Chris Layton was born in Corpus Christi, Texas. He "started beating on things" as a child, using coffee cans and pots and pans as his drums. From the ages of seven to 13, he lived in the small farming community of Mathis, TX, where his father owned a car dealership across the road from the town's onion sheds. There, he picked cotton and hopped trains. He got his first drum set at 13. After the family moved back to Corpus, Layton graduated from W.B. Ray High School, and then attended Del Mar College.
But after a four-day trip to Austin, to visit his older sister at the University of Texas, he decided to quit school and move. He set out for Austin in 1975 with a few clothes, his drums and $200 in his pocket. Later he hooked up with Dan Del Santo and His Professors of Pleasure, playing for tips; and then he joined another band, Greasy Wheels. To make ends meet, he threw newspapers and worked as a janitor in a law office. For a while, he attended school in Austin. But his life changed dramatically when he saw Stevie Ray Vaughan play the guitar with Paul Ray and the Cobras at the Soap Creek Saloon.
"I was just amazed," says Layton. "I had never seen anyone play like that."
One night, the Cobras' drummer was late, and Chris was tapped to play four songs in his place. Vaughan kept looking back at him, checking him out. But it wasn't until Vaughan formed Double Trouble that Layton joined the band, on Sept. 1, 1978. In 1981, Tommy Shannon replaced bassist Jackie Newhouse. Shortly thereafter, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble got its big break at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982, when it attracted the attention of David Bowie and Jackson Browne, leading to its first record deal. The band's debut album, Texas Flood, was produced by John Hammond and featured the top-20 hit Pride and Joy. Layton went on to play with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble until Vaughan's death in a helicopter crash in 1990.
"Stevie meant everything to me musically," says Layton, who won Drummer of the Decade in the 90s at the Austin Music Awards, and Drummer of the Year in 2006. "His death was the worst thing that ever happened to me."
After Vaughan's death, Layton eventually picked up the pieces and went on to form three more bands-the Arc Angels, with Tommy Shannon, Charlie Sexton and Doyle Bramhall, from 1990-1994; Storyville, from 1994-1999; and then Grady, which he left in January 2006. From 2000-2003, he and Shannon-as Double Trouble-wrote, produced and issued a solo record, featuring special guests, including Dr. John and Willie Nelson.
Since then, Layton-a husband and father of two-has concentrated on freelance and studio work. He has worked with a myriad of other great musicians, including Buddy Guy, Larry Carlton, BB King, Jimmie Vaughan, Susan Tedeschi, Albert Collins and Earl King. He has earned many accolades in his career: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble sold 12 million records, and was nominated for 10 Grammies, winning four. In 2000 and 2001, Layton won the W.C. Handy Award for Best Drums.
Recently, he has been playing with Kenny Wayne Shepherd. He loves what he does, and has never questioned his path.
"One thing about playing is it seems to be the truest thing I know," says Layton. "It's brutally honest. It's been the driving force in my life."