We've Got Your Back: The 10 Best Backing Bands of All Time
We've got your back — Guitar World's guide to the 10 best backing bands of all time.
05. The Wailers
Formed in the early ‘60s when Peter Tosh taught a young Robert Nesta Marley how to play guitar, the Wailers — in one incarnation or another — would back reggae’s most legendary figure throughout his entire career.
There are two distinct periods in the strata of Wailers history. The group’s original incarnation featured Tosh on guitar, with the Wailers existing as essentially a three-piece (with Bunny Livingston on percussion) between 1966 and 1974.
Citing unfair treatment within the group, Livingston and Tosh exited the band in ‘74, leaving Marley to regroup, establishing a new version of the Wailers that would serve as his backing band for the remainder of his career. The new Wailers lineup would hit the road in 1975 with Al Anderson handling guitar duties. Anderson would only stick around through '76, however, opting to join Peter Tosh's Word, Sound and Power and opening the door for Junior Marvin to enter the scene.
Marvin would breathe new life into the Wailers, as evidenced by the massive success of 1977's Exodus. But if you asked Marvin, he'd give all the credit to Roger Mayer, the man who Jimi Hendrix trusted to help craft his groundbreaking guitar sounds.
“You listen to the Wailers from 1977 onward and you listen to the Wailers pre-1977, and you will hear the difference,” Marvin says. “Part of that is down to Roger Mayer.”
But beyond a reinvigorated lineup and the technical know-how of Mayer, it was undoubtedly Marley’s strict work ethic that, regardless of lineup, made the Wailers one of the tightest backing bands in history.
“Bob was on top of everything, perfectly woven with everything,” Marvin said. “You felt like nothing would go wrong. Bob would rehearse us so much. At the end of rehearsal, you could play that thing in your sleep.”
These days, you can catch multiple versions of the Wailers on tour. The Wailers Band, led by “Family Man” Barrett, and the Original Wailers, featuring Al Anderson and Junior Marvin, are both doing their parts to keep the music and spirit of Bob Marley alive.
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