The Black Crowes - Biography

The Black CrowesThe Black Crowes are a blues-oriented hard rock jam band that have sold over 15 million albums and were hailed by Melody Maker as "The Most Rock 'n' Roll Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World." The band has toured with acts such as Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Jimmy Page, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Oasis, AC/DC and Lenny Kravitz. The Crowes are listed at #92 on VH1's "100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock".

History

The first incarnation of the band began as Mr. Crowes Garden in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1985. Although the Crowes have had many members over the years, the driving force behind the band has always been the brothers Chris & Rich Robinson. In 1989, the rockers, who have been heavily influenced by The Rolling Stones, The Faces and Southern rock, made a demo cassette tape that got them signed with American Recordings.

The Crowes released their first studio album Shake Your Money Maker, in 1990. On the strength of singles "Hard to Handle," "She Talks to Angels," "Jealous Again," "Twice As Hard" and "Seeing Things," the debut sold over 5 million copies and was certified 5x platinum in 1995. "Hard to Handle" and "She Talks to Angels" both broke the top 30 on the pop charts in 1990, and the crossover appeal of the songs helped catapult The Black Crowes to stardom. It is widely acknowledged that engineer Brendan O'Brien was the creative force behind their first album, and that the band struggled to live up to his vision.

After replacing guitarist Jeff Cease with Marc Ford, the Crowes released their second album The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion in 1992. (This album title is a tribute to the shape note anthology of the same name that has been sung annually at The Big Singing in Benton, Kentucky since 1884.) The effort spawned the singles "Remedy," "Thorn In My Pride," "Sting Me," "Sometimes Salvation" and "Hotel Illness," and in 1995 the disc was certified double platinum (sales of over 2 million records). Because of the prevalence of studio musician Chuck Leavell's piano and organ parts on the first release, the band recruited a keyboardist of their own, Eddie Harsch, to play on this album. He became a permanent member of the group beginning on the "High As the Moon" tour. The spelling of his last name is often listed as "Hawrysch."

In 1994 the now six-piece offered up Amorica after scrapping the unreleased album "Tall" the previous year. Though Amorica failed to produce a hit single, the underrated album still eventually reached "gold" status, selling over 500,000 copies. Controversially, the album cover featured a photo showing pubic hair.

Three Snakes & One Charm was released in 1996, and though another record was recorded in early 1997, after the Deadhead-friendly Furthur tour that summer, Marc Ford was fired, Johnny Colt left the band, and the new album was shelved. (It later surfaced widely in trading circles, and many of its songs have been played live by the band in recent years). Bass player Sven Pipien joined in 1998 and the following year saw the release of the By Your Side again as a five-piece. The album was intended to be a return to their younger sound. The writing and playing on it is in a decidedly different direction than that which was followed from Amorica to Three Snakes & One Charm and has been generally regarded by critics and some fans as "lackluster." Guitarist Audley Freed, formerly of Cry Of Love, joined shortly after.

In 2000 the Crowes went on tour and recorded a live album with Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. That same year, singer Chris Robinson married actress Kate Hudson of Almost Famous fame (Hudson is the daughter of actress Goldie Hawn and the step-daughter of actor Kurt Russell).

In 2001, the band put out their sixth studio effort, Lions, which included the singles "Lickin'" and "Soul Singing." A live album pieced together from two sold-out shows perfomed at Boston's Orpheum Theatre appeared in 2002 around the same time the Crowes announced they would be taking an indefinite hiatus. Some members of the band did reunite to play one song with Gov't Mule at the 2003 Jammy Awards ("Sometimes Salvation"). During this period, Chris Robinson released two albums as Chris Robinson & the New Earth Mud: a self-titled album in 2002 and This Magnificent Distance (2004). Meanwhile, Rich Robinson formed a short-lived band called Hookah Brown before recording his own solo album, Paper (2004).

"Remedy" was used in commercial promotions of the ESPN series Tilt (starring Michael Madsen) in January 2005.

In early 2005, the Robinson brothers and Eddie reassembled the band, bringing Marc Ford and Sven Pipien back into the fold and introducing Bill Dobrow on drums. Five performances at northeastern clubs were billed mysteriously, and with little fanfare, as Mr. Crowes Garden. Until they took the stage at the Staircase in Pittston, PA, it was only rumored that this group was a reformation of The Black Crowes. Soon thereafter, the official end of The Black Crowes' hiatus was marked by seven shows at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom in late March. When those shows quickly sold-out, the band added dates in venues across the country, including multiple-night sell-outs. In May of 2005, the Black Crowes reunited with original drummer Steve Gorman at the Tabernacle in Atlanta and played a five-night sold out stand at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium. During the summer, the Crowes joined up with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for a summer tour.

As part of their reunion tour, the Crowes played a New Year's Eve concert (2005) at New York's famed Madison Square Garden, along with the North Mississippi All Stars and former Phish frontman Trey Anastasio. Anastasio was out to play guitar on "Hard to Handle".

On March 21, 2006, The Black Crowes released their first DVD entitled "Freak n' Roll... into the fog" that features a live performance recorded at the historic Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, CA. There is also bonus material featuring a Behind-the-scenes short film.

Later Chris and Rich Robinson hit the road as a duo for a special run of multiple-night acoustic shows, which featured a collection of their songs, influential covers as well as new material. Billed as “Brothers Of A Feather: An Acoustic Evening With Chris & Rich Robinson of The Black Crowes,” the intimate shows were recorded for possible release.

The Black Crowes are in the midst of their summer US tour with Robert Randolph & The Family Band and Drive-By Truckers.

On August 29th, 2006, The Black Crowes will go into the vault for The Lost Crowes as they will release a two-disc collection featuring session from two unreleased albums; Tall and Band.

 

Trivia

When The Black Crowes first signed to Def American, their record producer, Rick Rubin tried to get them to change their name from the original "Mr. Crowes Garden" to "The Kobb Kounty Krows" (KKK). This upset the band tremendously and after arguments and racist accusations by the band towards Rick Rubin, the band changed the name to "The Black Crowes".

Chris and Rich Robinson grew up in a wealthy Atlanta suburb, Marietta, where they attended George Walton High School.

"Hard to Handle" was written and originally recorded by soul singer Otis Redding. Released posthumously in 1968, it charted at #38 in the USA and #15 in the UK.

Black Crowes Official Website

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