In 1990, as The Black Crowes released their debut album, American rock was in the midst of change. Heavy Metal was now well into its decline, while Seattle’s alternative grunge sound was about to storm the charts.
When Atlanta, Georgia-based siblings Chris and Rich Robinson released Shake Your Money Maker, it was completely unlike anything else on the charts at the time.
It was a difficult time for a young band to emerge who wanted to reinvigorate blues-based rock from an earlier time, via late Sixties R&B – placing them in a tradition going back to The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
However, success came early to the Crowes, who sold seven million copies of their souped-up cover of Otis Redding’s Hard To Handle. The song boosted sales of Shake Your Money Maker, an album of classic rock with swing and swagger in the same vein as The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street.
The record was not groundbreaking stuff but stayed on the US charts for 18 months and the brothers Robinson quickly became a concert draw.
In 1992 the Crowes followed up with The Southern Harmony and Music Companion, which entered the US Billboard album chart at #1 and went double-platinum. The album featured long-time Rolling Stones‘ keyboardist Chuck Leavell and spawned the singles Remedy, Thorn In My Pride, Sting Me, Sometimes Salvation and Hotel Illness.
Though the album – with its controversial album cover that featured a Hustler model’s pubic hair – didn’t yield any hits, it was certified gold, proving the Crowes, like the Grateful Dead, were about more than their singles.
Though brotherly infighting put the band on hiatus for long periods of time and contributed to sporadic output post-Amorica, the Crowes opened the doors for bands from The White Stripes to the Kings of Leon.
‘Young’ Rich Robinson