Smokestack Lightnin' Home Page -- The Blues Profile Page
Doyle Bramhall II (born 24 December 1968) is a guitarist and vocalist in his band Smokestack and is also the second guitarist in Eric Clapton's band. Doyle is singular, in that he plays guitar left-handed but his guitars are strung as if to be played by a right-handed player. This leaves what would be considered the top string at the bottom of his reach, and vice versa.
In 1992 Doyle formed Arc Angels with Charlie Sexton and Stevie Ray Vaughan's rhythm section of bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton (also known as Double Trouble). Doyle and Sexton were only able to work together for one album but it was well received, with several songs receiving heavy rock radio airplay. They went their own ways after the album but have gotten back together and have been playing shows as Arc Angels again in 2006 and 2007.
Doyle released his self-titled debut album on the Geffen record label in 1996 with backing support from Wendy and Lisa (Bramhall is married to Wendy's sister, vocalist Susannah Melvoin). In later interviews, he stated his intent with that album to establish himself as more than just a guitar player.
He was later signed to RCA, and released his second album Jellycream in 1999. He appeared on Austin City Limits in an episode shared with Robert Cray that fall. The Jellycream album found its way into the hands of Eric Clapton, who took an interest in his music and included "Marry You" and "I Wanna Be" in a collaborative album he was working on with B.B. King, released in 2000 as Riding With The King. Doyle also formed a new band, "Doyle Bramhall II & Smokestack," and recorded a new album produced by Benmont Tench of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers fame. Released in 2001, Welcome marked a renewed focus on guitar.
Doyle's recording relationship with Clapton continued to flourish, and he co-wrote "Superman Inside" for and played guitar on Eric's 2001 solo album, Reptile. He and Smokestack opened for Clapton on his 2001 world tour, and Doyle occasionally joined Eric on stage. By 2004, he was Clapton's second guitarist after Andy Fairweather-Low backed out of the tour. The 2004 tour was Clapton's effort at channeling his hero Robert Johnson and Doyle later admitted that he had never listened to Robert Johnson until getting the gig as Clapton's second guitarist. Doyle also appears with Eric in the 2004 CD/DVD release Sessions for Robert J.
Doyle also played guitar on the 1999-2002 In the Flesh tour (captured on the In the Flesh Live album) by former Pink Floyd leader/bassist Roger Waters.
Previous to that, Doyle also played a much lower key role backing his wife Susannah Melvoin's (who also toured with Waters during the In the Flesh tour as a backing singer) twin sister Wendy Melvoin for her band Girl Bros., and more recently with Wendy and Lisa in the groups Pacifico and Funk Sway. Pacifico consisted of Wendy and Lisa, along with Doyle, Mike Elizondo and Abe Laboriel Jr., and several recordings from a small club tour have surfaced. Funk Sway — Erykah Badu, Wendy and Lisa uestlove of The Roots, and Doyle, are featured in the music documentary Before the Music Dies.
As a session guitarist, he has worked with Me'shell Ndegéocello, Sheryl Crow and Susan Tedeschi. He also toured with Eric Clapton as part of his 2006/2007 world tour along with slide guitarist Derek Trucks and he performed at the 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival at Chicago's Toyota Park.
Of his songwriting, Doyle has said that although the blues is one of his favorite genres, he finds that most of his attempts at bluesy songwriting end up sounding "corny," and his songs always tend to have more of a rock feel.
Doyle usually plays the Fender Stratocaster but will occasionally play some Gibson guitars, either playing on left-handed models or right-handed models upside-down. Doyle plays guitar left-handed but his guitars are strung as if to be played by a right-handed player. In other words, the low E string is at the bottom of his guitar, and the high string at the top. This fact and his unique playing style can be seen clearly in the In the Flesh: Live DVD footage.