk music trio. In 1929 the trio recorded ‘Walk Right In’ for Vanguard Records which became the most successful record in its history. The song attained #1 in the Kent Music Report, Australia and remained at #1 for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 1963 it was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Folk Recording Category. More than one million copies were sold, winning for it the gold disc status.
8. Alkaline Trio
Originating from McHenry, Illinois the American punk rock group Alkaline Trio was formed in 1996 and originally consisted of Matt Skiba, Rob Doran, and Glenn Porter. Later, Doran was replaced by Dan Andriano. Glenn Porter was also replaced by Mike Felumlee. Notable releases of the trio include: Goddamnit, (1998), Maybe I’ll Catch Fire (2000), and Good Mourning (2003). With the release of Damnesia, the trio celebrated its 15th anniversary.
Belonging to Teignmouth, Devon, the English rock trio was formed in 1994. It was comprised of Mathew Bellamy, Christopher Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard. The trio is best known for its fusion of many music genres. The trio has released Symmetry (2001), Black Holes and Revelations (2006), HAARP (2008), and many others. The trio has won many awards which, not excluding many others, include: five MTV Europe Music Awards, five Q Awards, two Brit Awards, an American Music Award, and nominations for three Grammy Awards.
10. The Kingston Trio
The Kingston Trio originated from San Francisco and consisted of Dave Guard, Bob Shane, and Nick Reynolds. The trio is best known for influencing the direction of popular music in the U.S. More than three million copies of its release Tom Dolly were sold. Its 19 albums reached Billboard’s Top 100, 14 of them ranking in the Top Ten, and 5 of them were at the top of the list. Tom Dooley won a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998 and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (December 2010). The trio was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000 and inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2008. The trio was also registered in the Library of Congress’s ‘National Registry of Historically Significant Recordings’ in 2008.
Proverbially, two’s company and three’s a crowd. A trio, too, can be a crowd, but with a unity of purpose and mind and being in complete harmony with one another they can be very successful. All the three performers of a trio are synchronous and aim at producing what is their collective achievement and not what is perceived in an individual capacity by the performers. From the earliest signs of civilization, common folks have made use of an assortment of instruments including even household utensils to produce music to attract a targeted audience. Garage music evolved when amateur adolescent musicians rehearsed their performances in the garages, and the iron music evolved when law enforcement authorities prohibited the use of drums for gangsters who in turn resorted to using all sorts of empty items like barrels, tins, and pans as musical instruments. The presence or absence of harmony is what distinguishes music from noise.