It was the turn of the decade and the rock world needed something fresh to break through the glut of highly produced hair metal / hard rock that was flooding the airwaves. Though grunge would eventually be the force to overturn rock radio as we knew it a year later, The Black Crowes eventually became the breakout band in 1990 that started to show there was finally a fresh appetizer on the menu.
This strong five-piece rock band emerged as a force with their debut album, Shake Your Money Maker — a record that embraced early era rock's soulful R&B influences while bringing back a Rolling Stones-esque swagger for a new generation.
The group started six years earlier with brothers Chris and Rich Robinson forming Mr. Crowe's Garden in 1984 while still teenagers. The group went through a series of other members in the years leading up to settling on a lineup that would eventually playing on Money Maker and the changes didn't stop after the album was recorded. Guitarist Jeff Cease played on the record, but eventually gave way to Marc Ford who would handle duties on their second record. Johnny Colt played bass on four albums, while drummer Steve Gorman was the other constant through the band's entire first era prior to their 2019 reunion.
The early years provided some challenges with a still underage Rich Robinson having to hide out in the car at times before being allowed to come into clubs to play the shows. But eventually George Drakoulias, a staffer at Rick Rubin's Def American label, caught the group playing a New York show and was so impressed that he not only helped to get them their label deal with Def American, he also stepped in to produce Shake Your Money Maker.
Splitting time between Atlanta's Soundscape Studios and three different studios in Los Angeles, the now newly renamed Black Crowes laid out their bluesy yet Southern rock inspired record throughout the course of 1989. Speaking of the name change, Chris Robinson told Q Magazine, "We were really into the Dream Syndicate, the Rain Parade, Green on Red — all those Paisley Underground bands, so we wanted a psychedelic name. When we changed, we kept the Crowes because that's what people called us anyway."
The sessions also provided some stellar assistance, with The Allman Brothers' Chuck Leavell helping out on piano and organ, noted backing singer Laura Creamer helping to accentuate some of the record's chicken skin-raising moments and a young engineer named Brendan O'Brien chipping in on "a potpourri of instruments."
The Shake Your Money Maker album arrived Feb. 13, 1990, but it wasn't an instant hit. "Jealous Again" was the first song released from the record, but it didn't catch fire immediately. Though the song's muscular opening riffs and killer piano backing are fan favorites now, it was a slow build until the track eventually climbed to No. 5 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart and enjoyed a bit of crossover hitting No. 75 on Billboard's Hot 100.
However, people did take notice, picking out influences ranging from '70s-era Rolling Stones to making their Georgia connection to Southern Rock roots. “What Southern rock became is not what the Allmans started out to be. They were creating a new Southern sound. And what we do now is what I’d like Southern rock to become," Chris Robinson told Rolling Stone, adding, “But there is a lot of the South in us. I don’t know exactly what it is. Maybe it’s just that we’re a little closer to the ground. We have no pretensions about what we do. We’re just a little earthier. We do things a little slower, more casual.”
Black Crowes, "Jealous Again"