Chris Robinson is born Dec. 20 in Atlanta; his parents are Stan Robinson, who’d had brief success as a singer with “Boom-A-Dip-Dip” in 1958 (even appearing on American Bandstand), and Nancy Robinson (nee Nancy Bradley), a country vocalist from Nashville.
Rich Robinson born, also in Atlanta, on May 24.
Mr. Crowe’s Garden, the punk-edged forerunner of the Black Crowes, makes its public debut in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with 18-year-old Chris on lead vocals and Rich (all of 15) on guitar. The band gets paid the princely sum of $50, and the check bounces. Chris enrolls at Georgia State University, but music is calling him, and his school days are numbered.
With the addition of bassist Johnny Colt, drummer Steve Gorman and second guitarist Jeff Cease, Mr. Crowe’s Garden begins to hone a tougher, bluesier, more straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll sound. The Robinsons – who are writing pretty much all of the songs – change the name to the Black Crowes.
George Drakoulias produces Shake Your Money Maker, the debut Black Crowes album, for Def American Records. Robinson pal Chuck Leavell, of the Allman Brothers Band, Sea Level and the Rolling Stones’ band, plays keyboards.
Rolling Stone says Shake Your Money Maker is “a guitar-party cracker that marries white Southern R&B crunch and Anglo cock-strutting attitude in the beloved early ‘70s manner of the Faces and the Rolling Stones.” The band hits the road, and hits it hard, playing for 11 out of 12 months and sharing arena bills with the likes of Aerosmith, Heart and Metallica.
Augmented by Eddie Harsch on keyboards, in early January the Crowes begin a cross-country tour with ZZ Top. After Chris’ repeated onstage criticism of corporate-sponsored rock ‘n’ roll tours (like the one they’re on, paid for by a prominent beer company), the Texas trio drops the Crowes from the bill.
In the spring, Rolling Stone readers name the Crowes Best New American Band, and Chris Best New Male Singer. They lose the Best New Artist Grammy to Mariah Carey, which is OK with them.
Great Britain’s Melody Maker calls the Crowes “The Most Rock ‘n’ Roll Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World.”
Shake Your Money Maker reaches No. 4 on the Billboard album chart. As “Hard to Handle” enters the Top 40, followed closely by “She Talks to Angels,” the album is certified triple platinum.
The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion is released in May and goes immediately to No. 1. The second guitarist role is now filled by Marc Ford. The documentary Who Killed That Bird Out on Your Windowsill, featuring a brutally frank (and funny) look inside the Crowes’ nest, is released. And the never-ending tour continues.
The band records the Tall album, which they aren’t happy with and choose not to release. So it’s back to the studio – between world tours.
Released in November, album number three, the gold Amorica, reaches No. 11. Some retailers object to the album cover, featuring a red, white and blue bikini bottom (worn by a young woman who clearly wasn’t into lawn maintenance), and a second, black-bordered (hair-less) version is rushed into the shops. The band plays a short club tour under the moniker O.D. Jubilee.
The Crowes spend the summer as part of the Rolling Stones’ Voodoo Lounge tour, and the fall headlining H.O.R.D.E. with fellow travelers Blues Traveler, Joan Osborne and Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers.
A Crowes cover of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” is included on HEMPilation, a benefit CD for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Chris sings “Almost Cut My Hair” with David Crosby on the latter’s live album It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.
Three Snakes and One Charm is released in July, after yet another aborted project, which would have been called Band. Summer means the Further Festival, with Bob Weir and Ratdog, and both Colt and Ford exit, stage left. With Sven Pipien on bass, and (eventually) guitarist Audley Freed, the band spends most of 1997 and ’98 on the road.
The stripped-down R&B set By Your Side appears in the early days of the year; “Kickin’ My Heart Around” makes No. 3 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. But the fifth Black Crowes album marks the swan song for their relationship with Def American and its corporate partner, Sony.
In October, the legendary Jimmy Page joins the band for awe-inspiring shows in Los Angeles and New York City. TVT Records issues Live at the Greek, a 20-track CD (14 are brawny Zeppelin covers).
The rock ‘n’ roll event of the summer is a triple bill of The Who, Jimmy Page and the Black Crowes. Arenas are packed.
Lions (produced by Don Was) is released on Richard Branson’s label V2, climbing to No. 20 in Billboard. With fellow sibling rockers Oasis and Spacehog, the Crowes go cross-country on the Tour of Brotherly Love, before headlining dates in Japan and Europe. Rich writes and records the score for the film Highway.
“The Red Road” is Chris’ contribution to the soundtrack for the film The Banger Sisters. He announces a solo project, New Earth Mud, while Rich forms the Hookah Brown band. As Folk Family Robinson, Chris, Rich and father Stan cut a bluegrass version of Woody Guthrie’s “Reuben James” for the three-CD, multi-artist anthology Song of America.
Meanwhile, V2 issues Live, a collection of smokin’ cuts from the Lions tour, and it sells platinum. By year’s end, though, it’s official: The Black Crowes are “taking a break.” For how long, no one is willing (or able) to say.
Rich’s first solo album, Paper, and Chris’ second, This Magnificent Distance. Chris tours with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh and his ever-evolving musical tribe Phil & Friends.
Chris and Rich re-assemble the Crowes – Harsch, Gorman, Ford and Pipien – and co-headline yet another massive summer tour, with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Seven nights at NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom and five nights at San Francisco’s venerated Fillmore Auditorium sell out.
Freak ‘n’ Roll Into the Fog, recorded (and filmed) at the Fillmore, appears as a CD and DVD. Harsch and Ford are replaced by Rob Clores and Paul Stacey. Tracks for the abandoned Tall and Band projects are released as The Lost Crowes. And a stunning, primarily-acoustic set featuring just the Robinsons on a tour they call Brothers of a Feather, is recorded and will be released on CD halfway into the next year, along with the DVD Brothers of a Feather: Live at the Roxy.
Luther Dickinson, the young slide guitar virtuoso from jam-band favorites the North Mississippi Allstars, is invited to lend his considerable talent to sessions for the first Black Crowes studio album since Lions in 2001. By November, he officially joins the band, replacing Stacey; Adam MacDougall is the new keys player.
On the band’s own Silver Arrow label, Warpaint arrives in March, and hits No. 5 in Billboard. Its success spawns another round-the-globe tour, concluding with another five-night stand at the Fillmore in San Francisco. A Web site, liveblackcrowes.com, offers fans downloads of shows from throughout the band’s career. Chris sings “Oh Atlanta” on the Little Feat & Friends – Join the Band CD.
In February and March, the Crowes – Chris Robinson, Rich Robinson, Luther Dickinson, Sven Pipien, Adam MacDougall and Steve Gorman - record for five nights, in front of a small, invited audience, at Levon Helm’s Barn in Woodstock, NY Warpaint Live, an ambitious CD and DVD combining older and newer material, appears in April.
Twenty years after Shake Your Money Maker introduced the Black Crowes to the world, the Levon sessions are released (on Aug. 31) as Before the Frost … Until the Freeze. The ambitious project spans rhythm ‘n’ blues, psychedelia, acoustic country and plenty of the hardscrabble electric ass-kicking for which the band is known and loved. With special guest Larry Campbell on fiddle, banjo, mandolin and pedal steel, tracks range from the blistering take on Band-esque Americana “Good Morning Captain” to the innovative, trancelike instrumental rave “Aimless Peacock.”
Before the Frost is available as an individual CD, and it includes a unique Internet code allowing listeners to download Until the Freeze for FREE.
A limited-edition, two-disc vinyl release includes all 20 tracks.
…and the Story Continues…