Robert writes about rock & pop music, and vinyl record collecting.
In our continuing series about "bird" and "animal" groups and names in rock & roll history, let's explore a unique section dedicated to birds, namely crows.
One of the first in a number of 1950's "bird groups" (including the Flamingos, the Falcons, Cardinals among others) was The Crows, a one hit wonder doo wop group from New York. Discovered in New York's famous Apollo Theater in 1952, their most successful single was the song "Gee," an infectious, cheerful vocal and harmony ditty. That song peaked at number fourteen on the pop charts and number two on the R&B charts in 1954.
A Minneapolis rock/blues band called Crow, released the hard-rockin', chest thumping anthem "Evil Woman Don't Play Your Games With Me" in late 1969, a song that peaked at number nineteen on the Billboard Top 40. Unfortunately, even with the earnest and engaging vocal theme, the group was unable to hit the charts again.
The Black Crowes are an American, blues-oriented hard-rock jam band that have sold well over 20 million albums. With a vintage Rolling Stones/Faces sound, the Black Crowes emerged from Georgia as brothers Chris and Rich Robinson and the rest of the band achieved national prominence with a cover of an Otis Redding tune called "Hard To Handle" from their debut album "Shake Your Money Maker." The band also hit the Top 40 with an acoustic ballad from the same LP called "She Talks To Angels." Their timeless sound and mixing full-throttle rockers with acoustic and soulful ballads served them well as they released several multi platinum albums in the early 1990's. Much as the Stones used Chuck Berry's influence and sound, the Black Crowes use the Stones, Faces and Humble Pie influences to deliver an eclectic mix of pure, articulated rock and roll.
The band has toured with acts such as Aerosmith, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Who, AC/DC, The Grateful Dead, and Neil Young.
The Adam Duritz led Counting Crows come in with a different, yet successful level, mixing angst-filled lyrics, twisting melodies and Duritz's expressive vocals to attain a national following. The band took its name from a divination rhyme about the crow, heard by Duritz in the film Signs of Life. The rhyme is used at the end of the song "A Murder of One" on the album August and Everything After: "Well I dreamt I saw you walking up a hillside in the snow / Casting shadows on the winter sky as you stood there, counting crows / One for sorrow, two for joy / Three for girls and four for boys / Five for silver, six for gold / Seven for a secret never to be told." In the poem, the act of counting crows is particularly useless.
The band's debut album "August and Everything After," produced by T-Bone Burnett, was released in late 1993. The San Francisco rock group reached the Billboard Top Ten in 1994 with the infectious hit "Mr. Jones" and they continue to have modest success entertaining fans with somber ballads, inventive jangling guitar work and Duritz's continued lyrical tales of muted joy.
Sheryl Crow came into her own in 1993 after spending years as a backup singer for Don Henley, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart and Michael Jackson, among others. Working with veteran Los Angles studio musicians, this Missouri native hit the charts running with an exceptional debut album called "Tuesday night Music Club." The album won Crow the 1994 Best New Artist Grammy Award. The release, a melodic mix of gritty blues rock, not only showcased her song writing abilities with the song "Leaving Las Vegas" and "All I Want To Do," (which stayed on the Billboard Top 40 for an impressive twenty-seven weeks, peaking at #2 for six weeks) but also Crow's adventurous, bluesy voice.
In her self-named next release (1996) as well as subsequent releases, Crow relies upon the previous mentioned attributes and mixing playful pop energy, social commentary and friendly roots-rock, she continues to add to her legacy as an inspiring, talented songstress.
In our next article in the series (number seven), we will continue to explore more "bird" and group names and artists in rock 'n' roll history.
The Crows Tidbits:
When The Crows started out in 1951, practicing sidewalk harmonies, the original members were: Daniel "Sonny" Norton (lead); William "Bill" Davis (baritone); Harold Major (tenor); Jerry Wittick (tenor); and Gerald Hamilton (bass). In 1952, Wittick left the group and was replaced by Mark Jackson (tenor and guitarist).
They were discovered at Apollo Theater's Wednesday night talent show by talent agent Cliff Martinez, and brought to independent producer George Goldner who had just set up tiny new indepent Rama Records label.
The Crows were the first group signed and the first to record for the small label. The first songs they recorded were as back-up to singer and tenor Watkins. The song "Gee" was the third song recorded during their first recording session, on February 10, 1953.
Crow was formed in 1967 by singer David Wagner, guitarist Dick Wiegand, bassist Larry Wiegand, keyboardist Kink Middlemist, and drummer Harry Nehls under the name South 40, which was used until the group went national.
In 1969, Crow's debut album Crow Music was recorded. The single "Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games With Me)" made the Billboard Hot 100 Top 20 that fall.
Black Crowes Tidbits:
The Black 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", "Sister Luck", and "Seeing Things", their debut album received multi-platinum certification and eventually sold over three million copies.
1990 Shake Your Money Maker
1992 The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion
Counting Crows Tidbits:
Counting Crows, and Adam Duritz in particular, have become renowned for the energetic, passionate nature of their live performances. Duritz frequently extends and rewrites songs live, adding extra verses or alternate middle sections and/or endings, sometimes fitting most of another of the band's other songs into the middle of the first.
The band has drawn deep in covering artists such as Rod Stewart, Fairport Convention, Pure Prairie League, The Rolling Stones, Jackson C. Frank, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Grateful Dead, Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Oasis.
The band actively encourages the recording of its concerts and the distribution of the resulting bootleg recordings. The band hosts a trading network on its website to enable fans to swap concert recordings. Sale of fan recordings for profit is prohibited; fans must either trade bootlegs for other bootlegs or pay for blank media, postage, and packaging.
1993 August and Everything After
1996 Recovering the Satellites
Sheryl Crow Tidbits:
After graduating from college, Crow worked as a music teacher at the Kellison elementary school, in Fenton, Missouri.
Crow toured with Michael Jackson as a backup vocalist during his Bad World Tour from 1987-1989.
In 1992, Crow recorded her first attempt at her debut album with Phil Collins' producer Hugh Padgham. The self-titled debut album was slated to be released on September 22, 1992, but was ultimately rejected by her label.
Crow had been involved with the Scleroderma Research Foundation (SRF) since the late 1990s, performing at fund-raisers and befriending Sharon Monsky.
Crow was featured in the February 21, 2008 issue (#1046) of Rolling Stone. The article discusses how the singer beat cancer and returned with Detours. Rolling Stone says "Detours is Crow's most powerful and most personal record yet."
On May 11, 2007, Crow announced on her official website that she had adopted a two-week-old boy named Wyatt Steven Crow.
1993 Tuesday Night Music Club
1996 Sheryl Crow
2003 The Very Best of Sheryl Crow