Top 10 Thursdays: The Top 10 Jam Band Gods

On Friday, August 21, Col. Bruce Hampton will bring his inspired, improvisation rock to Revolution in Fort Lauderdale. He's a jam band hero who helped form the highly influential '90s H.O.R.D.E. tours. With H.O.R.D.E., he employed future jam band all-stars Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band), Jimmy Herring (Widespread Panic) as well as numerous others. But Hampton doesn't quite make into in our Jam Band God Pantheon. Sorry. Hit the hookah, peruse our tally, and if you still have any energy left, feel free to tell us why Dave Matthews really, really should have made the cut.

Hit the jump for the top ten list.

1. Jerry Garcia

The Grateful Dead aren't the greatest jam band -- that honor goes to Duane-era Allman Brothers Band -- but they were the first, and no one man has played a more important role in shaping the scene than Garcia. A gifted singer, songwriter and guitarist, he shined equally with The Dead and his eponymous band, not to mention countless other winning side-projects. Here's Garcia and David Grisman performing a gorgeous, acoustic rendition of "Friend of the Devil" in 1991.

2. Duane Allman

The slide guitar master did classic session work (Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett) before teeming with sibling Gregg to form The Allman Brothers Band, the first act to truly combine hard rock, jazz and blues and in a meaningful way. Here's a killer, rare clip of Duane-era ABB doing "Whipping Post" in 1970.

3. Trey Anastasio

It's a significant drop from vintage-era Dead and ABB to Phish, but the latter does rank as the greatest jam band to emerge in the last quarter century. Here's singer/guitarist/band leader Trey and the boys doing "Slave to the Traffic Light" earlier this year during their much ballyhooed reunion jaunt.

4. Gregg Allman

The best vocalist on this list has kept the Allman Brothers Band going for 40 years, with the group performing as well now as at any time since Duane died in '71. The author of such anthems as "Dreams," "Whipping Post" and "Midnight Rider" also maintains a successful solo career. Here he is in 2007 leading his excellent solo band through a simply chilling rendition of Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman."

5. Warren Haynes

He started playing guitar for redneck renegade David Allan Coe before being discovered by Dickey Betts, which led to him becoming a member of the Allman Brothers Band (and ironically replacing Betts). Haynes also fronts Gov't Mules and plays guitar in The Dead. Yeah, he's the hardest working -- and probably nicest -- guy on the jam band circuit. He also has written the greatest jam band song of his generation, "Soulshine," which he can be seen here performing with Gov't Mule.

6. Jim James

My Morning Jacket is, for my money, the hottest jam band on the planet right now thanks to their latest album, the completely captivating Evil Urges. Here's James -- the best falsetto vocalist on the list -- leading his group through a stunning version of the title track.

7. Dickey Betts

As a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band he wrote the masterful instrumentals "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" and "Jessica" plus "Blue Sky," and the group's lone Top 10 single, "Ramblin' Man." Since being forced out of the Brotherhood in 2000, he has continued to elate concertgoers with his decidedly Southern take on jam rock. Here's a clip from earlier this year of Dickey and son Duane delivering a sublime "Blue Sky."

8. Derek Trucks

The Allman Brothers band's slide guitar whiz (and nephew of drummer Butch Trucks) has been mesmerizing concertgoers since age 12. When not melting faces with ABB, Trucks leads his namesake band, tours with wife Susan Tedeschi in Soul Stew Revival or tours the globe with Eric Clapton. Not bad for a guy who just turned 30. Here's the master of heavenly guitar tone doing "Soul Serenade" with his DTB band in '07.

9. Robert Randolph

Sacred steel master Robert Randolph introduced the masses to a sound that previously could only be heard in Southern churches. He also Does anyone make more joyful music? Doubtful. Here's Randolph, who also performs in The Word, doing "The March" in '07 with his Family Band.

10. John Bell

Widespread Panic singer/guitarist has kept the band going strong despite the loss of guitarist Michael Houser, who was smartly replaced by Jimmy Herring following the lackluster McConnell era. Here's Bell singing the band's best known song -- and to be honest, my favorite -- "Ain't Life Grande" in 2007.

-- Wade Tatangelo can be reached at [email protected]


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Wade Tatangelo